FOUR READY TO SHINE

‘Un-re­tired’ Darul Ta’zim play­ers vow to prove their worth to na­tional team

New Straits Times - - Sport -

RE­PORTS BY DEVINDER SINGH devinder@nst.com.my

THE re­turn of four Darul Ta’zim play­ers who had made them­selves un­avail­able for na­tional se­lec­tion a year ago en­sures the na­tional team will be sig­nif­i­cantly strength­ened when play­ing Le­banon next month.

Malaysia have strug­gled ever since Safiq Rahim, Aidil Za­fuan Radzak, S. Ku­nan­lan and Amir­ul­hadi Zainal an­nounced their in­ter­na­tional re­tire­ments fol­low­ing a tour of Ocea­nia dur­ing the fast­ing month last year.

In their ab­sence and that of sev­eral other lead­ing Darul Ta’zim play­ers, Malaysia won only two — against Pa­pua New Guinea and Cam­bo­dia — of their next eight matches un­der then na­tional coach Ong Kim Swee.

But a new be­gin­ning is afoot for the na­tional team fol­low­ing the elec­tion of new FA of Malaysia pres­i­dent Tunku Ismail Sul­tan Ibrahim, who has since in­stalled Ed­uardo Vin­gada as the new na­tional coach.

Un­like Kim Swee, Vin­gada has the lux­ury of all the coun­try’s best play­ers at his dis­posal ahead of the Asian Cup Group B qual­i­fier against Le­banon at Larkin on June 13.

Mid­fielder Safiq, with 17 in­ter­na­tional goals in 71 ap­pear­ances, of­fers a load of ex­pe­ri­ence along with de­fend­ers Aidil (74 caps) and Ku­nan­lan (76) and mid­fielder Amir­ul­hadi (37).

Also re­turn­ing to the fold are fel­low Darul Ta’zim play­ers Aza­mud­din Akil (41 caps), Azrif Nas­rul­haq Badrul Hisham (10), Fa­zly Ma­zlan (eight), Izham Tarmizi Roslan (eight), Ma­halli Ja­suli (49) and S. Chan­turu (13).

Hav­ing been slammed in cer­tain quar­ters fol­low­ing their de­ci­sion to quit the na­tional team, Aidil said pub­lic crit­i­cism no longer con­cerns him.

“It is their right to make the neg­a­tive com­ments and I don’t have an is­sue with that,” Aidil told Astro Arena af­ter Darul Ta’zim 1-0 win over PKNS in a Su­per League match in Shah Alam on Wed­nes­day.

“I use that as a chal­lenge to prove I de­serve my place in the na­tional team.

“I’m sin­cere in my de­sire to help the na­tional team.”

All four play­ers fea­tured promi­nently when Malaysia won the AFF Cup in 2010 un­der K. Ra­jagobal and were also core mem­bers of the gold medal-win­ning team at the 2009 Sea Games.

Ku­nan­lan, the sec­ond-high­est capped player af­ter PKNS striker Safee Sali in the 26-man squad, said the 2010 tri­umph was his best ex­pe­ri­ence in his long in­volve­ment with the na­tional team.

“I miss be­ing in­volved with the na­tional team,” said the winger­turned-full­back.

“The AFF is a huge tour­na­ment and watch­ing it last year on tele­vi­sion made me sad.”

Malaysia made a tame group­stage exit at the AFF Cup in Yan­gon last year but now have a chance to res­ur­rect their mori­bund for­tunes when the Asian Cup qual­i­fiers get un­der­way.

With the ex­cep­tion of the Darul Ta’zim play­ers, the rest of the squad will re­port to Vin­gada in Jo­hor Baru to­mor­row.

The 11 play­ers from Darul Ta’zim will link up with the squad af­ter the Su­per League cham­pi­ons re­turn from the Philip­pines for their AFC Cup zonal semi­fi­nal re­turn leg against Ceres Ne­gros on Wed­nes­day.

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