FOUR READY TO SHINE
‘Un-retired’ Darul Ta’zim players vow to prove their worth to national team
REPORTS BY DEVINDER SINGH firstname.lastname@example.org
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.