‘YOU ARE MAK­ING A MIS­TAKE’

For­mer in­ter­na­tional says Malaysia coach shouldn’t re­call Safiq and Co

New Straits Times - - Sport - REPORTS BY AJITPAL SINGH ajit­pals­ingh@nst.com.my

DATUK Santokh Singh feels that new na­tional coach Ed­uardo Vingada is mak­ing a mis­take in re­call­ing four play­ers. “They de­cided to re­tire when the na­tional team needed them most. They acted ir­re­spon­si­bly,” said Santokh.

FOR­MER in­ter­na­tional Datuk Santokh Singh has ques­tioned new na­tional coach Ed­uardo Vingada for his se­lec­tion of play­ers for next month’s Asian Cup qual­i­fier against Le­banon.

Santokh feels that Vingada has made a mis­take by re­call­ing Safiq Rahim, Amir­ul­hadi Zainal, Aidil Za­fuan Radzak and S. Ku­nan­lan for na­tional duty.

The quar­tet, who are from Darul Ta’zim, rocked the na­tion last July by an­nounc­ing their re­tire­ment from in­ter­na­tional foot­ball, cit­ing per­sonal rea­sons.

Their de­ci­sion had then left coach Ong Kim Swee with a headache as they were core play­ers. It led to Malaysia’s poor show­ing in the AFF Cup last Novem­ber.

In March, the four play­ers stated their will­ing­ness to re­turn to the na­tional team but did not dis­close their rea­sons for re­tir­ing last year.

“Those who let the coun­try down should never again be con­sid­ered for in­ter­na­tional duty. They de­cided to re­tire when the na­tional team needed them most. They acted ir­re­spon­si­bly,” Santokh, a for­mer in­ter­na­tional cen­tre-back, told Time­s­port yes­ter­day.

“The coach shouldn’t have picked them. Why are they be­ing con­sid­ered again? What are the rea­sons? I think the four should act re­spon­si­bly and not re­port for duty.

“The quar­tet had failed to hon­our the na­tional jersey. I la­belled them as play­ers who have no pride and in­tegrity. Foot­ballers in Malaysia are re­place­able and the coach should scout other tal­ents.”

Vingada se­lected 26 play­ers for the open­ing Asian Cup qual­i­fy­ing match against Le­banon on June 13. How­ever, one-third of the team are those in their 30s.

Na­tional cap­tain Amri Yahyah, at 36, is the old­est player in the train­ing squad, fol­lowed by Safee Sali (33), Shahrom Ab­dul Kalam and Aza­mud­din Akil (both 32), Amir­ul­hadi Zainal and S. Ku­nan­lan (both 31), S. Chan­turu, Safiq Rahim and Aidil Za­fuan Radzak (all 30).

Kedah mid­fielder Bad­drol Bakhtiar and de­fender Khairul Helmi Johari will turn 30 next year.

Vingada’s se­lec­tion of older play­ers goes against the foot­ball rev­o­lu­tion started by for­mer coach K. Ra­jagobal, who de­pended on young play­ers to win the 2010 AFF Cup.

The trainees, ex­cept for those from Darul Ta’zim who are pre­par­ing for Wed­nes­day’s AFC Cup zonal semi-fi­nal match, re­ported to Vingada at Sri Ge­lam in Jo­hor Baru yes­ter­day.

“There are many young play­ers with tal­ent in Malaysia. Vingada should start ex­pos­ing them in­stead of re­ly­ing on play­ers who are old. Any­way, I wish the Por­tuguese the best of luck,” said Santokh, who missed the op­por­tu­nity to play in the 1980 Moscow Olympics af­ter Malaysia boy­cotted the Games.

On whether a for­eign coach is bet­ter than a lo­cal coach, Santokh said: “For­eign­ers are dis­ci­plined in all as­pects and are knowl­edge­able in terms of tac­tics.

“But I would not say that they are bet­ter. Our lo­cals are also good. It all boils down to the play­ers’ ac­cep­tance and dis­ci­pline.

“You can bring the best coaches here but if the play­ers have no dis­ci­pline then I am sorry to say that it will fail,” Santokh added.

The com­po­si­tion of the team picked by Vingada also shows that the na­tional team are still re­liant on those who were for­merly un­der the now-de­funct Young Tigers pro­gramme.

The team have 10 play­ers from the pro­gramme, founded in 2007, but was dis­solved in Novem­ber, 2015 fol­low­ing pres­sure from the clubs while some were un­der Ra­jagobal when he was coach­ing the na­tional un­der-19 team be­tween 2004-06.

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