NOTH­ING WRONG WITH ‘OLD’ PLAY­ERS

National coach Vin­gada de­fends his de­ci­sion

New Straits Times - - Sport - AH­MAD FAIRUZ OTH­MAN

nst­sport@nst.com.my

COACH Ed­uardo Vin­gada has de­fended his de­ci­sion to select “old” play­ers for the national foot­ball team. The newly ap­pointed national coach from Por­tu­gal pointed out that old play­ers are still be­ing se­lected in Europe.

Vin­gada, 64, was com­ment­ing on the is­sue of “old play­ers” in the national team as a third of the 26 play­ers were in their 30s.

“If you look at most of the teams in Europe es­pe­cially in Italy and Eng­land, you can see play­ers aged, 34, 35 or 36 play­ing,” he said af­ter his first train­ing ses­sion with the national team in Padang Seri Ge­lam, Jo­hor Baru, on Mon­day.

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).

The coach did not di­rectly an- swer a ques­tion on whether he will field the re­called four play­ers (who quit the national team last year) for the Asian Cup qual­i­fier against Le­banon at Sta­dium Larkin on June 13. The four are Safiq Rahim, Amir­ul­hadi Zainal, Aidil Za­fuan Radzak and S. Ku­nan­lan.

“This mat­ter I don’t know. This hap­pened be­fore, so I did not get any in­for­ma­tion about that.

“But as I told you, to play in a national team is about pride. If I tell you, ‘come play in the national team’ and if you don’t feel pride to play, then bye bye,” he said.

Vin­gada added that he also made a re­quest for two play­ers from the national un­der-22 team as he pre­ferred to in­vest in younger play­ers as well.

He said the chal­lenge is se­lect­ing the right balance of ex­pe­ri­enced and newer play­ers from the 26-mem­ber team to meet Le­banon.

“Even if it’s a short time to find the best com­bi­na­tion for the up­com­ing game against Le­banon, I know it is im­por­tant. I used to say that the next game is al­ways the most im­por­tant and the most dif­fi­cult.

“But I know it is a spe­cial game as there is a new coach, new era, new per­spec­tive, new op­ti­mism, new vi­sion and new chal­lenge. It is an ad­ven­ture for me and the play­ers,” he said at the end of the al­most two-hour train­ing ses­sion.

Vin­gada ad­mit­ted that he did feel some pres­sure in his maiden out­ing as the national team’s coach, but he was fa­mil­iar with such a sit­u­a­tion.

“Some peo­ple may say that I am pres­sured as the en­tire coun­try is on me. No. The whole coun­try is with us and sup­port­ing us. This is pos­i­tive pres­sure.”

He said that he was on board with Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tion of Malaysia (FAM) pres­i­dent Tunku Is­mail Sultan Ibrahim’s vi­sion in bring­ing the best out of the national team.

“I am here to do my job. Tunku wants change and he wants to bring a new vi­sion and idea.”

Amri Yahyah said that he and his team­mates were com­mit­ted to the train­ing ses­sion.

“The coach wants us to be united so that there is no gap be­tween the play­ers and coach. So we are to­gether to form this team,” he said.

“My play­ers have been given spe­cific in­struc­tions. They need to pay at­ten­tion to Ceres’ counter-at­tacks. The key is that my strik­ers must con­vert chances. I ex­pect a great match to­mor­row,” said Mora.

Ceres’ Ser­bian coach Risto Vi­dakovic said a win to­day will be a huge re­sult for Filipino foot­ball.

“This match is a huge chal­lenge. We are not do­ing any­thing spe­cial. We will play our nor­mal game and hope­fully, the re­sult will be in our favour,” said Vi­dakovic.

PIC BY AZREN JAMALUDIN

Nelo Vin­gada (cen­tre) at a train­ing ses­sion with the national play­ers yes­ter­day.

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