Proposal to keep U-23 players in national team too late

PETALING JAYA: Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) deputy president Datuk Seri Redzuan Sheikh Ahmad said a proposal to retain the Under-23 players instead of allowing them to return to their respective clubs had come too late.

However, FAM still had two squads, namely Harimau Muda A (U-21) and Harimau Muda B (U-19), to fulfill such a request, said Redzuan.

“The two squads are currently under FAM’s management and we can start building them from now, systematically and through exposure to international competitions as well as other prospects,” he told reporters at Wisma FAM here yesterday.

Furthermore, a number of players who played for the U-23 team that won the gold medal in the Laos SEA Games, were from Harimau Muda A coached by Mohd Azraai Khor Abdullah, he said.

Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Ahmad Shabery Cheek had earlier proposed that players from the U-23 squad be retained for national duty and continue centralised training instead of returning to their state or club teams that feature in the M-League.

Shabery made the proposal to enable national players to train and play together as a team locally as well as train and play matches against clubs from other countries.

Redzuan also urged states and clubs who play in the M-League to improve the quality of their players.

“Based on our analysis, the fitness level of national players dropped when they return to their state or club teams. Such fitness levels might be enough to win domestic titles but not enough to win at international level,” he said after handing out incentives to the players.

The SEA Games gold medal winning team, comprising 20 players and eight officials including coach K. Rajagobal, received cash incentives of between RM24,000 to RM31,000.

The incentive was for the team’s feat in winning the gold after beating Vietnam in the final, thus ending the country’s 20-year wait.

Meanwhile, Rajagobal, who is preparing his charges to face United Arab Emirates (UAE) in a 2011 Asia Cup qualifying match in Dubai on Wednesday, wants his players to remain focused.

Malaysia, drawn in Group C, lost their first leg match 0-5 to UAE while B. Sathianathan was still the national coach.

Rajagobal, who will be taking 18 players to Dubai, said it would be a good opportunity to expose the team to high-level competition as the team were made up of young players.

“We have to accept whatever result and use it to prepare for other competitions,” he said. — Bernama

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