Naturalising below par players not helping Harimau Malaya

KUALA LUMPUR – The Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) has been urged to focus on grassroots development, rather than taking a short cut to gamble on naturalised players.

Former national player Datuk M. Karathu said giving citizenship to below par foreign players plying their trade in the Malaysian League (M-League) would not help much on the development of the Harimau Malaya (national squad).

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Karathu, who played for the national team in the 1960s till early 1970’s, also questioned as to how many of the foreign import players in the local league are actually qualified to compete at the highest level in Asia.

“Many of the foreign imports in the M-League are those who can’t play at top leagues in the South American and European countries. Instead of buying these foreign players, better buy the Vietnamese players.

“Look at the character and fighting spirit shown by the Vietnamese players at the recent (2022 World Cup/2023 Asian Cup) qualifiers, compared to our players who were walking (on the pitch) and getting yellow cards for nothing. Whoever is given the chance to don the national colours must be committed for the entire 90 minutes,” he told Bernama.

The 77-year-old, who has vast experience in coaching teams like Malaysia’s Under-21 squad, Perak, Kelantan, Woodlands Wellington FC (in Singapore) and Sri Lanka’s national team, said naturalising over-aged players is a bad idea.

He added that FAM should analyse the statistics and performance, attitude and commitment shown by each and every player in the national team.

The Harimau Malaya resumed their Group G matches of the 2022 World Cup/2023 Asian Cup second round qualifiers, halted for about 18 months due to the COVID-19 pandemic, over the past two weeks with a record that Malaysia cannot be really proud of, losing 4-0 to the United Arab Emirates and 2-1 against Vietnam, before securing a consolation 1-0 win against Thailand to finish in third place with 12 points

Though Malaysia secured direct entry to the Asian Cup third round qualifiers, fans lambasted the poor showing against UAE and Vietnam, especially the performances of the much anticipated Brazil-born Guilherme de Paula, 34, Liridon Krasniqi, 29, (Kosovo) and Mohamadou Sumareh, 26, (Gambia).

Karathu said FAM and the state football associations (FAs) must be serious on grassroots development, after many amateur clubs, once regarded as the factories producing players from various backgrounds, closed down.

“The development process in the country needs a reshuffle, FAM must spend on development. Same goes to the state FAs, they need to focus on development of grassroots level players, as one or two academies is not sufficient to increase the quality of the national team.

“Meanwhile, the players cannot be easily satisfied with the high salaries offered in the M-League. They should fight for their chance to play in Japan, South Korea and Arab countries, where the level of football is considered to be very high,” he said.