As published in Malay Mail Afternoon E-Paper today
By Haresh Deol
THE extraordinary exodus from the national team continued today with two more Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT) players turning their backs on Malaysia.
S. Kunanlan and Amirulhadi Zainal announced their decision, through Facebook, to quit Harimau Malaysia — barely 48 hours after JDT teammates Safiq Rahim and Aidil Zafuan Radzak ditched the Jalur Gemilang.
In a posting on Johor Southern Tigers page, Kunalan said this morning he was proud to wear the national jersey since his Under-23 team days.
“Thank you for the support and guidance all these years. I truly appreciate it.”
Amirulhadi made his intention public on his Facebook account before it was posted on Johor Southern Tigers page at 12.20pm.
“I thank the fans and all involved, including coach (Datuk) Ong (Kim Swee), who’ve been supportive throughout my journey with the national team.
“That’s all I can contribute to the team. This decision allows younger players to continue the team’s mission,” he said.
Their last international outing was the Oceania Tour last month.
Mailsport reported yesterday Ong was bracing for more players to leave.
The other JDT players who don national colours are Izham Tarmizi, Mahalli Jasuli, Fadhli Shas, Fazly Mazlan, Junior Eldstal, Amri Yahyah and S. Chanturu.
Many see this as an orchestrated move by JDT to show their displeasure towards the FA of Malaysia (FAM) and national team management. JDT owner Tunku Ismail Ibrahim has been vocal against FAM in the past.
Social media was abuzz with the resignations as fans said those who turned their backs on the national team should not be given a second chance. Others said Ong would need to quickly move on to prepare the team ahead of the AFF Cup in November.
Ong was tongue-tied when captain Safiq and Aidil quit on Tuesday, unable to explain why they chose to leave. He was not informed by the players of their decisions.
The national team, under former coach Dollah Salleh, suffered a humiliating episode last year after losing 10-0 to United Arab Emirates in their 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign — the worst defeat in the history of Malaysian football.
Ong took over soon after but fans continued to ridicule the team's performances especially in the recent Oceania Tour.
After losing 2-0 to Papua New Guinea, Malaysia edged New Caledonia 2-1 before settling for a 1-1 draw with Fiji.