As published in Mailsport today
By Haresh Deol
PETALING JAYA — The national team, already struggling in the international arena, were dealt a blow after two key players quit.
Captain Safiq Rahim and Aidil Zafuan Abdul Razak announced their retirement, just hours apart, from Harimau Malaysia through their club Johor Darul Ta’zim (Johor Southern Tigers) Facebook page yesterday.
National coach Datuk Ong Kim Swee, however, said he will not be surprised if more players leave the national outfit.
“I heard it from the media. I was not informed of anything.
“I don't know what is the reason, why they are leaving. But I won't be surprised if more will leave.”
While admitting it was a setback, Kim Swee said he will have to move forward as he prepares the team for the Asean Football Federation Cup that starts on Nov 19.
“I like challenges, I don't mind the stress ... but not such challenges and stress. I don't want to say much and hopefully will get a clearer picture from (FA of Malaysia general secretary) Datuk Hamidin Amin in the morning,” he added.
Other players from the club who don the national colours include Izham Tarmizi, Mahalli Jasuli, Fadhli Shas, Fazly Mazlan, Junior Eldstal, Amri Yahyah, S. Kunalan, Amirulhadi Zainal and S. Chanturu.
Hamidin said he too was caught off guard with the resignations.
“I've not received any letters from the players. I've only read their announcements on Facebook.
“I would need to assess the situation and speak to Kim Swee.”
The national team, under former coach Dollah Salleh, suffered a humiliating episode last year after losing 10-0 to United Arab Emirates in its 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign — the worst defeat ever in the history of Malaysian football.
Kim Swee took over soon after but fans continued to ridicule the team's performances especially in the recent Oceania tour. The Tigers lost 2-0 to Papua New Guinea, managed a 2-1 win against New Caledonia before settling for a 1-1 draw against Fiji.