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SEA Games: National U-23 football team head coach Maloney hopes all players will report for centralised training before May 1


National Under U-23 football team head coach Brad Maloney speaks at the Malaysian SEA Games contingent press conference at the National Sports Council in Bukit Jalil, April 20, 2022. — Bernama pic
National Under U-23 football team head coach Brad Maloney speaks at the Malaysian SEA Games contingent press conference at the National Sports Council in Bukit Jalil, April 20, 2022. — Bernama pic

KUALA LUMPUR, April 20 — The national Under U-23 football team head coach, Brad Maloney believes his charges will report for SEA Games centralised training  before May 1, as assured by the clubs earlier.

After only five of the 31 players called up for the centralised training camp turned up yesterday, Maloney repeated his stance that more footballers will join in phases in the coming days, ahead of the friendly fixtures against the Timor-Leste U-23 team on April 29 and the Philippines U-23 side on May 1.

The Australian said that though it was not ideal to start the training camp with limited number of players, he had to manage challenges arising and adapt accordingly until the Malaysian League (M-League) clubs start to release their players before the team departs for Hanoi on May 4.

“Prior to the call up list released, we have spoken to all the clubs, we spoke to the players, technical directors and coaches, we had assurance from everybody that all the players will report sooner or later, so I am hoping that will be the case.

“We respect the clubs’ positions, but it is also a national team duty. I know the players are very eager to represent the country, obviously the SEA Games is the biggest tournament in South-east Asia, Malaysian fans are really looking forward to it.

“So for me, we must put the best players that can represent the country,” he said at the Malaysian SEA Games contingent press conference at the National Sports Council, here today.

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The five players who reported in yesterday were Sikh Izhan Nazrel Sikh Azman, Muhammad Fahmi Daniel Mohd Zaaim, Muhammad Faiz Amer Runnizar, Muhammad Shafi Azswad Sapari and Muhammad Haqimi Azim Rosli.

With the exception of foreign-based strikers Luqman Hakim Shamsudin in Belgium and Muhammad Hadi Fayyadh Abdul Razak in Japan, both of whom are expected to arrive here next week, the rest are M-League players.

The 50-year-old former footballer, also cautioned on the challenges in Hanoi, as rivals like Thailand and Vietnam are investing heavily, playing training matches abroad, while the Thai League even adjusted their schedule to ensure all the players are available for their SEA Games squad.

“But for us very challenging, but again we are not afraid. I believe in these players. Once we can assemble the core group that we are looking at, I believe we can be successful,” he added.

Asked about the risk of players getting injured during the M-League matches in the next few days before joining the team, he did not want to be pessimistic, but said would be happy if the players are able to start their respective Super and Premier League matches and play for the full 90 minutes.

Drawn in Group B, Malaysia will take on Thailand on May 7 followed by Laos (May 11), Singapore (May 14) and Cambodia (May 16) at the Thien Truong Stadium in Nam Dinh. Only the top two teams of the group stage will advance to the semi-finals.

Malaysia, who won the silver medal in the 2017 edition on homeground, failed to get past the group stage in the 2019 edition in the Philippines.

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The last time Malaysia won the “mother of all medals” in the biennial Games was in the 2011 edition in Indonesia, with head coach Datuk Ong Kim Swee guiding them to victory. — Bernama



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