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Plenty of positives this year, says FAM technical director O’Donell


Coach Kim Pan Gon brought joy to Malaysia’s passionate fans when he helped Harimau Malaya qualify for the Asian Cup after 42 years on merit, thanks to a successful qualifying campaign in June in Kuala Lumpur.

Harimau Malaya finished behind Bahrain in their group but did just enough to grab a slot as one of the best runners-up to reach the Asian Cup, which will be held in Qatar either next year or in 2024.

Pan Gon’s appointment early this year as Harimau Malaya coach is definitely a masterstroke by the FA of Malaysia (FAM).

The South Korean brought in a team of coaches to help turn world No 146 Malaysia into a formidable attacking unit, also thanks to a good mix of local, heritage and naturalised players.

He has injected a new identity into the team, and they are progressing accordingly.

However, we should not forget about quadruple winners Johor Darul Ta’zim’s (JDT). A majority of the national players come from the club.

Players at JDT have quality as they are playing regularly in the Asian Champions League. Furthermore, the club have world-class facilities to help players progress and achieve their goals.

Qualifying for the Asian Cup is a huge achievement. However, fans should not criticise Harimau Malaya if they do not earn satisfactory results in Qatar. It is their first Asian Cup after a long time, and fans must allow the team to progress

The team must strive to continue playing in Asia’s biggest tournaments against the likes of continental giants Japan, South Korea, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Regular matches against Asia’s best will set the tone for Harimau Malaya to achieve their dream of playing in the World Cup one day.

Malaysia’s successful Asian Cup qualifying campaign earned the recognition of several countries. They were invited to play in the King’s Cup by Thailand for the first time in 27 years.

Malaysia caused a huge upset by edging world No 111 Thailand 3-2 on penalties after a 1-1 draw to reach the final in Chiang Mai.

However, they were defeated by world No 108 Tajikistan 3-0 on penalties after a 0-0 draw.

Pan Gon’s side must start playing against quality sides next year to prepare for the Asian Cup. A suggestion is Malaysia should venture outside Asia. They should arrange friendlies against teams in Europe — the second-tier ones — to develop their game.

Playing lower-ranked teams like the Maldives, Sri Lanka, Cambodia and Laos — in friendlies during the Fifa window is not the way forward.

The national Under-23 team, under then-coach Brad Maloney, meanwhile, had a poor outing this year.

The team neither progressed beyond the knockout stage of the AFF Championship nor won a medal at the Hanoi Sea Games in May.

Maloney’s side also finished third in their group behind South Korea and Vietnam in the Under-23 Asian Cup and did not qualify for the next stage.

As a result, Maloney and FAM decided to part ways, with national assistant coach E. Elavarasan taking over the youth team. Elavarasan’s first test will be the Phnom Penh Sea Games next year.

Hassan Sazali Waras’ national Under-19 team made the country proud by winning the AFF Championship after overcoming Laos 2-1 in the final.

They were also runners-up in the Newspaper Cup, losing to hosts Vietnam 4-3 on penalties after a 1-1 draw.

Although the team played well, they missed out on advancing to the Under-20 Asian Cup next year after finishing third in their group in the qualifiers.

It turned out to be Hassan’s downfall as his contract was not extended,

The national Under-16 team, coached by Osmera Omaro, qualified for next year’s Under-17 Asian Cup by emerging as Group B winners in the qualifiers.

The men’s futsal team did not do well this season at the AFF Futsal Championship and the Hanoi Sea Games. In both competitions, the team failed to win a medal.

Malaysia used to be ranked second behind Thailand in Southeast Asian futsal but have since lost their status with Vietnam and Indonesia, now among the best teams in the region.

The women’s futsal squad did better by claiming a bronze at the Sea Games.

FAM have hired Soleen Al-Zoubi, a former Jordan FA technical director, as the head coach of the national women’s team.

She will also be responsible for restructuring women’s football in the country.

Women’s football development is a slow process, and it will take years before Malaysia make progress.

FAM technical Director Scott O’Donell said there were plenty of positives this year.

“We want to restructure women’s football in the country. It is a slow process, and we do not expect instant success. The first goal is to introduce a women’s league.

“Malaysia are also progressing in men’s football. They are ranked 25th in Asia based on the latest Fifa rankings.”The Under-23 team sVCtruggled a bit because the tournaments were not part of the Fifa window. I think the team could have done better at the Sea Games if they had the best youth players available for the tournament.

“As for 2023, I am looking forward to a good season,” he said.

Source : New Straits Times