The Malaysian Under-18 squad have been drawn against China, North Korea, Myanmar, Guam and the Philippines in the AFC Asian Under-19 qualifiers in November.
If you ask me, this is the team the National Sports Council (NSC) should be supporting instead of Harimau Muda.
Why? Because Ong Kim Swee’s squad have the unenviable task of qualifying for the Asian tournament which serves as the qualifiers for the FIFA World Youth Cup.
In contrast, Harimau Muda, comprising players born in 1989 and thereafter, have nothing much to look forward to in the immediate future.
The plan is for Harimau Muda coach K. Rajagopal to be in charge of both the Under-19 and the SEA Games-bound Under-23 squad, which is to me a daft idea.
Coaches worth their salt would confess seldom a 19 or 20-year old be ready physically and mentally for an Under-23 tournament, unless he’s Maradona, Messi or Rooney.
For the SEA Games, Rajagopal will have the luxury of picking players born in or after 1986. He has no choice really because gold is the target.
The Harimau Muda may be leading the Premier League with an unblemished record of five wins but except for one or two shining stars like Kedah’s Shakir Ali and Selangor’s K. Gurusamy, I don’t think they will form the majority for the Laos-bound squad.
It can easily be interpreted that it is one way of extending Rajagopal’s tenure. He will be able to last until the next SEA Games then.
Ideally an Under-21 team should be formed which will serve as the feeder squad for both the Under-23 and senior outfits. Rajagopal has to investigate what has happened to his group of players born in 1987 whom he brought to the Asian Under-20 finals in Bangalore in 2006. That generation by right should form the nucleus of the 2009 SEA Games team.
I’m sure the likes of Aidil Zafuan and Zaquan Adha Abdul Radzak, Khyril Muhymeen Zambri, Farderin Kadir, Safiq Rahim, Nasriq Baharom, Arif Fazlie Saidin, Fauzi Ariffin, Asraruddin Putra Omar, Shahrizal Saad, Shafiq Jamal and Bunyamin Umar would feature in Rajagopal’s plans. This group will be augmented by those from Harimau Muda, I guess.
To me one cannot hide behind the word “development” all the time.
I know what the ready-made excuse would be in the event that we fail in Laos.
“From this team, we have a big group of players who are still eligible for the 2011 SEA Games”.
Back to the AFC Under-19 qualifiers in China nine months from today, former Barcelona Babe Kim Swee said the match against Myanmar may prove to be decisive.
Tours to Vietnam and Thailand in April followed by trips to Australia or China in June and Slovakia just prior to the qualifiers are in the pipeline, subject to FAM’s financial health. It would not be such a problem if the team enjoy NSC’s financial muscle. It may turn out that NSC could be backing the wrong tigers. Oh, in the meantime, read this