JOHOR BARU: Midfielder Safiq Rahim will skipper the national football team in the 2019 Asian Cup Group B qualifying match against Lebanon at the Larkin Stadium tonight.
National coach Eduardo Vingada said Safiq was picked after a discussion with his coaching staff.
“Safiq’s a very good player for his club team Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT). But as the skipper for Malaysia, he has a huge responsibility.
“There are other players who can be captain as they are much more senior or have more caps. But what I want is someone who can be my extension on the field. And Safiq is such a player,” said Vingada.
It has been a quick turnaround of fortunes for Safiq. The Kuala Selangor local opted to retire from the national team at the age of 29 with three other JDT players – centreback Aidil Zafuan Abdul Razak, rightback S. Kunalan and midfielder Amirulhadi Zainal – last July.
But Safiq had a change of heart when Vingada, who was appointed national coach last month, called him up for national duty.
Safiq, who holds 66 international caps and 16 goals, is one of the most decorated players in the country in recent times.
He was instrumental in helping Malaysia win the 2009 SEA Games gold in Laos. He also helped Malaysia clinch the AFF Suzuki Cup for the first time in 2010.
The former Harimau Muda player also clinched several individual accolades such as the Golden Boot at the 2014 AFF Suzuki Cup with six goals and the AFC Cup’s Most Valuable Player award in 2015.
Safiq said he was surprised to be given the skipper’s armband.
“It’s a challenge, but I look forward to repaying Vingada’s faith in me with a good performance.
“There’s pressure on us. We must think positively and motivate one another and not disappoint our fans,” said Safiq.