AT 16, Muhammad Jafri Chew may have emerged as the youngest ever to make the grade to the Harimau Muda side, but he managed to display lethal skills on the pitch during their Slovakian training stint.
The product of SMK Mutiara Impian made Penang proud and lived up to the expectations of Harimau Muda ‘C’ coach-cum-manager Aminuddin Hussin.
He was roped into the Harimau Muda ‘C’ side at the conclusion of their recent FAM Cup League campaign.
Muhammad Jafri was able to prove Aminuddin’s decision to include him in the 25-member training squad for a lengthy month-and-a-half European training stint in Slovakia was the right one when he embarked on his escapade with guns blazing.
Muhammad Jafri helped Harimau Muda ‘C’ get off to a roaring start in Slovakia.
The trip was to help the team gear up for two back-to-back national assignments shortly after they return to Malaysia on Merdeka Day.
The young Tigers, who departed to Europe on July 9, have to prepare for the Asean Football Federation (AFF) Under-19 championship in Surabaya on Sept 9-22 and then the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Under-19 qualifier in China on Oct 8 to Oct 12.
In Slovakia on Sunday, they were crowned champs in the Under-19 Miltal Cup tournament.
Then, as if adding icing to the cake, Muhammad Jafri found that his five-goal contribution in their victorious march to Miltal Cup honours earned him the top scorer award as well.
Despite the tournament parading an international field of six teams from five countries — the Czech Re-public, Slovenia, Hungary and host nation Slovakia — the Malaysians still walked tall right from the preliminary to the final.
They wrapped up their preliminaries in style.
With the six teams divided into two equal groups, Harimau Muda ‘C’ handed Czech outfit SK Slavia Praba Prague and Slovenia’s Domzale FC identical 3-1 defeats to emerge group champs.
Their unblemished run earned them a final showdown against host side MSK Zilina, who came away champs of the other group, after they outshone Vasas SC of Hungary and another Czech outfit Viktoria Plzen in the preliminaries.
In the final, Muhammad Jafri, who struck with a goal each in both their preliminary outings, was in fine form.
He produced a hat-trick of goals in the final showdown which allowed Harimau Muda to be confirmed champs with an overwhelming 6-0 margin.
That was enough to bring delight to Aminuddin who praised Muha-mmad Jafri’s scoring abilities.
“He has done exceptionally well for his age and his presence has given me more options in the offensive,” said Aminuddin in a telephone interview.
“The good showing here will surely serve as encouragement for the players to do better as we get on with our preparations for the two national assignments which lie ahead.
“But I will want them to keep their feet firmly on the ground and not get carried away.
“After all, it is not the right time to be celebrating yet. We have to stay focused on the job that we do have at hand.”
MSK Zilina Under-19 coach Tibor Goljan was quick to concede that they lost to a spirited Malaysian side who were aggressive in their approach and highly creative as well.
“They (the Malaysians) fully ex-ploited our mistakes in defence and we were made to pay a heavy price when they fully utilised their chances as well,” said Goljan.
He felt the Malaysians’ three first half strikes were enough to put the match beyond his charges.
MSK Zilina however was not to turned away empty handed, picking up two of the three awards on the final day, with Jakub Michlik adjudged the Best Player of the Tournament and Filip Knazovic picked as the Best Goalkeeper.
However it was still the Malaysians who had the last say, with Muhammad Jafri emerging the tournament top scorer with a five-goal credit.
The lad also won himself a pair of Adidas Boots.
Best Player: Jakub Michlik (MSK Zilina)
Best Goalkeeper: Filip Knazovic (MSK Zilina)
Top Scorer: Muhammad Jafri Chew (Harimau Muda ‘C’)