In love with Malaysia

AS WELL as talking the talk, one of our Astro SuperSport hosts is showing that he can still walk the walk.

Among the faces unveiled as Kelantan Football Association revealed its line-up this week for the 2014 Malaysian Super League season was Australian-born, Brendan Gan. He will fill one of the 24-squad places, but as a local player, not as a foreigner.

Brendan and certified fitness instructor Fay Hokulani are hosts of FourFourTwo Performance, our weekly football show that has insider tips about technique, preparation, diet and recovery. 

The 25-year-old midfielder grew up in Sydney, Australia, but has strong Malaysian roots through his father, who was born and raised in Seremban.

Brendan wore the colours of Sabah FA as an import in the 2012 season. But long before that, he was making frequent trips to visit his relatives in Negri Sembilan and already felt “very Malaysian”.

Playing more than 40 matches for Sydney FC in the competitive A-League, Brendan was touted as a youngster to watch as he burst onto the scene in 2008, scoring some spectacular goals. He also represented the club on the Asian stage in the 2011 AFC Champions League.

On the show: Kelantan new recruit Brendan working alongside Hokulani on FourFourTwo Performance.
On the show: Kelantan new recruit Brendan working alongside Hokulani on FourFourTwo Performance.

Following the lead of other South-East Asian nations, including Indonesia and the Philippines, Kelantan have cited FIFA regulations, on the status and transfer of players, in asking that FAM consider Brendan as a Malaysian instead of a foreigner.

A final decision is expected next month before the transfer window deadline on Dec 17.

In my view, it makes perfect sense — and will open up the possibility of other foreign-born stars, with ties to Malaysia through parents, to follow suit. 

A deeper pool of talent has the potential to make the Super League more exciting while strengthening the national squad.

The Philippines has become one of the most improved teams in Asia by using foreign-born players such as brothers James and Phil Younghusband (England) and Stephan Schrock (Germany).

 “It is well noted in common law that ‘nationality’ and ‘citizenship’ differ in its interpretation, thus we are clear that Brendan need not be given citizenship to qualify as a Malaysian national,” wrote Kelantan FA general secretary Azman Ibrahim in a letter published on his Facebook page.

Brendan could well turn out to be an asset to both Malaysian football and Astro SuperSport.

I’ve followed his career since his Sydney FC debut soon after his 20th birthday. 

The folllowing year, in 2009, the FourFourTwo TV show was the first in the Malaysian media to interview Brendan and reveal his possible interest in representing the nation of his father.

And during his season-long stint in Sabah when he was classified as an import player, West Ham-fan Brendan appeared on a special edition of our chat show, Bola@Mamak, alongside visiting Tottenham Hotspur legend Gary Mabbutt and East Malaysia-based SuperSport pundit, Scott Ollerenshaw, in 2012.

It was Ollerenshaw who helped broker the deal for Brendan at Kelantan, under new head coach Steve Darby. 

Despite an exodus of players from last season, Darby’s 2014 squad is shaping up nicely with 2012 Golden Boot winner Francis Forkey Doe, Lebanese star Mohamed Ghaddar and ex-Egypt and Middlesbrough midfielder Mohamed Shawky, among the other additions.

Crucially, Kelantan have retained Nigerian defender Obinna Nwaneri and some of their talented Malaysians, including captain Badhri ‘Piya’ Radzi, veteran forward Fakri Saarani and goalkeeper Khairul Fahmi Che Mat, all capped by the country.

If FAM approve Kelantan’s request, Brendan would immediately be eligible to play for Malaysia.

In the meantime, he’ll continue to work in front of the cameras for SuperSport, rubbing shoulders with the lovely Fay Hokulani, a former FHM pin-up girl.

It’s a tough life, but someone has to do it. No wonder he loves Malaysia so much!

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