THE striker's position is considered to be the most important position in any football team.
Over the years, Malaysia has been blessed with some talented strikers who have more than carried their respective teams.
The Star Online takes a look at some of these best strikers who have played in the black and yellow of Malaysia.
1.Datuk Mokhtar Dahari
Popularly known as “Supermokh”, Mokhtar Dahari is considered to be Malaysia’s best footballer of all time. It was with good reason too. He helped Selangor win 10 Malaysia cup titles and scored a staggering 125 goals in 167 appearances for Malaysia. He helped Malaysia win the 1974 Asian Games Bronze medals and successive SEA Games gold medals in 1977 and 1979.
He even scored a double against Arsenal in a friendly game in 1975 that led to rumours of the English giants' interest in him. Known for his speed and accuracy, Mokhtar was named the best Asian striker by the World Star Soccer magazine when he was 23 years old. Tragically he died aged just 37 from Motor Neurone Disease.
2. Tan Sri Abdul Ghani Minhat
Known as Raja Bola, Abdul Ghani Minhat scored more than 100 goals for Malaysia and more than 300 for Selangor. He had the knack of scoring many goals in a game and in 1963 scored an amazing 106 goals in 15 games for the national team. He scored his first goal for the country in the inaugural 1957 Merdeka Tournament, held on the eve of Independence Day, with an amazing 40-metre screamer against Vietnam. He won many titles with Selangor and led them to a second place finish in the inaugural Asian Club Championship in 1967. He became a coach later on, leading Selangor to Malaysia Cup triumphs in 1971, 1972 and 1984.
3. James Wong
His famous winning goal against South Korea in the pre-qualifying 1980 Olympics tournament must go down in the annals of history as the most celebrated Malaysian goal ever. While Malaysia did not compete in the Olympics because of a boycott, James etched his name into Malaysian football folkfore with that goal. The Sabahan striker who was known as King James also played professionally for Hakoah in Australia New South Wales Premier League for two years. James even played in goal for the Malaysian youth team in 1971 Asian Youth Championship.
4. Isa Bakar
The Penang striker’s goal poaching prowess in his heyday back in the early 1970s, made him a household name. His partnership with Mokhtar Dahari made the duo one of the most feared strike force in Asia. He was part of the Penang team that last won the Malaysia Cup in 1974 and the national team who won the bronze medal in the 1974 Teheran Asian Games. His two goals gave Malaysia a 2-1 win over North Korea in the bronze-match playoff. His brothers Ali and Omar also played for the state team with Ali also representing Malaysia.
5. Shaharuddin Abdullah
The Penangite's goal scoring abilities earned him the nickname “Harimau Malaysia.” He played in three decades from the 1960s to 1980s with players such as Ghani Minhat and Mokhtar Dahari. He was part of the 1972 Malaysian Olympics team and the 1974 Asian Games bronze medal winners. He won the Malaysia Cup four times with Penang and the Merdeka Cup three times.
6. Hassan Sani
The Sabahan had an important role in Malaysia’s qualification for the 1980 Olympics - sprinting through the field and beating several South Korean players before laying off the important pass for James Wong to score the winning goal in the pre-Olympics tournament. Hassan who was called lipas kudung because of his agility played for Sabah in the late 1970s and 1980s. He helped Sabah finish second in the league in 1979. The team scored an amazing 49 goals in 16 games, the highest scoring team that season. He even played beach soccer for Malaysia later on after retiring from regular football.
7. Zainal Abidin Hassan
Zainal Abidin Hassan was probably the most well known Malaysian footballer in the mid 1980s. Zainal scored 125 goals in 215 games in three different spells with Selangor and 68 goals in 152 games for Pahang. He helped both teams to league and Malaysia Cup triumphs. His partnership with Dollah Salleh in both teams was the main reason for those triumphs. That partnership also enabled Malaysia to win the Sea Games gold medal in 1989, after a 10-year barren spell. He scored 78 goals in 138 games for Malaysia. His last tournament with Malaysia was at the inaugural Tiger Cup in 1996 where the team finished runners-up behind Thailand. Zainal was named Most Valuable Player (MVP) of the tournament aged 35. Zainal even made an appearance on the Malay hit comedy College 56. Oddly enough he began his career as a defender, even playing for the national team in that position.
8. Dollah Salleh
Dollah Salleh won the Malaysia Cup with three different teams- Johor, Selangor and Pahang. His partnership with Zainal Abidin Hassan in the latter two teams caused the duo to be one of the most feared strike partnerships in South East Asia. He scored 39 goals in 76 appearances for Selangor and 76 goals in 125 appearances for Pahang. He also scored 48 goals in 97 appearances for Malaysia. He has gone on to become a successful coach, winning the Malaysia Cup with Selangor MPPJ and Selangor. He is now coaching Pahang.
9. Azman Adnan
Described as the next Mokhtar Dahari, Azman Adnan was one of the most successful Malaysian strikers in the 1990s. He started off his career with Kuala Lumpur scoring 129 goals in 225 appearances before making a high-profile move to Selangor. He scored 147 goals in 279 appearances for the Red Giants before moving on to Penang and Negri Sembilan. He also scored 49 goals in 75 appearances for Malaysia. He was known for his ability to shoot with both feet.
10. Safee Sali
Not many Malaysians knew about Super Safee until he emerged the top scorer with five goals in the 2010 AFF Suzuki Championship. His exploits especially against Indonesia made Malaysia champions of the region for the first time since the championship was introduced in 1996. Before that, he had already made a name with Selangor where he was their main striker. He scored 36 goals in 105 games altogether for the Red Giants. He then moved to Indonesian side Pelita Jaya where he scored 27 goals in 42 appearances. He became the first Malaysian to play in the Indonesian league. His spell was cut short because of internal problems that plagued Indonesian football. He subsequently moved to cash-rich Johor Darul Takzim, although his first season has been plagued by injury.