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Hard at work: The national blind football players going through the paces during a training session at the Pusat Sukan UPM Serdang.

KUALA LUMPUR: The Malaysian blind football team have struggled for years for that elusive big break.

And the team will get their chance to play in the 2018 World Championships when they take part in the IBSA Blind Football Asian Championship starting today.

The tournament at the Tun Razak Hockey Stadium will be a chance for Malaysia to qua­lify for the World Championships, touted as the “World Cup” of blind football.

It’s the first time the Asian Championships is being held in Kuala Lumpur.

This can give the Malaysian team a boost after a brave but disappointing showing at the Asean Para Games earlier this year.

“We performed, and we had great ball ­possession, but without converting that into goals, nothing matters,” admitted coach Sunny Shalesh.

There will be pressure. The team face defending Asian champions Iran in their first match tomorrow, a team they lost to three times before.

“It’s going to be a tough match,” said Sunny. “Iran’s players are big and fast. Our boys must work hard to counter their moves.”

This match will be a high-stake one; the Malaysian team will need to be in the top four to qualify for the World Championships. They cannot afford to stumble in the first match.

But Sunny is confident the players are ready to take on the Goliaths of Asian blind football.

“Iran always maintains the same characteristics of play,” he said.

“I’ve spoken to the players and we’ve been studying their moves. The boys are physically and mentally ready for this game.”

With the help of the Malaysian Sports Council (MSC) and the Sports Science Institute, Sunny is confident the Malaysian players will be at their peak for tomorrow’s game.

“We’ve eased off on training, and our boys are now doing fun stuff like going for recreational activities to help them relax. It’s important not to overly pressure them now, and help them peak at the right time,” he said.

What would help the team perform, he said, would be for Malaysians to show their support.

“This journey to the World Championships has been long,” he said. “This is the pinnacle of four years of development. We really need the public to come and cheer the team on – it’s what motivates the boys.”

CIMB Foundation and The Star’s award-­winning R.AGE team have been supporting the team’s journey for the past year as part of its Eye On The Ball project. It culminates in a ­feature-length documentary film.

The film, also titled Eye On The Ball, is being directed and produced by award-winning filmmaker and R.AGE senior producer Chen Yih Wen. It’s slated for a 2018 release.

The Malaysian blind football team will face Iran at the Tun Razak Hockey Stadium at 8.30am on Dec 13. To watch R.AGE’s ­exclusive livestream of the match, go to


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