PETALING JAYA: Former national striker Shaharuddin Abdullah is a legend. Just like the late Mokhtar Dahari, Abdul Ghani Minhat and the Bakar brothers, Ali and Isa.
James Wong and Hassan Sani also spring to mind.
Shaharuddin was a stalwart with the national team for three decades from 1960 to 1980.
The Penang ace also played in the 1972 Munich Olympics and was a member of the team who won a bronze medal in the 1974 Asian Games in Teheran, Iran.
Now Shaharuddin’s son, Shafiq, is hoping to follow in his illustrious father’s footsteps.
Shafiq has been called up to the national Under-23 team’s first phase of centralised training for the Singapore SEA Games.
The 20-year-old has scored five goals in six appearances for Johor Darul Ta’zim II (JDT) in the second-tier Premier League this season.
“This is the first time I’ve been called-up to play for Malaysia ... it’s definitely a big surprise and an honour,” said Shafiq, who reported for training at Wisma FAM on Sunday.
“I hope to follow in my father’s footsteps ... he is my football hero. I don’t think his legacy will weigh me down. Instead, I think it’ll spur me on to do better.
“I’ll be happy if I can reach his standard and it’ll be a bonus for me if I can surpass his achievements with the national team.”
National Under-23 coach Datuk Ong Kim Swee has kicked off his preparation for the June SEA Games by calling up 17 players from the M-League.
The team are scheduled to leave for Bangkok for a series of friendlies against club sides before they take on the Thailand and South Korean Under-23 teams.
The team are also scheduled to play the China and Australian Under-23 sides in their last phase of preparation.
“I’ve been told that we will be playing friendlies in Bangkok. If selected, it will be my first international,” said Shafiq, who was the 2014 President’s Cup top scorer with 14 goals.
“I’m still in the early stages of my career but I hope to impress the coach and win a spot in the SEA Games squad.”