PETALING JAYA: Youthful Felda United are ready to pack a punch in their second year in the Super League.
Coach Irfan Bakti has opted for a younger team after a squad laden with seasoned players fell short last season.
Felda finished fifth in the 12-team Super League, reached the Malaysia Cup semi-finals but were surprise first-round casualties in the FA Cup.
In his bid to win at least a trophy this season, Irfan has released a number of experienced stars like striker Indra Putra Mahayuddin (Kelantan).
“We had the oldest squad in the Super League last season. But the players were plagued by injuries and we suffered towards the tail end of the season. So this season, we decided to reduce the team’s average age by including a number of youngsters,” said Irfan.
Among the Fighters’ notable new signings for the new season, which begins on Feb 13, are midfielders Abdul Shukur Jusoh (Armed Forces), S. Sivanesan (Negri Sembilan) and Mohd Ridzuan Abdunloh (Harimau Muda A).
Felda have also signed Uzbekistan midfielder Lutfulla Turaev and Brazilian defender Gilberto Alemao to join Brazilian striker Thiago Fernandes and Liberian midfielder Zah Rahan Krangar on the roster.
“We have signed a number of talented local players who played for Harimau Muda A (national Under-23 side). I believe they will be our key players for the season,” said Irfan, who is in his third season with Felda.
“Last season, we managed to get the points from the big teams like Pahang and Johor Darul Ta’zim but we dropped points to the smaller teams... this is something that we need to improve this season.
“We have a better side this season. The experience we gained last season will be crucial for us to win a trophy this season,” added Irfan.
As a build-up to the season, Felda competed in the recent Bangabandhu Cup in Bangladesh. It was a disastrous outing as they failed to win a single match in the tournament which was won by the Nepal national team.
Felda fielded an all-local side in Group A consisting of the national teams of Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka. They suffered a defeat and drew the other two matches.
But Irfan is not too worried about the dismal outing.
“I had to leave our foreign players out of Cup. It’s just the pre-season and we will be ready for the Super League. We still have time to build a formidable side for the Super League,” said Irfan.