PETALING JAYA: Negri Sembilan’s L. Kalaiharasan and Sean Eugene Selvaraj are still coming to terms with their surprise inclusion in the Kuala Lumpur SEA Games football training squad.
What makes the two 21-year-olds different from the rest is that they are the only two President’s Cup players in the 22-man squad who left for Xiangtan, China, yesterday for an eight-day playing tour.
National Under-22 coach Datuk Ong Kim Swee has retained the bulk of the trainees under former German coach Frank Bernhardt and the squad will play three friendlies there – against China’s Under-22 side tomorrow, Guangzhou R&F reserves on June 13 and Guangzhou Evergrande reserves on June 15.
Lanky centreback Kalaiharasan has vowed to work extra hard as he knows that he will have stiff competition from the more seasoned players.
“It wasn’t easy when I first reported for training at Wisma FAM. This is my first call-up to the Under-22 squad and everything is new ... but I’m slowly adapting to life with the seniors in the camp,” he said.
The other defenders in the squad are Syahmi Safari, Adam Nor Azlin (Selangor); Ali Imran Alimi (Felda United); Adib Zainuddin (Felcra); Muhd Irfan Zakaria (Kuala Lumpur); Syazwan Andik Ishak (JDT II) and Syazwan Zaipol Bahari (PKNP).
Sean, who is Negri’s top striker in the President’s Cup with 10 goals, is also prepared to fight for his place in the team.
“I have had some experience playing with the Negri senior team in the Premier League. But it won’t be easy as there are so many established strikers in the squad. This is my big break and I will give it my best,” said Sean, who will have to vie against the likes of Syafiq Ahmad (Kedah); S. Kumaahran, Jafri Firdaus Chew (Penang); and N. Thanabalan (Felcra) for a place upfront.
The national Under-22 squad continue training at Wisma FAM from June 17-23 before breaking camp when the M-League resumes on July 1.
Besides the SEA Games (Aug 19-30), Kim Swee’s other assignment is the AFC Under-23 qualifiers in Bangkok from July 19-23. Malaysia are in Group H with Thailand, Indonesia and Mongolia.