It’s a massive boo$t

KUALA LUMPUR: The national Under-23 football team received a massive monetary boost ahead of the Kuala Lumpur SEA Games.

Yesterday, the 22-player squad received RM25,000 each from the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM).

The reward was from the RM4mil given by the Sultan of Johor Sultan Ibrahim Ibni Almarhum Sultan Iskandar to the FAM after the squad defied the odds last month to qualify for the 2018 AFC Under-23 Championship Finals in China.

Coach Datuk Ong Kim Swee’s men had earlier received RM6,000 each from the FAM last month after their success in the qualifiers in Bangkok.

FAM president Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim has promised even more rewards if the men and women’s football teams and futsal squads win the golds at the KL Games from Aug 14-29.

“I hope the Youth and Sports Ministry will reward the players too if the teams win the gold medal. Don’t just expect us to reward success,” said Tunku Ismail after meeting the men and women’s football players and the two futsal squads at a hotel here yesterday.

“The expectation is high but I don’t want to put that pressure on our players. Thailand are good and Indonesia have prepared well but I think we are not too bad ourselves. The team’s recent performance in the AFC Under-23 qualifiers shows our ability and I hope they will do well at the Games.

“Our target is always to win the gold. If we don’t achieve it, it’s not the end. Continuous progress is what’s important for me. I don’t want to be quick to punish the team,” the Tunku Mahkota of Johor (TMJ) added.

Malaysia, who last won the gold at the 2011 Jakarta Games, will open their Group A campaign against Brunei on Aug 14. Malaysia’s other matches are against Singapore (Aug 16), Myanmar (Aug 21) and Laos (Aug 23).

Defending champions Thailand are in Group B with Indonesia, Vietnam, Timor Leste, Cambodia and the Philippines.

Tunku Ismail said the players should be proud to be given the opportunity to represent the country.

“Playing for the national team is a dream for most of the people out there. So the players should view this chance as an honour and blessing, and not a burden,” he said.

“We are the host and we have a good chance of winning the gold. Winning the gold is not just for the nation but it’s also for your own career. I hope everyone will take this chance and don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Just go and do your best,” added Tunku Ismail.