Syed Saddiq hopes Malaysian football can mature from defeat

For a greater cause: (from left) SIC chairman Tan Sri Azman Yahya, Petronas president and CEO Tan Sri Wan Zulkiflee Wan Ariffin, Khairul Idham Pawi, Fabio Quartararo, Franco Morbidelli, Ayumu Sasaki, John McPhee, Youth and Sports Minister Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman, SIC CEO Datuk Razlan Razali and Petronas Sprinta Racing team manager Johan Stigefelt posing for a photo after a press conference at the Silverstone Circuit on Friday.

SILVERSTONE: It’s a good show but Malaysian football need some soul searching.

This was the assessment made by Youth and Sports Minister Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman after the Under-23 team helmed by coach Datuk Ong Kim Swee lost 0-1 to Japan in the last-16 match at the Patriot Chandrabhaga Stadium on Friday.

The football team sparked a great promise after beating mighty South Korea 2-1 in the group match last week but could not replicate the same result against Japan.

They did well to hold the Japanese team throughout the match but a late penalty scored by Ayase Ueda dashed their hopes of reaching the quarter-finals.

Despite the defeat, Syed Saddiq expressed his pride over the team’s overall performance.

“We fell to Japan but I’m happy with Harimau Muda as they gave their hearts out. Losing 1-0 because of a penalty in the 89th minute of a game is hard to accept but that’s beyond the team.

“This is the time for them to come back, take time to do soul-searching and find a way to build on this strong showing so that the win against South Korea will be something that can be repeated many times in the future.

“I believe that under the guidance of Kim Swee, we can revive the glory days of the Malaysian team.”

Syed Saddiq said this after witnessing the historic unveiling of the new Petronas Yamaha Sepang Racing Team on Friday in Silverstone. It is the first time that a fully-fledged Malaysian outfit will race in the premier class MotoGP next year.

The Petronas Yamaha Sepang Racing Team will be represented by 2017 Moto2 world champion Franco Morbidelli of Italy and Fabio Quartararo of France.

Sepang International Circuit (SIC) also announced that Petronas will be the title partner from 2019 to 2021.

The announcement marked the completion of Malaysia’s participation in all three classes of the world championships – MotoGP, Moto2 and Moto3.

While proud with the historic announcement at the international stage, Saddiq also wants to get the basics right at home by looking for ways to bring the ‘mat rempit’ and ‘mat motor’ closer to the racing track.

He believes that illegal street racing can be curbed if they can create the space and opportunity for these ‘mat rempits’ to race legally.

“This is the way forward,” said Syed Saddiq.

“We want to train world-class riders but it is also equally important to create jobs for youths, who currently take part in illegal street racing, as engineers or mechanics.

“The SIC is now under the Sports Ministry and we can make the track available for them to race legally in accordance to the law. And if they are talented, we can pick them and mould them into riders.

“These youths can look up to (current riders) Hafizh Syahrin Abdullah and Khairul Idham Pawi and make them their idols.”

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