PETALING JAYA: The national team management committee, headed by Datuk Ibrahim Saad and chief coach Allan Harris have come up with a unique “rotation” formula to pick players for the national team for the Pre-Olympic and Pre-Asian Cup tournaments.
The national football team will be built around 12 core players who are in the Under-22 age group and these players will form the nucleus of the national team for both the Pre-Olympic (Under-23) and Pre-Asian Cup (senior team) tournaments this year.
The new team concept is expected to help solve the problem faced by the national team's involvement in two important tournaments which will be held almost simultaneously in May and August.
Ibrahim said with the “rotation” system, the FA of Malaysia (FAM) would not have to engage two different sets of players for the two tournaments. All they need is to find the additional players (about eight to 10) from the ongoing M-League to join the core group for the different tournaments.
“It is unique situation but we have to cope with it. Players for the core group have been identified. All we need is the additional players to be included for the respective tournaments,'' said Ibrahim after a two-hour meeting with Harris, assistant coach B. Sathianathan, FAM secretary general Datuk Dell Akbar Khan, assistant secretary Datuk Yap Nyim Keong and co-ordinator M. Jeysing at the Wisma FAM in Kelana Jaya yesterday.
He said the nucleus of the national team will be made up of boys from the Under-22 age group with proven track records based on their commendable showing in the recent Asean Football Federation's (AFF) Tiger Cup tournament in Singapore and Jakarta last month, in which they did reasonably well to finish fourth.
Ibrahim said it was a unique situation as the core squad will comprise players under 22 years of age and not senior national players. Among the likely candidates are Akmal Rizal Rakhli, Indra Putra Mahayuddin, Juzaili Samion, Mohamed Fadzli Shaari, Irwan Fadli Idrus, Saiful Sabtu, Syamsuri Mustaffa, Norhafiz Zamani Misbah, Marzuki Yusof and K. Rajan.
He said even in the recent Tiger Cup, Harris blended players from the Under-23 squad and the senior squad and it worked out well. Some of the seniors for that tournament were K. Nanthakumar, Azmin Azram Abdul Aziz, Tengku Hazman Raja Hassan, Victor Andrag, Hairuddin Omar, Mohamed Nizaruddin Yusof and Subri Sulong.
“Under the circumstances we have to concentrate more on the core players, who will be the mainstays for the two tournaments. It is a well-planned programme as we have gone through the calendar thoroughly in order to get the best results from the two teams in the tournaments.
“We will also look into the welfare of the national players and will pay their salaries if they have to leave their state teams or clubs for centralised training.
“We have scheduled four months of training for the national teams,” said Ibrahim.
The Pre-Olympic is FAM's immediate target as the Under-22 boys will open their campaign in the second round against the winners of the match between Turkmenistan and India and the first-leg match will be played in Kuala Lumpur on May 3. The return match is scheduled for June 7.
The final rounds of the Olympic qualifying tournament will be played between Aug 30 and Oct 18. In the Asian Cup qualifiers, Malaysia will open their campaign with an away match against Iraq on Aug 19 or 20.
The Pre-Asian Cup matches continue until Feb 18 next year.