Many went – but few succeeded

In the 80s, players like Soh Chin Aun, Santokh Singh and the great Mokhtar Dahari all had chances to feature for English clubs, but the moves never materialise. Mokhtar Dahari, who bamboozled Arsenal in the 1975 friendly in Stadium Merdeka, was invited to play for the Gunners but refused due to his love for Selangor.

Lim Teong Kim moved to Germany and featured for Hertha BSC but only for one season. He then turned youth coach in Germany. While there has been no success in Europe, Chow Chee Keong, Yip Chee Keong and players like Safee Sali have had successful stints closer to home – in Hong Kong and Indonesia.

Here’s a list of players who have played for clubs abroad:

Stanley Bernard

Sporting Clube de Goa (India)

Stanley Bernard kicked off his football career by featuring for Kuala Lumpur in the Premier League. His big break came when he joined club side UPB-My Team in 2009. The then 23-year-old was a consistent performer and created many chances for strikers Norhshahrul Idlan Talaha and Nizaruddin Yusof. In 2009, he underwent trials with I-League club, Sporting Clube de Goa and was immediately signed to help them survive in the league. The Kuala Lumpur lad impressed the club with his direct runs and probing passes. He helped them avoid relegation but was released at the end of the season due to the I-League’s new format of having four internationals and no Asian quota.

Safee Sali

FC Pelita Jaya (Indonesia)

The man needs no introduction. Since making his debut with Kuala Lumpur, he has been nothing short of sensational. He was dubbed the next Mokhtar Dahari when he was with Selangor. At the 2010 AFF Suzuki Cup, the well-built 26-year-old striker announced himself to the region by netting five goals to be top scorer of the tournament. Teams around Asia and Europe came calling and he decided to move to Pelita Jaya to become the first Malaysian to play in the Indonesian Super League. He impressed in his debut, scoring the winning goal against Sriwijaya FC. In that season, he scored four goals in 10 games to help Pelita Jaya beat relegation. The following season, he was given the captaincy and became a fan favourite and finished as one of the top scorers in the league. He remains the only Malaysian to score a hattrick in a professional league outside Malaysia. He had to leave when FIFA banned in the Indonesian league and now plays for PJ City.

Lim Teong Kim

Hertha Berlin SC (Germany)

Lim Teong Kim is a legend for Kuala Lumpur. Having won the Malaysia Cup three times in a row (1987,1988 and 1989), Teong Kim is currently a respected youth coach in Germany. He has trained the likes of Holger Badtsuber and Thomas Mueller in the Bayern Munich academy and continues to nurture youngsters for the Bundesliga side. Before his trophy-winning prowess with Kuala Lumpur in the late 80s, he featured for Bundesliga side, Hertha BSC. The midfielder, who was impressive with Malacca and Selangor during the early 80s, couldn’t replicate his form in Germany and his stay with Hertha lasted only one season.

Fadzli Shaari

SV Wehen (Germany)

Blessed with strength and height, Fadzli Saari left Malaysia for Europe when he was 19. He went to Germany to play for Regionalliga Sud side SV Wehen. Together with Rudie Ramli, they seemed destined for great things and Malaysians were expecting the two to become the ambassadors of Malaysian football. However, Fadzli couldn’t adapt to his new surroundings. The forward tried hard to impress but it wasn’t enough for him to earn an extension with the club. He is now retired.

Rudie Ramli

SV Wehen (Germany)

Having trained with the Bayern Munchen academy for a few months, Rudie Ramli was also destined for great things with Fadzli Shaari. Having impressed SV Wehen with his technical skills and finishing abilities, the then 19-year-old was signed for one season. Together with Fadzli, he struggled to get into the squad.

Nazmi Faiz Mansor

FC Beira Mar (Portugal)

Nobody could forget his thunderbolt against Bahrain during the 2012 Olympic Qualifiers in Bukit Jalil Stadium. Having impressed in the 2011 SEA Games as a 17-year-old, the youngster continued his growth by featuring for Harimau Muda and Europe came calling. In 2012, it was announced that Nazmi would move to Portugal to play for S.C. Beira Mar in the Portuguese First Division, to play against the likes of Joao Moutinho, Silvestre Varela, Ezequiel Garay and Matias Fernandez. He played for the youth team and was impressive and just when everyone thought he was destined for stardom, the youngster made headlines by quitting the Portuguese club to play for PKNS FC in the 2013 Malaysian Super League. He still plays for JDT.

Ahmad Fakri Saarani

Atletico S.C. (Portugal)

Englishman Steve Darby gave this young man his debut with Perak in 2007, and he impressed by scoring on his debut. In the first four matches of the season, he scored in every match and was touted as the next big star of Malaysian football. In 2009, he moved to Perlis and impressed by scoring 16 goals in 24 games. People started noticing his prowess and coaches from around Asean were watching him. However, when he moved to Negri Sembilan in 2010, his form dropped, The goals trickled up but then came the big break. The 23-year-old earned a move to moving to Portuguese Div 3 club side, Athletico S.C. With a six-month contract in hand, it was hoped he would be back and scoring. But Fakri played a few games for the side, and it was a short stint.

Akmal Rizal Ahmad Rakhli

RC Strasbourg and RSCR Hageuneu (France)

Pacy and skilful, Akmal Rizal Rakhli started his French journey by joining Ligue 2 side R.C. Strasbourg. To aid his development, the then 19-year-old forward joined RSCR Haguenau on loan and impressed by scoring five goals in 14 games. However, it was not enough to impress Strasbourg as he was released. There were no more offers from Europe.

Titus James Palani

Nanteuil SC and FC Villenoy (France)

He broke the Malaysian Book of Records by juggling a football more than 5,680 times. He was a bright young kid with huge potential, and at the age of 12, moved to France to train with the French side, FC Villenoy. After that, he underwent trials with several French clubs, but couldn’t find his way in. He stayed in France and has played for several amateur clubs in the hope that professional clubs notice him.

Wan Zack Wan Haikal, Irfan Fazail and Mohd Fadli Shas

FC Zlate Vion Moravce (Slovakia)

Wan Zack was one of the best-attacking midfielders in the country, and many Malaysian clubs have tried to sign him. In 2011 he joined Slovakian side FC Zlate Vion Moravce after impressing during Harimau Muda’s tour to Slovakia. He started one match and came in as a substitute many times during his three-month stint with the Corgon Liga side. After that, he rejoined Harimau Muda and played in the S-League, where he caught the eyes of J-League league agents.

He and Wan Zaharulnizam Wan Zakaria underwent trials with F.C. Ryukyu and impressed.

They were offered a contract to play with them and became the first Malaysian players to feature in the J-League. Irfan Fazail and Fadhli Shas also joined the Slovakian club, but they only featured as substitutes during their three-month stint. Wan Zack is now back in Selangor, Irfam is with JDT II and Fadhli is with JDT.

Chow Chee Keong

Hong Kong Rangers F.C., Jardines, South China AA, Tung Sing (Hong Kong)

He was dubbed as the “Asian Stainless Steel Man” by Hong Kong fans. Having started out with Hung Sin Club, which was based in Brickfields, the goalkeeper moved to Hong Kong in his prime. From 1966 to 1970, he was voted by the Asian Football Confederation as the best goalkeeper for five years in a row. In 1968, he came to Hong Kong with a Malaysian Chinese selection side, and many clubs took notice of him.

Two years later, he joined Hong Kong Rangers F.C. for three guest matches. Then, he joined Jardines for a salary of HKD2,500 per month, which was the colony’s record at that time.

After that, he joined South China A.A. and won many trophies with the club. He impressed Pele while playing in Hong Kong but missed out on the Olympics because he was already a professional at that time.

Yip Chee Keong

South China AA (Hong Kong)

A midfielder-cum-winger, Yip Chee Ke ong played together with the likes of Hassan Sani and James Wong in the late 70s.

James Wong and Hassan Sani hogged the headlines by helping Malaysia to qualify for the Olympics in 1980, but Yip Chee Keong quietly made a name for himself when he joined South China A.A. in Hong Kong.

He also has the rare distinction of having played for the national team first before featuring for his state team, Selangor.

He made an instant impression in Hong Kong as his versatility, and technical skills endeared him to the Hong Kong fans. He was also one of the highest-paid players in Hong Kong at that time.

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