KUALA LUMPUR: Five players who were not released by their respective clubs to join the national Under 23 (U-23) squad for the 2019 Asean Football Federation (AFF) U-22 Championship is a blow to the team’s preparation.
The players were national sensational defenders, namely, Muhammad Syahmi Safari (Selangor), Muhammad Daniel Amier Norhisham (Felda United), Muhammad Zahril Azri Zabri (Felda United), Muhammad Faisal Abdul Halim (Pahang) and Mohd Fadzrul Danel Mohd Nizam (Kedah).
Of the five players involved, three were midfield players and the decision of the clubs to refuse releasing their players was clearly worrying national U-23 squad chief coach, Ong Kim Swee.
“What is worrisome concerning the list of 26 players called up is the midfield…and we know in the list, Daniel, Zharil and Fadzrul are midfielders. Now only two midfielders are left in Nik Akif (Nik Akif Syahiran Nik Mat) and Danial (Muhammad Danial Haqim Draman).
“So, I have to think of replacements for the midfield position especially and there is a strong possibility that I will call two or three players tomorrow to ensure we have adequate players in every position before going to Cambodia,’’ he said when met at the first training session of the national squad here today.
Kim Swee, however, harboured a hope to get a positive decision in Cambodia and wished the selected players could fill the voids and could show their best performances.
“What’s important is that I hope the players with the squad this time can prove that they can fill the slots left but we also have to work hard to get very good results,” he added.
Meanwhile, the first day of the country’s U-23 squad centralised training camp saw only 14 players undergoing training while another five players from Kelantan were expected to report late tonight and two other players from Felda United and Johor Darul Ta ‘zim II would report tomorrow.
The 2019 AFF U-22 championship would take place from Feb 17-26 with Malaysia drawn in Group B with the hosts, Myanmar, Indonesia and Singapore while Group A had Thailand, Philippines, Timor Leste, Vietnam, Laos and Brunei.