PETALING JAYA: National Under-22 coach Ong Kim Swee has decided to exclude hotshot Safawi Rasid from the SEA Games team to give him some rest.
He said Safawi, this year’s Most Valuable Player (MVP), has played a lot of games for his club Johor Darul Ta’zim and the senior national side.
“It was a difficult decision and I’m doing this for the good of Safawi,” Kim Swee told reporters at the team’s training session at Arena MPSJ in Subang Jaya yesterday.
“He has played many matches for his club and the national team, including the Under-22 squad earlier this year.
“So, for the good of everyone, I have decided to rest Safawi as we have important assignments next year. I hope everyone understands.”
In the past 11 days, the 22-year-old played three matches for the national side, including Tuesday’s 2-0 2023 Asian Cup qualifier win over Indonesia, in which he scored both goals.
Meanwhile, seven players – Adam Nor Azlin, Syahmi Safari, Dominic Tan, Syamer Kutty Abba, Akhyar Rashid, Daniel Amier Norhisham and Haziq Nadzli – reported for training after completing their duty with the senior squad.
Kim Swee will have to drop 12 from the training squad before taking a 20-man squad to Manila this Saturday.
Young striker Luqman Hakim Shamsuddin said the absence of Safawi would be sorely felt.
Luqman, 17, said he was looking forward to learning from the star attacker.
“It has been my dream to play in the SEA Games. During the 2017 edition in Kuala Lumpur, I was a spectator and since then I have been harbouring hopes of joining the 2019 squad.
“Given a chance, I would like to play alongside (Safawi and Akhyar),” he told reporters.