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By Ahmad Nazrin Syahmi Mohamad Arif
KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 12 -- Malaysian football legend Datuk Jamal Nasir Ismail believes the national team under head coach Tan Cheng Hoe should not be overly-dependent on the players from Johor Darul Ta'zim (JDT).
The former Pahang defender drew his suggestion from the lacklustre Harimau Malaya tour where cracks showed a contrasting commitment between those who were regulars and new players who were called up for recent duty in the series of Tier 1 international friendlies in Amman, Jordan.
Jamal Nasir, who was part of the exemplary national defence line of stalwarts like Datuk Soh Chin Aun, Datuk Santokh Singh and Kamarudin Abdullah, said the initiative to highlight new talented players must be upheld from time to time.
"This is so that new players can blend well with JDT players to bind the national squad into a strong unit. We must help these rookies with abundant opportunity so that they can showcase talent to gain confidence in representing the country," he told Bernama.
Only four JDT players answered Cheng Hoe’s call-up for the just-concluded friendly series in Amman which saw Malaysia losing 0-4 and 1-5 respectively to Jordan and Uzbekistan.
Those four is a far lower ‘quota’ than the time where 13 players of the Southern Tigers anchored the national team for Group G round two qualifying of the 2022 World Cup/2023 Asia Cup in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) last June.
In that qualifying campaign, eight JDT players made it to the national first XI line up which however lost 0-4 to UAE before the JDT dominance swelled to nine but lost 1-2 to Vietnam and then down to six when Malaysia edged Thailand 1-0.
Jamal Nasir disagrees with the popular opinion that blamed Malaysia’s dismal run in the friendly series in Amman due to the absence of JDT players.
"The absence of JDT players meant that we had to put new players in the spotlight, resulting in a bigger pool of talent to choose from.
"I agree 200 percent with what Cheng Hoe is doing, because to me this is a very brave move,” said Jamal Nasir, in praising Cheng Hoe’s courage to feature rookies against more formidable foes.
He said a player who excelled on the domestic front did not mean he would automatically become a shooting star when donning the national jersey.
Jamal Nasir said giving opportunities to different players in friendly matches will create a platform to assess quality on the international stage whereby players scramble to book a national berth.
He pointed out two young players, Mohamad Faisal Abdul Halim of Terengganu FC and Muhammad Mukhairi Ajmal Mahadi (Selangor FC) who were among the newbies who showed maturity in matches played in Amman.
"Faisal and Mukhairi are clearly two such players who have depth in skills, but their talent was hidden all this while until they were given a trial by fire to stamp their mark," said a delighted Jamal over the development.
Jamal said that as a player who had a glorious run during the golden era of national football in the 70s and 80s, he cherishes only one dream -- to see Malaysia storming back in strong reckoning for a slot in the Olympics.
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