JAN 7 — Is it right for the national team to don the colours of another even for a one-off friendly match?

That seems to be the question raised by many after watching Frenz United FC Under-16 team play Liverpool Under-17 at the Selayang Stadium on Saturday.

Liverpool won 2-1 as Najumuddin Samad scored the solitary goal for Frenz United.

The match, aired live on TV1 and by regional broadcasters Fox Sports, saw a bulk of the national youth players donning Frenz United colours. Even national Under-16 coach S. Balachandran wore a Frenz United jersey.

Many, including those within the FA of Malaysia (FAM), were unable to comprehend the arrangement while the Education Ministry’s sports unit held discussions about the matter.

Any programmes involving school children must obtain the approval of the ministry. Insiders claimed the ministry were unaware the team would play as Frenz United.

“I’m liaising with FAM to sort this matter out as we only deal with the national body,” said sports unit head Ee Hong.

An FAM insider, meanwhile, said: “We are also looking for the same answers as you are. We are equally clueless about this.”

Prima facie, we had a national team masquerading as a club outfit. Why?

This reminded me of the Monomotapa United saga I exposed in 2009 as the club had then played Malaysia, masquerading as the Zimbabwe national team.

How did FAM allow one of its employees — Balachandran — to don the shirt of another football body?  Imagine a Samsung engineer wearing an Apple shirt during a mobile phone conference.  

FAM cannot claim ignorance over the matter. The national body had, on behalf of Frenz United, sent out the press invitation for the Frenz United-Liverpool match. The match was “supported” by FAM but it was not stated anywhere on the invitation card the match was sanctioned by FAM, a requirement for any match to be held in the country more so involving national and foreign teams.

In fact, Balachandran was quoted in an English newspaper a day before the match saying: “I am delighted the players get the chance to play Liverpool as we lack the opportunity to travel to other countries.”

Will our Harimau Muda A or national team, including its coaches, be allowed to don the colours of another while playing a tournament?

What if something untoward happened on the field? Who would shoulder the responsibility?

Balachandran insisted it was a non-issue.

“It is not easy to secure a match against Liverpool’s Under-17 and we played them. This is a great experience for the team,” said Balachandran.

“There were several Frenz United players in the team and it is of no problem as we enjoy a cordial working relationship with Frenz and we are thankful for the opportunity.”

To be fair, Balachandran has every right to be thankful to Frenz United. After all, Frenz United were an outfit that constantly promoted the sport at the grassroots and enjoyed a fantastic setup in Janda Baik.

Frenz United have managed to attract several top youth clubs — Dalian Aerbin (China), Incheon United (Korea), Besiktas (Turkey), Internacional (Brazil) and Slovakia’s Under-16 team — for the Frenz United International Cup that starts this Saturday.

And the same argument will be raised again as Balachandran’s lads will once again be referred to as Frenz United FC, as stated on the club’s website.

Frenz United could have organised two matches against Liverpool — one between their team and the other between the national Under-16 team to erase any doubts. Otherwise, they could have taken credit for bringing Liverpool in but allowed the national team to play the English side. The same could have been done for its upcoming tournament.

If there was a friendly arrangement between Frenz United and FAM, so be it. But it must be clearly spelt out.

This should not discourage the good work by clubs, including Frenz United, at the lower levels. It is of upmost importance for all parties to enjoy a healthy working relationship to support each other in moulding young talents.

But FAM must ensure the national players proudly don its tiger stripes. It is a national identity and there are no two ways about it.

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.