FAM suspend naturalisation project, will continue to manage national squad

FAM president Datuk Hamidin Mohd Amin said the Harimau Malaya squad would continue to use the services of existing naturalised players for the third round of the 2023 Asian Cup Qualifiers that will begin next February. — Reuters pic
FAM president Datuk Hamidin Mohd Amin said the Harimau Malaya squad would continue to use the services of existing naturalised players for the third round of the 2023 Asian Cup Qualifiers that will begin next February. — Reuters pic

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KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 17 — The Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) have decided to temporarily suspend the introduction of new naturalised players for the national squad pending an evaluation on the need to absorb foreign players into the Harimau Malaysia squad in the future.

FAM president Datuk Hamidin Mohd Amin said the Harimau Malaya squad would continue to use the services of existing naturalised players for the third round of the 2023 Asian Cup Qualifiers that will begin next February.

“The naturalisation project is suspended until a decision is made pending reports from the Technical Committee, Naturalisation Committee, the national team management and FAM Technical director (Datuk Ong Kim Swee). For Malaysia League teams, however, there are no problems to naturalise players who meet the stipulated conditions.

“The use of heritage players will be made according to needs as it isn’t easy to get (good) heritage players, not many can perform well,” he said at an online media conference after the FAM executive committee meeting today.

Admitting that there were differences in opinion on the use of naturalised players among fans, Hamidin said that if FAM felt that there was a need to naturalise new players, it would only be done for the 2026 World Cup/2027 Asian Cup qualifiers.

FAM had previously naturalised Brazilian Guilherme de Paula, 34, and Liridon Krasniqi, 29, (Kosovo) while Gambian Mohamadou Sumareh, 26, gained his citizenship through the efforts of the Pahang Football Association.

Meanwhile, Hamidin said that FAM would continue to manage the Harimau Malaya squad, although Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT) football club owner Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim had previously expressed his desire to manage the national team.

“I met with Tunku after returning from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) (after the 2022 World Cup/2023 Asian Cup qualifiers in June). During the meeting, we came to an understanding that the national team would remain under FAM.

“I understand the issue came about maybe because of the defeats to the UAE and Vietnam. Tunku, as former FAM president, brought up several matters during our meeting like player selection, which we will improve in the next call-up,” he said.

In the 2022 World Cup/2023 Asian Cup second round qualifying campaign, the Harimau Malaya’s performance was criticised after they lost 4-0 to the UAE and 2-1 to Vietnam, having previously beaten Thailand 1-0 to finish third in Group G with 12 points.

Hamidin also explained that FAM would have to forgo the friendly matches for the national squad during the Fifa window for internationals from August 30 to September 7 due to the need for teams to undergo the mandatory 14-day quarantine.

He said Fifa only allocated nine days for teams to hold friendlies for each window during the end of August, October and November, but FAM felt it was difficult to hold a match if the restrictions regarding the quarantine were not relaxed.

“If we go there, we will need to be quarantined (upon our return), if we invite other teams, they will need to be quarantined here, so we have missed the window for this August. There are many teams, including Palestine, Taiwan, Jordan and Oman who are willing (to play friendly matches) but the issue is travel,” he added. — Bernama

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