Four key players may have retired from the national team, but Datuk Ong Kim Swee is completely prepared to build a new squad with fresh faces from the Malaysian football scene.
Safiq Rahim, Aidil Zafuan, S. Kunanlan and Amirulhadi – all of whom play for JDT – announced their decision to quit the national team, earlier this month.
The first three names are regular faces within the national set-up, and while Ong understands their worth, he sees no reason to not thank them and move on to new pastures.
“Any coach worth his salt would want these players in his squad. I would love to have them back but decisions are theirs to make as I never force anyone to play for the country.
“I’m sure they thought about the decision carefully, before announcing it publicly. I can only wish them well and thank them for serving the country,” Ong told FourthOfficial.com
“The national team has been undergoing a transition, with regards to youth players, ever since I took over. And one has to remember that a transition cannot take place overnight. It has to happen over a period of time.
“But if anything, the retirement of four players only expedites the process and it’s something we have to accept and be prepared for,” he added.
Amongst the reasons why Ong is keen to put this issue to bed as soon as possible is the AFF Suzuki Cup, which is scheduled to take place at the end of this year. FAM have organized three friendly clashes – one in September and two in October – to aid Ong’s preparations.
They are scheduled to face Indonesia in September, before taking on Singapore and Afghanistan in October, but what delights Ong the most is that all three matches were carefully planned to fit the hectic local football schedule.
“Our preparations for the Suzuki Cup is definitely on track and I’m happy with it. We’ve got several matches to prepare the team, and our training camps are in sync with domestic competitions.
“This was carefully done after taking players’ physical conditions into account, and I’m very happy about that,” he added.
AFF Suzuki Cup will take place between 19 November and 17 December, while the official tournament draw is scheduled to happen on 2 August.