Harimau Muda to replace Harimau Malaya for FIFA Friendlies

by BERNAMA

PETALING JAYA – The national Under-23 men’s football team, also known as Harimau Muda, will replace their seniors in this month’s international friendly matches.

Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) secretary-general Mohd Saifuddin Abu Bakar (picture) said that they were finding it difficult to send the senior squad, also known as Harimau Malaya, for the friendlies that are being drawn up for the FIFA calendar from Jan 24-Feb 1.

This, he said, was due to the fact that the Harimau Malaya still do not have a head coach and the local teams are in the midst of preparing for their pre-season ahead of the Malaysia League (M-League) 2022.

“The Under-23 team, who are preparing for the 2022 ASEAN Football Federation (AFF) Cup Under-23 Championship in Cambodia in February, will fill the slot for the FIFA calendar this time (Jan 24-Feb 1).

“We have written to several countries for international friendlies with their Under-23 squads or club sides,” he told a media conference during the briefing on the 2022 President’s Cup and Youth Cup competitions here today, which was also attended by FAM vice-president Mohd Firdaus Mohamed.

Mohd Saifuddin said FAM would also hold talks with local clubs or state sides to release their players in a more systematic manner for the Harimau Malaya’s preparations for the SEA Games in Hanoi, Vietnam in May and the Asian Cup 2022 in Uzbekistan in June.

“We hope to reach a win-win situation and not just insist that they must all release their players. Perhaps, we could use certain players for one tournament and another group later,” he said.

Meanwhile, he stressed that FAM would not be involved in the independent investigation body set up to conduct a post-mortem on the Harimau Malaya’s performance at the recent ASEAN Football Federation (AFF) Cup 2020 in Singapore.

According to him, the body, to be headed by former national player-cum-former Kuala Lumpur Police chief Datuk Dell Akbar Khan, would also be free to hold as many meetings as possible in its investigation into the team’s failure in the republic.

Malaysia failed to reach the semi-finals in Singapore after ending the Group B campaign in third place. They began the campaign with two wins (3-1 against Cambodia and 4-0 against Laos) before losing 3-0 to Vietnam and 4-1 to Indonesia, thus failing to achieve FAM’s target of qualifying for the final.

Harimau Malaya head coach Tan Cheng Hoe resigned on Monday (Jan 3), taking full responsibility for the team’s lacklustre performance.

However, some supporters and critics demanded that the FAM management also take responsibility for the team’s failure as they claimed that it was due to FAM’s weakness in planning and preparing the team properly.