National football chief coach Dollah Salleh left for Incheon last night for a quick trip to watch some of his players in action in the Asian Games football competition when Malaysia face Laos in a crucial Group A match today.
It is another trip on his “mission” to pick the best players to form the senior national team for this year’s Asean Football Federation (AFF) Suzuki Cup which will be hosted by Vietnam and Singapore from Nov 22-Dec 20.
“Much has been said and written over my choice of players…players who I believe can form the national squad before I decide on my 22 players. Many have questioned me on the choice of players. But the critics are ‘budak mentah’ (literally meaning raw) who know nothing about football. They seem to be the experts of the game when in fact they are not,” said Dollah before his flight.
On Saturday, Malaysia went down 2-0 to Indonesia in Surabaya – Malaysia’s second defeat under Dollah, who took over the hot seat from Datuk K. Rajagobal. On Aug 8, Tajikistan defeated Malaysia in Dushanbe in Dollah’s first match in charge of the national team – just three days after officially taking over as the new football coach.
“I am not the least bothered what people or rather the critics says of the players or the defeats. Results from friendly matches do not mean anything but we in Malaysia tend to have this tendency that the national team must win all matches.
“I am using the friendly matches to gauge the skills of a footballer…how best his skills can be utilised in my team or rather the team as we prepare for the Suzuki Cup. I am looking towards the Suzuki Cup as it is where I will be judged and where I will have to answer my masters…not the critics who want to make a name for themselves when they are new to the (football) trade.”
The National Under-23 team lost to South Korea 3-0 in their opening group match and need to beat Laos to stay alive in the football competition. The others teams in the group are Saudi Arabia and China.
Dollah will be back in time for Malaysia’s friendly match against Cambodia at the Shah Alam Stadium on Saturday. Malaysia have also lined up a friendly against Jordan on Oct 11.
However, Dollah said he will trim his squad to 22 players after the friendly match against Super League outfit Terengganu in Kuala Terengganu on Sept 24. The match against the Turtles is for a charity function organised by the Terengganu football team.
For the Suzuki Cup, Dollah has recalled veterans Azizon Abdul Kadir (goalkeeper), Indra Putra Mahayuddin (midfielder) and Shukor Adan (defender).
Malaysia have a tough draw for the Suzuki Cup and have defending champions Singapore who have won the title four times, three-time champions Thailand while the fourth team will be the champions of the qualifying round which is made up of Myanmar, Laos, Brunei, Timor Leste and Cambodia.
Group A is made up of Vietnam, the 2008 champions, the Philippines, Indonesia and the runners-up from the qualifying round.