* Felda return from unbeaten three-match playing tour of Dubai
*Age is not a factor for Shukor Adan, 35 and Indra Putra, 33
* The old warriors proved their worth in the national team
Many said Felda United FC is an aging team in the M-League but “The Fighters” silenced their critics and held their own against the football giants in the Super League despite playing in the second-tier Premier League in 2014.
Felda United may not have won any silverware last season but the team, under chief coach Irfan Bakti, was one of the most consistent sides in the M-League.
Dubbed as the richest club in the M-League, Felda United returned from an unbeaten three-match playing tour of Dubai this morning (Tuesday), including a “very encouraging scoreless draw” against the Palestine national team that will be playing in the Asia Cup in Australia.
Felda United were based in Dubai for their playing-cum-training tour and in other matches drew 1-1 with Al-Jazeera Oman and recorded a 2-0 win over a second division club from the Dubai League as part of their preparations for the 2015 season.
What is more encouraging for Felda United is that they were without internationals, skipper Sukor Adan and Indra Putra Mahayuddin plus their two-Liberian internationals Zah Rahan Krangar and Edward Junior Wilson due to visa snags.
Fittingly “The Fighters” will ply their football trade in the elite Super League in 2015 – a place they fully deserve on merit after gaining promotion with a second place finish behind Police in the Premier League. The top two teams in the Premier League earned promotion.
In the FA Cup competition, Felda United reached their first ever final but fell at the final hurdle – losing 2-1 to Pahang.
The Malaysia Cup saw Felda United score another first – reaching the semi-finals of the most prestigious football competition and made mince meat of much touted Selangor 7-3 on aggregate in the two-leg quarter-finals, including a thumping 4-0 win over the Red Giants in the first-leg in their own den at the Shah Alam Stadium.
In the semi-finals Felda United faced another “giant” – the star-studded Johor Darul Takzim (JDT). It was another close battle from the Premier League outfit who were edged 6-5 on aggregate. Felda United won the first-leg 4-3 but fell to a 3-1 defeat in the second-leg at the Larkin Stadium.
No shame for Irfan Bakti and company. For the new season, just like most of the other team, Felda United has also seen some movement of players. Irfan has tightened up his backline by off-loading Uzbek defender Yaroslav Krushelnitskiy.
His place has been taken up by Serbian, 32-year-old Bojan Miladinovic whose last club was Pakhtakor Tashkent FC, the 2014 Uzbek League champions. In Irfan’s own words Bojan “is an asset” as he can play as a leftback, left midfielder and central midfielder.
Felda United have retained their 22-yearold Zambian-born Australian Ndumba Makeche who scored a hattrick in the 4-0 win over Selangor, Zah Rahan Krangar, 25 and Edward Junior Wilson (striker).
“We have tightened up the defence. It was our weak link last season. Bojan not only gave an inspiring performance but also showed that he can click with the team,” said Irfan on his return.
“It was a fruitful tour for the team. The Super League will be much tougher and much more competitive. I am pleased with commitment shown by the players.”
Shukur, 35 skippered Malaysia in the Suzuki Cup, while Indra, 33 showed that there are still many more years of competitive football in them. Their performance on the field put many a younger player to shame.
They duo even earned praise from Thailand coach Kiatisuk Senamuang for their “commitment and discipline” on the field.