# Who keeps goal is big question mark after Khairul Fahmi is released

# Playing in an empty stadium against UAE is a test

# National team will not be disbanded


There is some good news and bad news for national caretaker football coach Datuk Ong Kim Swee for Tuesday’s Group A World Cup qualifier against United Arab Emirates at the Shah Alam Stadium.

And for the first time in the World Cup qualifier Malaysia will be playing in an empty stadium after FIFA punished Malaysia for crowd trouble in their match against Saudi Arabia at the same venue on Sept 8.

The Saudi match was abandoned after 88 minutes with Saudis leading 2-1 after Malaysia took the lead. FIFA later awarded the match to Saudi with a 3-0 scoreline apart from slapping a fine.

Malaysia suffered another big defeat to a Middle East nation – losing 6-0 to Palestine in Amman on Saturday. Palestine also won 6-0 at Shah Alam.

And who can forget the 10-0 bashing Malaysia suffered at the hands of UAE – their biggest in an international match – which saw Dollah Salleh quit the team the next day.

If Kim Swee lost several key players against Palestine, the former international will welcome the return of midfielders Baddrol Bakhtiar and Azamuddin Akil and striker Safee Sali.

The trio sat out the Palestine match last week for various reasons. Baddrol got married while Azamuddin was injured and Safee served a one match suspension.

However, Kim Swee released goalkeeper Khairul Fahmi Che Mat for the UAE match because his wife is expected to deliver the couple’s second child soon. Pahang defender Razman Roslan is also out because of injury and Hazwan Bakri (Selangor) is getting hitched.

But that is not the least concern of Kim Swee for the UAE match. He has Khairul Azhan Khalid (Pahang), Izham Tarmizi Roslan (JDT) and rookie Harimau Muda B custodian Mohd Farhan Abu Bakar to count on between the posts.

Off the field Kim Swee and the team have had several off the field distractions which he would rather not dwell on when “national pride” is at stake. It started with the Palestine match last week and Kim Swee took a swipe at the critics.

And in the same breath Kim Swee rubbished talks of disbanding the present national team which he said will not serve any purpose for the betterment of football in Malaysia.

“We need transition and this we have been doing by bringing in young blood to blend with the seniors, You need them (the seniors) to help out the team,” said Kim Swee.

Meanwhile UAE coach Mahdi Ali was quick to point out that the 10-0 win in the first round does not carry any weight for this Tuesday’s match.

“That match is history. We are worried about the new match. We may have won big at home but it stops at that,” said Mahdi.

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