Davies: I left Australia for Malaysia because of my impatient nature
The 20-year-old former Perth Glory defender went from a surprise signing for Pahang in the Malaysia Super League (MSL) in April to Ong Kim Swee’s trusted man at right-back for the Malaysians in the World Cup qualifiers.
He is earning plaudits after two solid displays against Saudi Arabia and Timor Leste. He was also named in FFT’s Southeast Asian 23 under 23 players in October and is tipped to be a mainstay in the national team over the next decade.
His move to Malaysia was a surprise considering his bright youth career with Australian Institute of Sports in the National Youth League. He captained the side and was named Player of the Year in the 2011-2012 season, before moving to Perth Glory in 2012.
Davies also represented the Malaysian under-23 side at the SEA Games in Singapore and feels it was there that he earned the trust of Ong, who is now caretaker senior team coach after Dollah Salleh resigned following that infamous 10-0 drubbing by United Arab Emirates in September.
Yet, walking into the national squad was not easy. He has not mastered the local language and this has proven to be a barrier in terms of feeling comfortable among his teammates in the Malaysian camp.
“I’ll get better at it, obviously. I am paying for a tutor to teach me Bahasa Malaysia twice a week,” Davies told FourFourTwo.
“It is a lot easier settling at Pahang, perhaps because I am with the team more. Plus, it is very family-orientated there. But the national team has been a bit difficult. I feel slightly ostracised but it’s purely because of language. The Pahang players help me settle in.
“I never expected to be in the national team so soon. It was something I hoped for but I was slightly surprised when that moment came. Ong taking over is probably a blessing in disguise for me. He gave me a chance and I must keep taking it.”
Davies explained he was enjoying life in Kuantan and the small-business orientated town reminds him of his time back in Australia.
“I left Australia because I’m impatient in nature … and it is definitely not in the nature of a footballer not to play. I wanted playing time and I knew I wasn’t going to get much by staying in Australia,” he said.
“The opportunity to play international football for the country my mother was born in was too good to refuse. There are not many A-League regulars in the Socceroos. I wasn’t even a regular in the A-League!
“The opportunity to play at a higher level was tempting. In terms of development, I could get 30-40 top flight games here and some action on the international scene. In Australia, I would probably get only 10 games a season and play youth football.
“I’ll be lying if I say I didn’t have ambitions to play away from the MSL. I want to try myself in Europe, Japan or even Australia again. My route is less conventional but I hope getting international caps under my belt will garner attention.”
Speaking of a not so conventional route, Davies gave his thoughts on naturalising foreign players – a topic in hot debate of late. Davies is technically a naturalised player, but he was quick to point out his mother’s connections made him as Malaysian as Brendan Gan and Junior Eldstal.
The Malaysians were contemplating a similar move taken by neighbours Singapore, which saw them dominate the region in 2000s. Such strategies are not foreign in world football. A prime example is Diego Costa, who turned his back on Brazil to play for Spain.
Some believe it is time Malaysia naturalises the foreign talent playing in the MSL as it would instantly boost the national team. Even Asian powerhouse Japan had Brazil-born Alessandro Santos and Wagner Lopez in the past.
“There should definitely have a clear to link to Malaysia. I don’t agree if someone changes their nationality to play football but doesn’t have a bloodline tracing back to that country,” Davies said.
“It’s good to add variety with people like us. Junior, Brendan and myself may not be the most technically gifted players around but while we lack at that, we make-up in other areas such as values, discipline, hard work and professionalism.
“Being brought up in a different culture certain helps.”
Davies explained there could be an over reliance on foreign players, like how most teams in the MSL are. Take away the likes of Dickson Nwakaeme, Matias Conti, Luciano Figueroa, Gustavo Lopez and Issey Nakajima-Farran and MSL teams would struggle to cope.
That is something which makes Davies fear for Malaysian football.
“There is a big reliance on foreign players. Australia allows a team to have five imports but there is little focus on them. They are like just another player in the team,” he said.
“There is no denying their build and stature add value to the MSL but we cannot be too dependent on these players. Pahang for instance, the four imports – Nwakaeme, Conti, Zesh Rehman and Damion Stewart – played most of the games unless through injury or suspension. Fortunately, we have team-orientated players … not all of the rest are.”
Some Matthew Davies trivia:
- Started as a right-winger before dropping back to full-back at the age of 15
- Tim Cahill is the reason why he supports Everton
- As a kid, Davies always had Frank Lampard and No. 8 on his back. Today, he adores Everton’s Leighton Baines
- He is eager to visit the house his mom grew up in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah
- Currently studying Finance and Business Law online with an Australian university
- Pahang right-winger D Saarvindran is his best buddy in Malaysia.