Five non-Malaysians who could soon qualify to play for Harimau Malaya

The recent exhibition match between Malaysia XI and Liverpool has brought up the naturalisation issue once again. With that in mind, Lee Seng Foo looks at five potential foreign players who, by the FIFA book, could play for Malaysia...

Before we begin, please put the pitchforks and torches down and relax. It is important for everyone to take note that we are not going to debate in this article whether it is good or bad for a country to go down the route of naturalising foreign players who have no ancestral links to their new adopted countries. Instead, what we are trying to do here is explore who are actually eligible to play for Malaysia and explain how naturalisation actually works, especially in light of the Secretary-General of the Football Association of Malaysia giving the thumbs up to the divisive issue.

However, unless something akin to Singapore’s Foreign Sports Talent Scheme is being done, it is not as simple as just asking the foreign players to switch nationality. For a player to be eligible to play for a country, he has to meet one of the following requirements by FIFA:

  1. He was born on the territory of the relevant Association;
  2. His biological mother or biological father was born on the territory of the relevant Association;
  3. His grandmother or grandfather was born on the territory of the relevant Association;
  4. He has lived continuously for at least five years after reaching the age of 18 on the territory of the relevant Association

To make it easier for you to understand: Syed Adney, Junior Eldstal, Brendan Gan, and Matthew Davies have all been allowed to represent Malaysia at various levels because they have each met the first or second requirement. Similarly for Dion Cools, Kevin Gunter, Daniel Ting and Curran Ferns, they can each qualify to play for Malaysia due to either condition. For Sam Somerville, he falls under the third option.

How about players with no links to Malaysia? Well, they can go with Point 4. However, while serving the period of five consecutive years, it is crucial that he has not been capped by his original national team in any official competition. That means it is inapplicable to players such as Damion Stewart (Jamaica), Robert Cornthwaite (Australia), Ali Ashfaq (Maldives) and even Patrick Ronaldinho Wleh (Liberia), Malaysia XI’s hero against Liverpool, no matter what. So, the big question is, who in Malaysia actually fulfills that fourth criteria at the moment? Frankly, none. Five years is a long time in football, so not many foreign players have managed to stay that long in the country. However, in saying that, there are a few uncapped foreigners who have been around for quite some time, and should they stay a bit longer, they will get to earn their stripes very soon (subject to the government’s approval, of course)...

Who are they? Find out in the next page!