Concern grows as third JDT player quits Malaysian national team

The extraordinary exodus of Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT) players from the Malaysian national team has continued, with S. Kunanlan the third player to quit in the past three days.

Following the lead of his club teammates Safiq Rahim, the former Malaysian captain, and Aidil Zafuan Abdul Radzak, Kunanlan has decided the recent Oceania Tour would be his final appearance in national colours.

Just like his compatriots, 29-year-old Kunanlan made the announcement via JDT’s Facebook page.

“I have decided to retire from representing the national team and my most recent appearance with the national team would be my final appearance for the country,” his statement on the JDT Facebook page read.

“I am very proud to be able to wear the national jersey from my time representing the under-23 team until recently.

“Thank you for all the support and guidance given to me all these years. I truly appreciate it.”

Kunanlan’s versatility has been an asset to the team. Throughout the years he has appeared as a full-back and lined up as a winger on both flanks.

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He had been forming a solid partnership with Azrif Nasrulhaq on Malaysia’s right side but, coach Ong Kim Swee will now have to rethink his strategy, potentially fielding young Pahang captain Matthew Davies instead.

Kunanlan had represented Malaysia since 2009 and recorded over 70 appearances for the Tigers,  including the 2010 AFF Suzuki Cup, where K. Rajagobal took the team to its first trophy in the tournament’s history.

Kunanlan was also part of the under-23 squad that ended a 20-year wait for SEA Games gold in 2009, with his goal against Cambodia in Malaysia’s 3-0 win in the group stage remaining his only goal in national colours.

The retirements come fresh after JDT owner Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim slammed the national team training schedule on Monday, stating it was making his club’s players unfit and injured.

Various sources in Malaysian football have hinted there could be further imminent departures from the national team by JDT players.

Main photo: JDT