Malaysian skipper Safiq Rahim has joined club teammate Aidil Zafuan Abdul Radzak in announcing his retirement from international football, shocking football fans across the country.
Safiq delivered another blow to the Tigers, announcing his retirement on Johor Darul Ta’zim’s (JDT) Facebook page, barely an hour after teammate Aidil Zafuan Abdul Radzak quit international football in the exact same fashion.
The time has come for me to retire from the national team and give opportunities to others
Malaysia will head into the 2016 AFF Suzuki Cup in November without two key stalwarts, both of whom have been representing the Tigers since 2007.
Like Aidil, Safiq cited the desire to pave the way for the next generation of players to step up, but with former Harimau Muda players yet to live up to expectations, the Malaysians are tipped to face further problems.
“The time has come for me to retire from the national team and give opportunities to other players to carry on my roles,” read Safiq’s statement.
“The achievements accomplished such as helping the under-23 team win gold at the 2009 SEA Games and becoming the 2010 AFF Suzuki Cup champions with the senior team will surely inspire the next generations of footballers to give more positive results to the country.
“I would like to take this opportunity to say thank you very much to everyone who has supported me during my time with the national team, especially the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) and the coaches as well as local football supporters.”
Still only 29 and playing his best football, Safiq is arguably the best player of his generation and his retirement from national team duty will come as a major surprise to legions of fans.
The midfielder has picked up a host of accolades for club and country, including the 2015 AFC Cup most valuable player, the 2015 Malaysian most valuable player honour and the 2014 AFF Suzuki Cup top scorer award.
The moves coincide with the Crown Prince of Johor, JDT owner Tunku Ismail Idris Ibni Sultan Ibrahim Ismail, being quite critical of the FAM and the recent national team’s Oceania tour.