OKS dismisses Darren Lok selection criticism

Calling up English-born Darren Lok after just one appearance for Johor Darul Ta’zim II has drawn criticism, but Malaysia coach Ong Kim Swee says he has been monitoring the striker for months... 

Ong Kim Swee defended his decision to call up Malaysia’s latest naturalised player Darren Lok for centralised training in Wisma FAM, saying there was no better time to get a look at the forward ahead of the year-end AFF Suzuki Cup.

The Tigers have friendly matches against Singapore and Afghanistan next month before naming the Suzuki Cup squad and Ong wants to give Lok as much game time as possible before the regional tournament.

Lok’s selection to the squad comes just days after he made his debut for JDT II in the Malaysia Premier League (MPL).

If I don’t include him now, there isn’t another chance before the Suzuki Cup

- Malaysia coach Ong Kim Swee

The 25-year-old has been in Johor since May and was registered as a player in the mid-season window, on condition that he obtained his Malaysian citizenship.

Lok was finally granted a Malaysian passport last week and featured in the club’s 1-1 draw with Kuala Lumpur (KL) on Saturday.

“He has been at JDT since May and we’ve been following his progress closely. My assistant Brad Maloney saw him in action against KL too,” said Ong.

“If I don’t include him now, there isn’t another chance before the Suzuki Cup. This call-up is the last chance to get a close look at players for the tournament. I’ve given some others a chance and now it’s left to those new players in this squad to stake their claims.”

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Lok will make his Malaysia debut just weeks after getting his passport

Lok, who is of Malaysian-English parentage, was expected to join the national team for the Asian Cup qualifying playoff against Timor Leste in June but the application for citizenship could not be processed in time.

Lok, who last played in Eastbourne Borough, a semi-professional club in England’s sixth-tier Conference South League, said he was surprised by the call-up but insisted he was ecstatic nevertheless.

“I haven’t played much football here so naturally I’m surprised with the call-up … but I’m very grateful and now have two weeks with the rest of the team,” said Lok.

“I understand there will be a bit of pressure considering this is my first time. I need to cope with it. I’ve been training every day and the weather hasn’t been too difficult since I got here in May.

“I need to get familiar with football here though, because in England it is a bit more physical and has a different style. There is more moving of the ball on the ground here.

Photos: JDT