2018 MSL Winners and Losers: Safawi sets MSL alight while some imports may never set foot in Malaysia again
Safawi may have finished the league as one of the highest local goalscorers, but his ability to do so in a team full of superstars makes him a standout. The Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT) forward, operating mostly from the right wing, was one of the Southern Tigers most influential player throughout their season. Despite having to work with different foreign players after Harry Novillo was replaced with Fernando Marquez, Safawi’s quality never wavered. He was either scoring goals or being involved in one. Of his six league goals, the winner against Perak was the most important. Why? Because it won JDT their fifth consecutive league title. Safawi is only 21-years old, which means he has the world at his feet. He is also at the perfect place to enhance his football future.
Early last year, Sharbinee Allawee was diagnosed with blood cancer, a predicament that threatened to end his career. Instead of putting away his gloves for good, the 31-year-old focused on recovering to a clean bill of health. He successfully battled away the cancer, and was ready to return to competitive action this year. Terengganu FA had not renewed his contract, but Kuala Lumpur FA were having a goalkeeper crisis and needed experienced hands. The City Boys gambled on Sharbinee, and he repaid their faith with a magnificent triple save on his second return to football, coincidentally against Terengganu. To recover from a career threatening disease is one thing, but to make an impactful return to competitive football requires a whole different level of class. Sharbinee is the biggest winner in Malaysian football this year.
Curran Ferns & Shahrel Fikri
Malaysian footballers had always believed in the comfort of playing at home, and not wanting to broaden their horizons outside the country. A few footballers had failed stints with Portugal and Japan before, and it seemed destined that Malaysian footballers were only going to make it here. But Curran Ferns and Shahrel Fikri have dispelled that theory this season. Ferns, of Malaysian-Australian heritage, impressed with Felda United FC so much he ended up securing a move to Thai League 1 side Sukhothai FC. Shortly after that, Shahrel Fikri was courted by Nakhon Ratchasima who are also playing in the Thai top division. After Kiko Insa returned from a failed stint with Bangkok Glass, this duo have gone over to try and prove themselves. So far, they are doing a good job.