Watch out for these five Tigers on the loose
The debate on whether Harimau Muda produced Malaysia’s next generation of players continues despite the project coming to a halt last November.
The likes of Nazmi Faiz Mansor, Ahmad Hazwan Bakri, Izham Tarmizi Roslan and Wan Zack Haikal have – to some extent at the very least – showed promise, but players such as Gary Steven Robbat, Irfan Fazail and D. Saarvindran still have a lot to prove.
In 2016, many more former Harimau Muda trainees will join MSL and Malaysia Premier League (MPL) teams. Vijhay Vick gives a low down on five players who will be looked at closely during the season.
Nazirul Naim Che Hashim (Perak)
The 22-year-old is already showing signs of developing into a top defender and is almost everything you can ask for from a modern left-back. Nazirul is an attacking full-back who overlaps the flanker when possible. He also packs a thunderous shot and is not afraid to assume free-kick responsibilities.
Having already made a breakthrough with the national team under Malaysian caretaker coach Ong Kim Swee, Nazirul is expected to cement a starting place with Perak in the MSL. Having skippered the Malaysian under-22 side in 2015, Nazirul also adds leadership to Perak’s young squad.
In an interview with FourFourTwo in October, Nazirul credited his maturity to a year-long stint in 2013-14 with Japanese side FC Ryukyu, although he did not feature in a single competitive match.
Nazirul is a Bukit Jalil Sports School product and joined Harimau Muda B in 2010. He was promoted to the under-23 side the following year at a ripe age of 18.
Syahrul Azwari Ibrahim (Sarawak)
Four years has passed since Syahrul Azwari Ibrahim announced his arrival with a winner against Indonesia to ensure Malaysia topped Group A at the 2011 SEA Games, where the Malaysians ultimately defended their 2009 triumph.
It now seems like a long time ago and, several injuries later, it is easy to forget Syahrul only turns 23 on January 12.
Syahrul also featured in the 2015 SEA Games, but missed the 2013 edition due to injury. He was utilised as a late substitute in Malaysia’s last two World Cup qualifiers against Palestine and United Arab Emirates in November.
Syahrul agreed to join K. Rajagobal’s revolution at Sarawak, but Kelantan are claiming his services on the basis of a Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) ruling which states Harimau Muda trainees must report back to their home team after being released by the national body. The FAM status committee is expected to decide if Syahrul must return to Kelantan despite never being part of the Red Warriors’ development set-up.
If Sarawak gets to keep their man, do expect Rajagobal to polish him into a fine midfielder. Syahrul has the build Malaysia could use.