Who are the latest mixed-heritage players heading to Malaysia?

More and more players with Malaysian heritage are trying their luck in the country's professional leagues. Here we speak to an agent about why they are coming and take a look at the latest arrivals...

The influx of mixed-heritage players into Malaysia’s Super League (MSL) and Premier League (MPL) since 2013, starting with Johor Darul Ta’zim’s (JDT) Junior Eldstal, has helped generate some added excitement across the country.

There are so many agents out there scouting for those with Malaysian heritage. They are not only locals. I know one agent who is based in Hong Kong

In the recently-completed season, 10 mixed-heritage players joined senior recruits Eldstal, Kelantan’s Brendan Gan and Pahang’s Matthew Davies in the league, although most struggled to make the grade.

To date, only Eldstal, Davies and Gan, along with last year’s recruits Khair Jones of Malacca United and Darren Lok of Johor Darul Ta’zim II’s (JDT II), have earned national caps.

As for next season, all except Shazalee Ramlee (both half-Australians) and Swiss-born Kevin Guntner have secured clubs.

Scottish-born Stuart Wark, who played for JDT II last season, will represent AFC Cup-bound Felda United next year.

Goalkeeper Samuel Sommerville, Nick Swirad and Daniel Ting will remain with JDT II, while Lok has earned a spot with the Southern Tigers’ senior team for the coming season.

Davies (right) has been a great success. Photo: asiana.my

Ben King has returned to England after he was not granted Malaysian citizenship while Curran Ferns has been snapped up by Negeri Sembilan.

In this special feature we first take a look at why these players are heading to Malaysia and then take a closer look at the 2017 class.

Why are Malaysian mixed-heritage players trying their luck in the MSL and MPL?

A local agent says: “There are many mixed-heritage players plying their trade in the lower leagues in Oceania and Europe, but most are struggling to earn decent wages.

“For instance, a player from New Zealand, who recently joined a MPL side, was only earning NZD$500 (RM1,540) a month with his semi-professional club and he had to supplement his income by working at a warehouse.

A player each from England and Germany were keen to play here, but they were told they needed to give up their citizenship

“We had an influx of mixed-heritage players in the league last season, but only a handful made a mark. Malacca’s Khair Jones and JDT II’s Darren Lok earned national caps, while Shazalee Ramlee and Daniel Ting were among those who shone.

“Some have been released by their clubs and are now struggling to get new teams.

“A few do not even have the quality to play for FAM Cup (third tier) clubs. The sudden interest to recruit mixed-heritage players has also made it competitive for agents.

“There are so many agents out there scouting for those with Malaysian heritage. They are not only locals. I know one agent who is based in Hong Kong.

“As an agent, I am very careful when screening these players. I have had some bad experiences in the past.

“Recently, I had a Bosnian-Malaysian here for a trial with a club but the youngster was poor in all aspects. He wouldn’t even make it with a third-tier club here.

“A player each from England and Germany were keen to play here, but they are now in two minds after they were told that they needed to give up their citizenship for a Malaysian passport.”

Who are the newcomers to look out for in 2017?

Tam Sheang Tsung

After an unsuccessful trial with the now-defunct Young Tigers (the former national under-23 side) in 2013, Tokyo-born Sheang Tsung will try his luck again in Malaysia with newly promoted MSL club Malacca United.

The 21-year-old comes highly rated and has experience with Chinese Super League club Shanghai Shenhua’s reserve team, followed by stints with J1 League’s Avispa Fukuoka and J3’s Kataller Toyama and Gainare Tottori.

The midfielder, who holds Malaysian citizenship, signed a two-year contract with Malacca following a successful trial.

“I am thinking only about making it into Malacca’s first team for the MSL. I am getting adapted with the football here and my teammates have been very supportive,” said Sheang Tsung, who was scouted by J1 League side Yokohama Marinos as a 12-year-old.

“The other thing I must learn here is the language. I am only fluent in Japanese and I do not speak much English. I also need to learn Bahasa Malaysia.”

Malacca team manager Datuk Yusof Mahadi said Sheang Tsung has been impressive in training and will be an asset to the team next season.

[NEXT: Two more players trying to make the grade]