Who will be Malaysia’s next leading striker?
The lack of genuine local strikers in Malaysia has contributed to the national team’s dismal performances of late as clubs prefer foreigners to lead their attacks.
However, some local talents are making inroads, both in youth and senior levels, and they could be the next great thing in Malaysian football.
National coach Ong Kim Swee wants a striker with the pedigree of the late- Mokhtar Dahari and that player could surface soon.
A former trainee with Brazilian club Cruzeiro, S. Kumaahran will undoubtedly be a force to be reckoned with in the years to come.
The 20-year-old earned his first international cap as a substitute in the 0-0 draw with Bangladesh last August, followed by appearances in both legs of the 6-0 aggregate win over Timor Leste in the recent Asian Cup Qualifying playoff tie in Johor Bahru.
Despite this being only his first year in the Malaysia Super League (MSL), Kumaahran has already cemented his place in Penang’s first team with 10 starts and one goal.
Kumaahran first grabbed attention in last year's Bangabandhu Gold Cup by scoring two goals en route to the national Under-22 team's win in Dhaka.
The performance in Bangladesh led to him playing in the AFC Under-23 Qualifiers followed by the Singapore SEA Games and the World University Games last year.
He is also available for next year’s Southeast Asian Games in Kuala Lumpur.
Despite his small frame, he shields the ball well and has good acceleration to get away from players in tight situations.
The 25-year-old comes highly rated following his impressive scoring record for Eastbourne Borough, a semi-professional club in the Conference South League (a sixth-tier competition in England).
Lok arrived in Kuala Lumpur last month to pursue a professional career and he is currently training with Johor Darul Ta’zim II.
The 1.80 tall Lok, who is of Malaysian-English parentage, will be available for national duty once he is granted citizenship.
Lok is seen as a footballer who can solve Malaysia’s blunt attack as national coach Ong Kim Swee confirmed recently that he wants to include the player into the national squad as soon as possible.
For Eastbourne, he scored eight times on his debut in the 2012/13 season and followed up with nine and 10 goals in the following seasons before ending his career with the club with six goals in the recently-concluded season.
Ahmad Hazwan Bakri
Described by football experts as the ideal replacement for former AFF Cup top scorer Safee Sali, the 25-year-old proved his scoring prowess by netting three goals in the 6-0 aggregate win over Timor Leste in the recent World Cup Qualifying playoffs in Johor Bahru.
A pacy and hardworking striker, Hazwan made his international debut with a hat-trick in the 6-0 win over Sri Lanka in 2012 but the goals dried up before he grabbed attention again against Timor Leste.
Hazwan, who has netted six times in 15 appearances for the national team, however, is used mostly as a flanker by Selangor in the MSL despite being a natural goal scorer.
For Selangor, the Labuan-born has scored just two goals in 11 appearances for the club in all competitions in what has been a difficult season for him following a hamstring injury in February.
Hadin, who turns 22 on July 2, is currently having a commendable season with Felda United in the MSL, four years after making his league debut with Johor Darul Ta’zim II (JDT II).
A former national Under-19 member, Haden enjoys great understanding with Liberian Francis Forkey Doe and has scored five goals in all competitions.
Hadin joined Felda in 2015, where he featured in their President’s Cup team before coach Irfan Bakti noticed his talent and promoted him to the senior squad this season.
Except for international youth tournaments, Hadin has never been called up for senior duty but the striker could be knocking on national coach Ong Kim Swee’s door soon if he continues to impress.
Amirul Syahmi Asha'ri
Blessed with great balance and technique, the 21-year-old was promoted to Terengganu’s MSL side this year after an impressive scoring record coming through the youth ranks at Terengganu.
Despite being inexperience, Amirul, the younger brother of Terengganu midfielder Ismail Faruqi Asha’ri, has managed to cement his place with a string of memorable performances, relegating Argentine import Juan Jose Morales to the bench in the MSL.
Amirul has netted two goals so far and is getting regular first team action.
National coach Ong Kim Swee is keeping an eye on Amirul’s progress and the player may soon get a chance to don national colours.