Win or lose against South Korea, Malaysia have unearthed a rare gem in Safawi Rasid
Having been primarily deployed on the flanks in the 5-4-1 formation that Malaysia have preferred at the tournament, Safawi has still been given the freedom to drift more centrally when he sees opportunity arise and he’s a constant threat when in and around the final third.
So much so that of the three goals Malaysia managed to score in progressing to the knockout stages he grabbed two of them and has earned continued plaudits for his growing stature in the team.
Sure, my aim in years to come is to be the best football player and set a high benchmark for others to be inspired by
The player himself admits he feels most at home when handed the freedom to create and is clearly aware of the gathering hype that greets each performance.
“Personally I do find attacking to be my forte and that attacking midfield role is my favourite position and, sure, my aim in years to come is to be the best football player and set a high benchmark for others to be inspired by.
“Nevertheless the present is where I should be focusing on for me to succeed in the future alongside my team.”
At club level you just have to wonder how much longer that future may be with southern powerhouse JDT after he was used only sparingly last campaign.
His performances for both the senior and age-group national sides have not gone unnoticed though and a collection of clubs outside of Southeast Asia are already keenly tracking his progress, with several Japanese sides understood to be intrigued by his playmaking talent.
I strive to deliver my best performance every time in any way possible - and I trust my team to do the same
As Safawi told FourFourTwo, being able to follow in the footsteps of the likes of Chanathip Songkrasin and lately Teerasil Dangda in heading to Asia’s best domestic league would be a dream come true.
“Absolutely I believe that the same dream is instilled in all other players as well – to have the chance to play in an Asian nation like Japan then advancing to play in Europe is my ultimate dream.
“For me to reach there I have got to always give the best of my ability and just keeping pushing my limits as I go.
“I approach every match in the same way and that’s in my efforts to win I strive to deliver my best performance every time in any way possible - and I trust my team to do the same.”
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You can criticise recently departed national coach Nelo Vingada all you like but one thing he recognised when even the player’s own club seemingly didn’t (not to mention large sections of the media) was that in the young forward from Terengganu, Malaysia have a rare gem.
Up against a powerful South Korean side, Malaysia will once again need the kind of head-turning performances that Safawi has consistently delivered to this point, but regardless of the outcome the tournament has already been a success.
Not down to wins or losses as many would have you believe, but by using the trust given him by coach Ong, Malaysia has uncovered a rare kind of playmaking talent they haven’t had in a generation or more and on whose shoulders surely the future of the national team already rests.