Malaysia’s unravelling international retirement mystery – Players give up on FAM

Leaving more questions than answers, multiple international retirements by Malaysia’s most experienced players have stunned the football fraternity and it has left many pondering which players will turn their backs on the country next...

Trouble is brewing in the Malaysian camp but little is being said of what is turning out to be the biggest story of the year in Malaysian football.

Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT) tussle with the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) over various matters are reaching a crisis point, with a host of the country's most experienced players all quitting the national team after citing the need for the next generation of players to step up.

Safiq Rahim, Aidil Zafuan Abdul Radzak, S. Kunanlan and Amirul Hadi retired after Southern Tigers owner Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim, on Monday, voiced his displeasure over the national team’s training schedule, alleging his players were getting injured due to poor preparation.

“According to the report that I've received from our players and fitness coach, the players only had 11-12 days of training throughout their 30 day (Oceania) tour with the national team. From the 19th-28th of June, they only had four days of training sessions compared to JDT that had conducted 19 sessions over the same period of time,” Tunku Ismail alleged.

“That is the reason why they are injury prone. If the players' injuries happen during games and they are roughed up, I can accept it, but if injuries are due to the lack of training, I cannot tolerate it.

“This happens because the national team does not maintain and follow the proper momentum and 'high intensity' fitness training that is necessary,”

The Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) and Malaysian coach Ong Kim Swee has thus far refused to comment to the allegations, presumably not wanting to start a war with the country’s leading team.

What followed leaves FAM with little choice than to address the matter urgently. There were murmurs that this was a battle between the club and FAM, and the players were mere pawns in the game, but Tunku Ismail later issued a statement stating the players were fed up with the national body.

Safiq Rahim was the second to retire from the national team. Photo:

In short, the Southern Tigers owner stated the players demanded more respect and even slighted FAM president Tengku Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah for a lack of presence in the Malaysian football scene.

JDT centre-back Aidil Zafuan Abdul Radzak, on Tuesday, who was vice-captain of the team, was the first to announce his retirement, citing the need for younger players to carry on their battles. Aidil, only turning 29 this year, had represented Malaysia since 2007.

Club and now former country captain Safiq Rahim followed suit, repeating Aidil’s desires and expressed hoped that younger players would be inspired by his achievements at the 2009 SEA Games and 2010 AFF Suzuki Cup.

Safiq, arguably the best of his generation, was seen as integral to the national team’s plans at the AFF Suzuki Cup and Asian Games.

He started the year being the 2015 AFC Cup and Malaysian football most valuable player.

On Thursday, S. Kunanlan woke football lovers in the country to his resignation. Kunanlan had featured regularly for the Malaysians since 2009 and his versatility and work-rate were an asset to the squad. The 29-year-old can play as a full-back or winger on both sides of the pitch.

The same day, Amirul delivered Ong a fourth blow but unlike his peers, the 30-year-old announced the news on his personal account. His news was more surprising given that upon his international comeback after a five-year absence last month, Amirul told FourFourTwo that he desires to remain in the national team for years to come.

FourFourTwo understands the recent developments – including Tunku Ismail’s comments – have rocked the national body, who are yet to respond to any allegations but are expected to do so on Friday.