Retiring Malaysian quartet showed no signs of displeasure, says Ong

Malaysian coach Ong Kim Swee is ready to move on but he appears perplexed as to why four players, including captain Safiq Rahim, quit the national team despite giving no indication of their displeasure in the past.

The dust has barely settled on the international retirement of four Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT) players – skipper Safiq Rahim, Aidil Zafuan Abdul Radzak, S. Kunanlan and Amirul Hadi Zainal – but there appears to be more questions than answers after the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) negated allegations made by Southern Tigers owner Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim.

Tunku Ismail claimed the players were fed up with FAM’s ways and their abrupt retirement was a sign of a protest after their approaches to the FAM management and coaches fell on deaf ears.

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Ong, however, insisted neither he nor his coaches had been approached by the players with any issues prior to their decisions to quit.

“There are a lot of assumptions here. If the players were fed up, they can always come to me, the management or other coaching staff to talk to us. All of them are mature enough, professional and know what their responsibilities are,” said Ong.

“At the end of the Oceania Tour, I had a good chat with seven senior players in the team on how we could improve. All of them gave good responses on how we could make things better. No one has come up to complain thus far.

“Anyway, we have to accept things. It is sad to see them retire … but at the same time this gives us a chance to think about more options. Yes, we need a transition but ideally it can’t be all young players as we need some senior figures around too.

“Moving forward, I need to have back-up plans (if more players quit) and one of them is increasing the call-up size. I don’t have any reason not to call other players from JDT because no one else has expressed their intention to quit."

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FAM also expressed their shock over the quartet’s retirement and reminded the players that they play for the country and not the association or individuals.

“Of course we are shocked and disappointed by the decision of these players … especially considering the four came one after another over three days. The players are in their peak and still active in club football,” said FAM general-secretary Datuk Hamidin Amin, who is also the Tigers’ team manager.

“It’s strange because usually players quit after a major competition or when injured. We will contact the players through JDT officially for a response in black and white stating their reasons for quitting the national team.

“The players have not informed FAM. I called Safiq to speak to him though …. there weren’t any complains about training and such.

“I have to state that players play for the country. When they don the Malaysian jersey, it is for national pride. FAM will never force a player to represent the association or any individual because the country is bigger than all.”