Fandi hoping to keep LionsXII squad together

With the LionsXII’s four-year Malaysia journey officially coming to an end after the Malaysia Cup quarter-final defeat to Pahang FA, coach Fandi Ahmad is hoping the team can be kept together next season.

As the final whistle went at the Jalan Besar Stadium, the LionsXII players sunk to the ground in disappointment with the majority of them fighting back tears thereafter to watch a video on the big screen that showed highlights of their four-year journey in Malaysian competitions.

They had produced a spirited display to beat Pahang FA 2-0, but it was not enough for them to overhaul the 4-1 deficit from the first leg.

Speaking at the post-match press conference, Fandi was nonetheless proud that his boys managed to bow out with a good showing in front of 5,898 fans.

“We did everything that we could, but it’s just not our day,” he said.

“It was difficult after Tuesday night’s announcement (that the LionsXII will no longer particular in Malaysian competitions in 2016), but we talked to the players immediately, telling them to put this aside and fight because we still have the second leg.

“I told the boys there’s no need for a tactical talk; it’s all about fire, desire and discipline. I’m proud to see them giving them their all to fight and that shows the maturity in their thinking.

“It’s amazing that this season they’ve never lost any games at home and the credit goes down to the fans. I’ve to thank them for giving us the fantastic support over the last four years.

“Now that it’s over, I’m just happy to be part of this special family.”

Fandi believes that the Malaysian experience has helped to groom the mental strength of many local footballers, something which will bode well for them in the future.

“Playing away in Malaysia, you need not only skills but also guts,” the 53-year-old said. “The players have learned how to build their mental toughness, how to take care of their bodies and how to be a true professional.

“Some of them are still not there yet, but hopefully they’ll be already men when the next time I see them. Hopefully they will be able to secure contracts elsewhere.”

With the team's 2016 future still uncertain, Fandi hopes that the squad can be kept together for the betterment of the national team.

“If possible, I would love to keep this team together,” he said. “This team have been bonding and gelling together over the years.

“From eight national team players, now we have 13 to 14. It’ll be good to keep them together because of the national team’s Asian Cup qualifiers, but we have to wait till 4th December to see if there is a new decision.

“I just hope that whatever decision that is going to be made will be good for these boys.”