IN FOCUS: What’s the secret sauce behind Malaysia football’s revival, and does it hold lessons for arch-rival Singapore?

IN FOCUS: What's the secret sauce behind Malaysia football's revival, and does it hold lessons for arch-rival Singapore?

There were also 10 combined- identity people called up for the Asian Cup – Matthew Davies, Daniel Ting, Dominic Tan, Junior Eldstal, Dion Cools, La’Vere Corbin- Ong, Stuart Wilkin, Brendan Gan, Natxo Insa and Darren Lok. &nbsp,

Malaysia, along with Hong Kong, had the highest amount of naturalised and merged- identity people at the game.

” The complete idea was to cultivate a winning tradition by hiring naturalised people as a quick fix to our problems … It was mooted as a short- word determine”, said Mr Rizal. &nbsp,

” I think this has benefited the Malaysian team in terms of effectiveness. But at the same day, we need to keep developing our native talent and give them the room to make the move away”.

The use of naturalised people has both positive and negative consequences, Mr Avineshwaran believes. While there is possibility for regional- born players to learn from their naturalised counterparts, there are concerns the latter will usually get picked ahead of the nearby- born ones, he said.

” The attitude of some visitors is if there are naturalised people, they must be used”, he said. &nbsp,

That said, some naturalised people are “tactically very intelligent” and” hold themselves properly on and off the pitch”, said Mr Avineshwaran.

” Their professionalism is at a high level. They are leaders in the team and push the team to go all out”, he said, adding the situation is similar with Indonesia, who have seen an improvement with the inclusion of many mixed- heritage players. &nbsp,

An over- reliance on naturalised players, however, cannot be a long- term solution, he said. ” Local talents need to be prioritised. We do not want to erode the brand of Malaysia, which is its people, its multiracialism”.

Mr Kamaruddin agrees naturalised players should not dominate a squad at the expense of the development of local- born players.

” It ca n’t be a situation where all the players on the field are Mat Salleh ( a colloquial term referring to white people ). If this continues, the locals will say there is no future for them”, he said. &nbsp, &nbsp,

Malaysia suspended its naturalisation policy for the national team in 2021. But the option remains for clubs in the domestic league, and the programme continues to be criticised. &nbsp,

In January, former Tiger James Wong questioned if the current national team is” Malaysian enough” and whether the naturalised players would stay on in Malaysia after finishing their careers, news site Free Malaysia Today reported.

Mr Avineshwaran cited Qatar’s system of naturalising players but, at the same time, working at developing its own players through the Aspire Academy. &nbsp,

Qatar has produced players like Akram Afif, who graduated from the Academy in 2015. He scored a hat- trick in February’s Asian Cup final against Jordan and was named the most valuable player of the tournament. &nbsp,