The secret’s out. By now, the huge news of Malaysia’s secret weapon would have already been unveiled to the world of football as our national team tried their hardest in an earnest attempt to qualify for the World Cup 2022-Asian Cup 2023 in Dubai, for which they failed to do this time around.
But it’s not all doom and gloom here as the news of the new signing for Harimau Malaya has sparked a hopeful (and cool, get it?) debate about the future of Malaysian football. Meet Johan Dion Cools, Football Association of Malaysia’s (FAM) newest recruit who will hopefully bolster the nation’s efforts in the international football sphere in the future.
Who is Dion Cools?
The 25-year old Kuching-born right-back, who can also fit perfectly in the role of left-back as well as centre-back, is of Malaysian-Belgian ancestry and is currently signed to one of Denmark’s top clubs, FC Midtjylland. It is exactly in the Danish League where the youngster had decided to ply his trade in the Beautiful Game and has even managed to take part in the prestigious UEFA Champions League. He has also faced several top European teams such as Liverpool, Manchester United, and Ajax Amsterdam while signed to Belgian club, Club Brugge during his earlier years.
And for many years, there were numerous attempts by the FAM to call up Dion to play for national duty, while Dion himself wanted to focus on his career in Europe. Fortunately, the FAM were finally able to convince Cools to come home and contribute to our efforts to qualify for the forthcoming World Cup tournament. FAM initially did not announce the signing of Cools when they unveiled the national 25-man squad for the pre-World Cup/Asian Cup campaign circa two months ago.
However, the cat got out of the bag when FC Midtjylland announced on their official social media that Cools would be on international duty for his country of birth.
The club’s statement, which has since been deleted, read: “Cools has been selected for Malaysia’s national team for the first time in his career. He has 28 youth international (caps) for Belgium on his CV but with a Belgian father and Malaysian mother, he can now put on the Malaysian national jersey.”The statement unsurprisingly made waves in the local football scene as the secrecy over the international player was believed to be part of the FAM’s strategy to surprise their rivals in the tournament — the United Arab Emirates, Vietnam, and Thailand. A strategy that had proven to be insufficient when it came to the qualifying rounds. Perhaps it could be attributed to the surprise factor being dampened by FC Midtjylland’s earnest congratulatory social media post?
Whatever the case may be, the future is indeed looking brighter — or shall we say cooler? — for Malaysia’s own Harimau Malaya.