The future for Malaysian football is certainly looking brighter than ever as eight junior players hailing from the Borneon state of Sabah are hopeful of vying for a coveted spot on the national under-23 team, according to Sabah FC III head coach Johnny Dominicus.
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Dominicus has said that they have proposed up to eight names to the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) to be considered for a spot on the team. These names include Gerald Gadit, Abdul Hanafie Tokyo Abdul Hasim, Mohd Hizaz Mohd Lokman, Mohd Naaim Firdaus Stibin, Mohamad Sahrizan Saidin, Azlizan Mohd Azlan, Nureizkhan Isa Japar, and Mohd Faqrul Idris.
And if FAM has approved this list, the youngsters will move on to undergo the preliminary selection process for the U-23 squad — a definite boon to the efforts of the FAM’s quest to prepare a team to face the AFC U-23 Asian Cup Uzbekistan 2022 qualifier. However, there is still no word yet on whether the FAM will definitely approve the list. Although, Johnny is more than satisfied with the current progress of Sabah FC III’s preparations to face the President Cup challenge.
As a whole, he reckons that the players have improved by leaps and bounds even as the world of football is stricken by the global Covid-19 pandemic, which meant less friendly games due to stricter regulations. At the moment, the team only has senior and junior players from the state to play against but impressively, the young squadron is still making progress.
Otherwise known as the Junior Rhinos, Sabah FC III recently took on state senior squad Sabah FC and did relatively well to force a 2-2 tie at the Likas Stadium. Midfielder Mohd Naiim struck first for the junior squad with a firm header though this advantage was cancelled in short fashion by fellow President Cupper Harith Naem Jaineh, who was called up to train with the senior team.
This would not be the end of the action for Mohd Naiim though, as he was once again able to restore the Junior Rhinos’ lead with a precise free-kick past the goal post. A few moments later, veteran striker Bobby Gonzales made the equaliser for Sabah FC for the second time in the game.
After this, the match was called off due to torrential rain as both teams settled for the draw.
Though, for the Junior Rhinos, the results were already a stark improvement as they had lost their previous friendly game to the seniors 0-1.
This was a positive sign that Dominicus had hoped would show the FAM committee that his players are more than ready to face the delayed President Cup challenge (now scheduled to start either in September or October) and even the international U-23 challenge beyond that.