KUALA LUMPUR: "There’s no problem because whatever it is they are still sons of Malaysia!” said former national team coach, Datuk Mohamad Bakar.
The former 1980 Moscow Olympics squad assistant coach admits a wise step for the Harimau Malaya squad to take is to seize the opportunity to call up naturalised players who qualify to play for Malaysia in an effort to strengthen the national squad.
He said even though naturalised players who have lived most of their lives overseas are not seen as true blue Malaysians compared to locals who are born and bred here, they are still sons of Malaysia nonetheless because of their Malaysian connection.
"With regards to naturalised players, it is not a big issue because at the end of the day they are still sons of Malaysia. I do not agree if we were to take complete foreigners who have no ties whatsoever with the country to represent Malaysia.
"I would just like to remind the national team’s coaches that they have to ensure that such naturalised players are able to bolster the squad and spur them to greater heights and success.
"If it’s just to merely make up the numbers in the national squad but their game is not up to mark or no better than the local players, then it’s better if we give opportunities to the local players then,” he said when contacted earlier today.
At the same time, Mohamad Bakar also urged the national coaches not to get too comfortable and depend too much on naturalised players alone.
"Even though we have naturalised players who are good, we cannot disregard the local players as they need to be given equal opportunity to prove themselves,” he said.
The Harimau Malaya squad do have what it takes to go all the way in challenging for the AFF Cup later this year if the 10 naturalised players who ply their trade in the Malaysia League (M-League) are called up by national head coach, Tan Cheng Hoe.
Based on the current scenario of the local league, the success of a couple of teams in identifying players who have Malaysian heritage and parentage not only benefits such teams but also brings about a potentially positive effect for the national team.
According to the latest statistics, Johor Darul Ta'zim (JDT) are the team who have registered the most naturalised players such as Natxo Insa, La'Vere Corbin-Ong, Darren Lok and Junior Eldstal.
This is followed by Melaka United who have Khair Jones and Nicholas Ryan Swirad on their books, with the rest being Matthew Davies (Pahang), Brendan Gan (Perak), Lee Andrew Tuck (Terengganu FC) as well as former Pahang star Kiko Insa who has just joined Thai division one club, Bangkok Glass.