KUALA LUMPUR, May 22 – He certainly did not expect to meet his idol in Dubai, but it happened and could spell better things to come for naturalised Malaysian Liridon Krasniqi, who is expected to play a big role for Malaysia in next month’s Group G qualifiers for the World Cup 2022/Asia Cup 2023.
The Kosovo-born playmaker bumped into Brazilian legend Ronaldinho and was thrilled to bits when he managed to have a chat with his idol.
It is something he never imagined but Dubai happened to be his lucky destination.
The 29-year-old who is with seven-time Malaysian Super League champions, Johor Darul Takzim, is currently on loan to Newcastle Jets in the Australian League and has earned his first national call-up under coach Tan Cheng Hoe.
Krasniqi could well turn out to be an ace in the pack for Harimau Malaya as Malaysia chase an automatic berth to advance from Group G in the qualifiers.
In fact, there is a strong possibility that naturalised players – apart from Krasniqi – there is Mohamadou Sumareh (Gambia) and Guilherme De Paula (Brazil).
Incidentally, all three are with with JDT, popularly known as the Southern Tigers – who have established themselves as the kingpins of Malaysian football.
JDT club owner is Major General Tunku Ismail Ibni Sultan Ibrahim, the Crown Prince of Johor.
Coming back to Ronaldinho, the Brazilian legend wished Malaysia ”good luck” for their campaign in Dubai.
It means a lot to Malaysia and Krasniqi, who is set to earn his first international cap when Malaysia plays Kuwait in a friendly on Sunday.
In the meantime, Cheng Hoe is pleased with his charges. Young Luqman Hakim Shamsuddin was the last to check into Dubai.
The 19-year-old Kelantan-born Luqman is based in Belgium and played for KV Kortrijk and is also in line for his first cap with the senior team.
Another youngster is JDT’s Arif Aiman Hanapi. The 18-year-old has done well with the Southern Tigers and did enough to impress Cheng Hoe to be in the squad.
After the friendly against Kuwait, the Malaysians will fly to Manama – to play Bahrain in another friendly on May 28. The two friendlies will be used by Cheng Hoe to give every player in the 25-member squad a chance.
”Every player is focused on winning a place in the team. I will also use the matches against Kuwait and Bahrain to see who can fit into the system,” said Cheng Hoe from Dubai on Saturday.

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