KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 14 – It will be a first for two household names in Malaysian football – 18-year-old Luqman Hakim Shamsudin and 29-year-old naturalized Malaysian Liridon Krasniqi – earning a callup with the senior squad for the coming World Cup 2022/Asia Cup 2023 qualifiers.
Incidentally, both are currently based with overseas clubs. Kota Bharu-born Luqman is currently attached to Belgian First Division club KV Kortrijk while Kosova midfielder Liridon, who is with seven-time Malaysian Super League champions Johor Darul Takzim, is on loan with Australian club Newcastle Jets.
National football head coach Tan Cheng Hoe has decided to give the duo a big-break with Harimau Malaya as the national team prepares for the remaining three matches in Group G – against the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Vietnam and Thailand.
The remaining matches could be played on a carnival basis depending on the decision made by the Asian Football Confederation (AFC).
With the latest Movement Control Order (MC0) extended to Feb 18, it has been a rocky phase for the national squad as it has been ”grounded” since the standard operating procedure (SOP) came into force due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Cheng Hoe has now decided that the national squad will start training only next month. The Malaysian football league is now scheduled to begin on March 5 with JDT taking on Kedah for the Charity Shield. This curtain raiser will be held at the Sultan Ibrahim Stadium in Iskandar Puteri.
Due to time constraints, Cheng Hoe is not likely to bring more new faces into the national squad although he wanted to give newcomers a call-up but the pandemic has thrown a spanner in his plans.
Luqman is described as a raw ”gem” waiting to be polished but is also cautious with the talented striker who won praises for his exploits with in the national Under-16, Under-19 and the Under-23 teams in the age-group tournaments.
”Sometimes you are good in the age-group tournaments but don’t hit it right with the senior team. Still, he is in my call-up list,” said Cheng Hoe.
Liridon needs no introduction as Cheng Hoe knows the player when turned out for Kedah in the M-League from 2015 to 2019 before the midfielder moved to Melaka for a season in 2019. It was an unhappy stint with Melaka and he moved further south to JDT last year.
Malaysia is currently in second place behind leaders Vietnam with nine points after five matches. Vietnam leads the group with 11 points with Thailand third on eight followed by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on six with a game in hand.
Malaysia is scheduled to play UAE in Dubai on March 25 followed by a home match against Vietnam on March 30 and complete their fixtures against Thailand on June 15.
However, Malaysia, UAE, and Thailand have asked for a postponement of the matches to June.
The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) has not decided on the matter as Vietnam has not given a reply to the June suggestion.
There is also a suggestion for the matches to be played on a carnival basis in Dubai.
Cheng Hoe is keeping his fingers crossed that those called up for national training will come well prepared as time is a major concern.
”You can ill afford to have injuries especially when you know that centralised training was not possible due to the strict SOPs and the league last year was shortened. National players need at least 30 to 40 matches to play international matches,” added Cheng Hoe.