SEPAK TAKRAW: Players: Favouritism a reason for staying out
MALAYSIAN sepak takraw players' reluctance to commit to the national set-up may be more than a case of not getting leave from their employers.
Muhammad Zulkifli Abd Razak, who was part of the Terengganu team which was one of only two that managed to notch a point against the national team during the final leg of the recent Sepak Takraw Association of Malaysia (STAM) Super Series League, alleged favouritism within the camp was what made him decide to steer clear of the team.
The 18-year-old tekong, marked by many as an extraordinary talent, was part of the national set-up during the 2009 Thai King's Cup squad.
Last year, he showed his pedigree by leading Malaysia's second regu to win the team's solitary point against Thailand in the Asean Schools Games team final which they lost 2-1.
"There are a number of better players in the national team but favouritism in the squad is a big problem," said the 2009 Terengganu Schools Sports Council athlete of the year.
"I don't understand why it is so hard to give other players a chance to show what they can do for the national team.
"When a player is doing badly he should be substituted and a chance should be given to other players to do better.
"There are three games in a match (in the new best-of-five format) so there are plenty of chances to do so, but it does not happen."
Zulkifli was slated to be part of the national set-up this year but was reported to have been dropped in May due to having difficulties obtaining leave from his employers.
"I have no problems to move to Kuala Lumpur to train with the national team as I understand it will be hard to build team spirit and understanding between players if training camps were to be separated.
"For me personally, there is no point in working so hard in training when you are not given a chance to shine and I am sure a number of other players also feel the same as I do.
"Until there are major changes in the national team, I will rather focus on playing for Terengganu instead," he added.
Kedah player Nazirul Ikram Rozali said STAM's reluctance to support its players in defeat is the main reason many players pass the opportunity to play for the national team.
"STAM makes a lot of promises to bring the country back to its glory days but when the team lose, it is quick to put the blame on the players and this effects their morale," said Nazirul Ikram.
"This is one of the main reasons why players are content to just play for their state teams as they do not want to face unnecessary pressure," added the 22-year-old, who was part of the Kedah team that was the other side to win a point against the national team in the super series league.