SAMBA PLAY: Under-23s may head to South America to prepare for Sea Games
THE national under-23 team will likely train in the land of the samba instead of playing in the S-League as part of their preparations for next year's Sea Games in Myanmar.
FA of Malaysia (FAM) secretary-general Datuk Azzuddin Ahmad said the association had received an attractive offer for its team to go to Brazil.
"It is an offer, which we received on Wednesday, from a top club and not from the Brazil FA. We, however, need to study the details before making it official," said Azzuddin on the sidelines after Telekom Malaysia Berhad (TM) had handed over a financial reward (the amount undisclosed) to last year's Sea Games-winning squad in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.
"Our team will not only train with the club but also play in the Brazilian league. We, however, will discuss with the club and maybe fly to Brazil to get a better picture.
"We could also send the team to Slovakia as they are willing to accept us once again. Many had criticised us for sending our players to Slovakia in the past, but we proved them wrong as our team went on to retain the Sea Games gold medal in Indonesia last year."
On the duration of the possible stint in either Brazil or Slovakia, Azzuddin said it will be long-term, starting next year.
"We will get the opinion of everyone including the coaches and management before submitting the team's programme to the exco for approval," he said.
Azzuddin, when pressed to reveal the details, preferred to keep it under wraps for the time being.
The under-23 squad have made progress since their first stint in Slovakia three years ago. They had their third stint last July where they played seven clubs before retaining their Sea Games title.
If everything goes to plan, the team, who play in the S-League as Young Tigers 'A', will be replaced by a development side in Singapore's top-tier competition next season.
Tigers 'A' joined the S-League this year as part of a MoU signed between FAM and the FA of Singapore last July.
National youth coach Ong Kim Swee recently said Tigers 'A" should not continue playing in the S-League as he felt his boys needed the best preparation ahead of the Sea Games.
Eleven players from last year's Sea Games squad will be eligible for next year's edition.
"Kim Swee's key performance indicator is the Sea Games and we need to provide his players with the best preparation," said Azzuddin.
"Our understanding with Singapore is to develop our development sides and to play in their league. We will register either the Tigers 'B' (under-19) or the soon-to-be formed Tigers 'C' (under-17) side if our under-23s play abroad."
Kim Swee hopes his team can leave as early as January for six or seven months for a stint in either Brazil or Slovakia.
"I hope a decision will be made soon as I don't think those offers will accept last minute entries," said Kim Swee.
TM chief marketing officer Datuk Rozalila Abdul Rahman, who handed over the reward to the team, declined to reveal the sum, stating that it was a secret between them and FAM.
"We are happy to be part of the team's Sea Games success. We hope they will continue to make an impact on tournaments," said Rozalila.