Football legend Jamal tells fans not to expect too much

KUALA LUMPUR: Football legend Datuk Jamal Nasir, who is known for speaking the brutal truth, feels that Malaysian fans should temper their expectations as the national team return to the Asian Cup on merit after a 42-year lapse.

Jamal, a tenacious defender for the national team in the 1970s to 80s, featured in the 1980 Kuwait Asian Cup where Malaysia missed the knockout stage due to questionable refereeing.

Malaysia had finished third in the group with five points, just one behind hosts Kuwait as South Korea topped the group with seven points.

Malaysia lost 3-1 to Kuwait after Mexican referee Henrique Andoza awarded two dubious penalty kicks, which infuriated Jamal, to the home team.

Jamal, 69, said apart from the weather that could pose a problem to Harimau Malaya, they also need to be mindful of their world ranking (No. 130).

Jamal pointed out that the three teams in Group E - Bahrain (No. 86), Jordan (No. 87) and South Korea (No. 23) have more Asian Cup experience than Malaysia, and are higher-ranked.

"We need to look at the facts, we are probably among the lowest-ranked teams in the tournament, and we have only qualified after 42 years.

"I'm not being negative or against the national team," said Jamal.

"Like every Malaysian, I also want the national team to do well but we have to be realistic.

"We have not been playing top 100-ranked teams regularly and there is a big gap at this level.

"Jordan and Bahrain are used to playing in the Asian Cup, while South Korea are a world-class team. They all have been playing high-level opponents regularly and our players could find themselves overwhelmed in the Asian Cup.

"The national team need to play against higher-ranked teams to improve, but with our lower ranking, it becomes difficult as the higher-ranked teams prefer to play with those of their level."

Jamal said he accepts the fact that the inclusion of naturalised players has strengthened the national team, but a long-term plan is needed to enable

Malaysia to be a regular at the Asian Cup.

"During my time, we played a lot of tournaments where we got to play regular international football. We also had a Malaysia B team where upcoming youngsters were given a chance to play international matches.

"FAM needs to plan carefully as we cannot afford to miss out on playing in the Asian Cup anymore. We need to be playing regularly and we need to get our youth players to have the quality to play at a higher level."

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