Southeast Asia Malaysia

Safiq Rahim to return for Malaysia under Mario Gomez

New Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) president Tunku Sultan Ismail has hinted that Safiq Rahim, S. Kunanlan, Amirulhadi Zainal and Aidil Zafuan will return to the national team after his appointment this weekend.

“Welcome back” was the caption on Southern Tigers’ Facebook picture with the Johor Crown Prince posing beside the Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT) quartet. They abruptly quit the national team last July, throwing Malaysia’s AFF Suzuki Cup plans into chaos.

The four’s imminent return would considerably strengthen the Malaysian squad, as they reunite with new national team head coach Mario Gomez who was already a familiar face at JDT.

Safiq, Amirulhadi, Kunanlan and Aidil – a big part of Malaysian team in recent years and mainstays with JDT this season – had cited their retirement to give the younger players a chance.

Malaysia’s weaknesses without these players were shown at the Suzuki Cup, and they crashed out of the group stages of the regional tournament in Myanmar last November.

The quartet’s return could also spell more call-ups for the other local JDT players, who have matched their foreign counterparts with some quality showings this season.

Argentina’s Gomez is likely to start work this week. He will be Malaysia’s first foreign coach in more than a decade, since Hungarian Bertalan Bicksei was in charge in 2004-2005.