KUALA LUMPUR: Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Ahmad Shabery Cheek wants the national Under- 23 football squad to end a 20-year wait for Malaysia by winning gold at the ongoing SEA Games in Laos.
“I want to hear the Negaraku (national anthem) being played at this biennial Games, particularly for football.“However, we should never take lightly the capability of other teams like Laos and Vietnam as they have a strong spirit although our squad have ousted the reigning champions Thailand,” he said after opening the Federal Territory Kemas Hadhari Recreational Camp futsal competition here yesterday.
Shabery feels that this time, the Malaysian squad have the edge in terms of stamina and tactics as he had seen this for himself when Malaysia earlier played against Cambodia.
“Our football doldrums may end soon and a new era dawns if the excellent display by our boys continues,” he said.
The national Under-23 team, coached by K.
Rajagobal, managed to book a ticket into the semi-finals of this SEA Games after defeating Thailand 2-1 in their last match in Group A on Friday to take second spot in the group after Vietnam.
The victory also denied the reigning champions a semi-final berth in the Games for the first time in 36 years.
This also means an easier passage for Malaysia to advance into the final when they meet hosts Laos, who top Group B, in a semi-final match tomorrow while Vietnam will meet Singapore in the other semi-final.
The last time Malaysia won gold in the Games was in 1989 in Kuala Lumpur when they beat Singapore 3- 1.
Shabery also said that he had tabled before the Cabinet on Friday, the need to set up a national football development fund.
“This is because football development programmes require high expenditure, and hence we will call the relevant parties such as the football associations, media and sponsors soon to discuss the matter.“Setting up such a fund is apt as football is a people’s sport,” he said. — Bernama