Sensational Safawi excluded from SEA Games

Last update: 20/11/2019

PETALING JAYA, Nov 20 -- National under-22 (U-22) squad chief coach Datuk Ong Kim Swee has decided to exclude hotshot Muhammad Safawi Rasid from the SEA Games team to give him time to rest.

He said Safawi, the country’s Most Valuable Player (MVP) of 2019, had played a lot of games for his club Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT) and Harimau Malaya this year.

“It was a difficult decision to make and I’m doing this for the good of Safawi. He has played many matches for his club and the national team, including the U-22 squad early this year.

“So, for the good of everyone, I have decided to rest Safawi as we have important assignments (for him) next year. I hope everyone understands,” he told reporters at the team’s training session at Arena MPSJ, Subang Jaya here today.

In the past 11 days, the 22-year-old Safawi has played three matches with the national squad, including last night’s 2022 World Cup/2023 Asian Cup qualifying match in which he scored a brace to help Malaysia beat Indonesia 2-0.

Meanwhile, seven players -- Adam Nor Azlin, Muhammad Syahmi Safari, Dominic Tan, Syamer Kutty Abba, Muhammad Akhyar Rashid, Muhammad Daniel Amier Norhisham and Muhammad Haziq Nadzli -- joined the U-22 team training today after completing their duty with the national squad.

Kim Swee will have to drop 12 players from the training squad before taking a 20-man team to Manila this Saturday for the SEA Games.

Meanwhile, young striker Luqman Hakim Shamsuddin said the absence of Safawi would be sorely felt by the team.

Luqman Hakim, 17, said he was looking forward to learn from Safawi and another national player, Muhammad Akhyar Abdul Rashid.

"It has been my dream to play in the SEA Games. In the 2017 edition in Kuala Lumpur I was merely a spectator and since then I have been harbouring hopes to join the 2019 squad.

"If given a chance I would like to play alongside the two (Muhammad Safawi and Muhammad Akhyar),” he told reporters here today.