As the Olympic team moves into the final phase of preparation, they received some timely encouragement from the man who led the national team in its historic participation at the1972 Munich Olympic Games.
“The highest achievement our players can hope for, at least for now, is the Olympics and I would encourage the team to give their best to reach the 2012 Olympics in London,” said Dato’ M. Chandran, captain of the national team which participated in the Munich games.The Olympic team or Harimau Muda ‘A’ will take on Pakistan in the first round of the home-and-away qualifiers with the first match scheduled on 23 Feb in Kuala Lumpur and the return 9 March in Karachi.
As part of their preparations, the Olympic team played two friendly matches, losing 2-1 to Thailand in Bangkok last Thursday and defeated Singapore 2-0 at the Jalan Besar Stadium, Monday. Singapore plays Yemen in the first round.
The two matches gave Chief Coach, Ong Kim Swee and opportunity to access the team’s strengths and rectify the weakness. The team, consisting of Under-23 players, will also participate in the Super League, playing Negeri Sembilan on 29 January.
“Being an Olympian is the highest level our players can hope to achieve. Maybe in the future we can make it into the World Cup finals. We have done it before and I believe we can do it again,” said Dato’ Chandran, 60.
Malaysia qualified for the 1972 games after winning a tough qualifying round. The team, coached by Dave McLaren and Jalil Che Din, defeated South Korea 1-0 in Seoul in 1971. The winning goal was scored by Syed Ahmad.
In Munich, the national team lost 3-0 to the West German team and defeated USA 3-0 with goals from Sharuddin Abdullah, Salleh Ibrahim and Wan Zawawi. The team lost the last match 6-0 to Morocco. Malaysia also qualified to the 1980 games but did not participate because of a boycott.
“My advice to the players would be, grab this opportunity and strive to do the best. I believe our players can do well against Pakistan. Give your best and enjoy your games,” said Dato’ Chandran who continues to be involved in football as a consultant.
Dato’ Chandran, like most Malaysians, feel that the recent victory in the AFF Suzuki Cup and the SEA Games last year, should be an encouragement for the Olympic team to go all out in the qualifiers.
On Monday, the Olympic team took the lead through Irfan Fazali in the 23rd minute and Syahrul Azwari made in 2-0 at the stroke of half-time.
Thirty-five teams have entered the fray to grab the three-and-a-half slots reserved for Asia in the 2012 Olympics in London. The 11 winners of first round will join 13TH highest ranked team in the second round where they will again play in a home-and-away format on June 19 and Jun 23, 2011.
The 12 winners will then be divided into three groups of four teams each in the third round. Again, a home-and-away format from September 21, 2011, to March 14, 2012, will determine the winners who will represent the continent in the Olympics.
Three second-placed teams from the third round will play in a playoff at a centralised venue from March 25 to 29, 2012, and the winners of this group will meet the representatives of CAF for a berth in the Olympics.
Zamer Selamat (gk), Izham Tarmizi Roslan (gk), Mahali Jasuli, Fadhli Shas, S. Sivanesan, Irfan Fazail, Abdul Shukur Jusoh, A. Thamil Arasu, K. Gurusamy, Gary Steven Robbat, Amer Saidin, Wan Zack Haikal Wan Nor, Fandi Othman, Syahrul Azwari Ibrahim, Wan Zaharul Nizam Wan Zakaria, Affizie Faizal Mamat, Faizal Muhammad, Nazirul Naim Che Hashim, Rafiuddin Rodin.