Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) president Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim at a dialogue with fans and the media at the Darul Ta'zim cafe in Padang Seri Gelam said he did not blame any particular player, not even captain Safiq Rahim who received a red card for stamping on Hong Kong's Daniel Rodriguez. Pix by Mohd Azren Jamaludin
JOHOR BARU: Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) president Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim said he will need to close the "gap" between him and the national football team to address issues related to the selection of players.
This comes in the wake of Malaysia's embarassing 2-0 defeat to Hong Kong in an Asian Cup qualifier match on Tuesday.
Tunku Ismail said he did not blame any particular player, not even captain Safiq Rahim who received a red card for stamping on Hong Kong's Daniel Rodriguez.
"Somehow I knew what was going to happen…I did not even like the lineup. I did not have that much expectation. We were playing with 10 men, what can you do?
"I don't blame anyone. He (Safiq) was not the only one playing," Tunku Ismail told a dialogue with fans and the media at the Darul Ta'zim cafe in Padang Seri Gelam, here tonight.
He spoke at length on the need to improve the core of the team and the importance of having players "who wanted to be there" instead of ineffective players.
Tunku Ismail said that as a short-term measure to address the decline, he will need to begin pulling the reins when it comes to decisions about players for the national team.
"I must admit that the distance between the national team and I is quite big.
"I think now is the time I need to get close (to the national team),not because I want to make noise but because for many months, I gave the national team the freedom to do what it wanted to do and what it chose to do.
"It is not that I simply want to interfere but I want to do it because I feel some players in the national team should not be there. Why do we keep taking these players?
"The core of the group is important and we need to control that. There is no harmony in the national team now," said Tunku Ismail.
However, he disagreed with any suggestion that national team coach Nelo Vengada should be given the axe due to the defeat in Hong Kong.
"If you want to change (Nelo) Vengada now, it is not fair. I have to give them (the team) time, and I have to give him what he needs. But we cannot expect changes to occur in one and-a-half month's time," said Tunku Ismail.
Malaysia's Asian Cup qualifying Group B defeat against Hong Kong was the latter's first win over Malaysia in 13 years.
The result meant that Malaysia could forget about qualifying for the 2019 Asian Cup in the United Arab Emirates, with only one point from three qualifying matches.
Malaysia have not won an international match since a 3-2 win over Cambodia on Nov 16 last year in the AFF Cup in Yangon.