Malaysia Announcement Strengthens Partnership
Football Association of Malaysia General Secretary Dato' Hamidin Bin Haji Mohd Amin has praised the announcement that the Malaysian Under 23 team will compete in the 2014 National Premier Leagues Queensland season, saying it strengthens the relationship between Malaysian and Australian football.
The Under 23 representative team, known as Harimau Muda ‘A’, are the first international team outside the A-League/National Soccer League to participate in an Australian domestic football league and will provide international quality opposition to elite footballers across Queensland in the National Premier Leagues Senior Men’s division.
Harimau Muda ‘A’, which translates as Young Tigers ‘A’, will be based in Queensland but will not have a dedicated home ground, with each current National Premier Leagues Queensland club due to host two fixtures against the newcomers through the season.
Speaking at the announcement, Dato’ Hamidin explained that Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) had identified Australia as a leader in football in the region, which prompted the ground-breaking agreement.
“Australia is of World Cup standard, they are always qualifying for World Cups,” Dato’ Hamidin said.
“We needed something to tap certain qualities because there is something good about this league,”
He added that he saw the announcement as the start of a burgeoning relationship between FAM and Football Queensland and the National Premier Leagues, which is governed by Football Federation Australia.
“I think this a good relationship between the Football Association of Malaysia and Football Federation Australia, and with Football Association of Malaysia and Football Queensland,” he affirmed.
“We hope that we can continue in the future to participate in this league.”
Dato’ Hamidin added that he hoped the Australian-Malaysian community would support the team in the competition and that previous experiences with Malaysian touring clubs had indicated that will be the case.
“We played in Perth, Brisbane and Melbourne and so many students and Malaysians who are here to stay (came out to support),” he said.
“There also are a few universities in Brisbane and so I think we can build up our supporters here.”
Dato’ Hamidin floated fan engagement activities, such as open training sessions, as a way they will engage their supporter base in Queensland throughout the year.
While the arrangement is a first for football in Australia, Dato’ Hamidin explained it’s not the first time Malaysia has identified benefits in partnering with other federations.
“We send our Under 21’s to play in Singapore in the S-League, so this is the second time (we have sent a team overseas), but the first time to Australia.”
Players under 23 years are contracted to FAM rather than professional clubs in Malaysia, and Dato’ Hamidin said this will ensure Harimau Muda ‘A’ fields the strongest side possible.
“This is the best team and only the best team from Malaysia will participate in this league,” he said.
“This team also are going to participate and are preparing for tournaments in the future,” he added, referring to the South-East Asian Games and Olympic Games qualifying.
Football Queensland Chief Executive Officer Geoff Foster, said the benefits were two-way, and the initiative continues Australian football’s ongoing engagement with the Asian region.
“It’s a great honour that that the Football Association of Malaysia have shared with us in recognising the calibre of our league and indicating that they wish to be part of it,” Foster said.
“We’re very proud, we’re humbled, and we hope this is the start of a very special friendship that will go on for man many years with our good friends from Malaysia.”
Foster was eager to point out the benefits to Queensland’s National Premier Leagues clubs of Harimau Muda ‘A’s participation.
“The benefits for Queensland are we will be matched against a truly international standard team,” Foster explained.
“That will present challenges for our clubs but it will give us a guide to the standard we need to get to if we are to truly progress and compete as a force in football in the Asian confederation.”
FAM representatives are currently scouting possible training bases for Harimau Muda ‘A’ in south-east Queensland for the NPL season.
As per a memorandum of understanding between FAM and FQ, Harimau Muda ‘A’ are not eligible to compete in the National Premier Leagues Finals Series or the FFA Cup, but will play for competition points in the league.
The team have already commenced preparations for the season and are anticipated to arrive in Queensland in mid to late February in readiness for the National Premier Leagues season.
The team’s participation in NPL Queensland is fully funded by the FAM in conjunction with Malaysian Ministry for Sport and Youth.
Words: Michael Flynn (Football Queensland)
Image: Ian Judd (Aqua PD)