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'Pestabola Merdeka' a preview for SEA Games gold medal chase

Published on: Saturday, September 07, 2013

KUANTAN: The nostalgic 'Pestabola Merdeka' will be a platform for the National Under-23 squad to assess the quality and capability of their would be challengers for the SEA Games gold medal in Myanmar.

The 'Pestabola Merdeka' that makes a comeback after five years, (last held in 2008) for its 41st edition, has already created its own history after finding a new home outside Kuala Lumpur and more precisely from its renown home, the Merdeka Stadium.

The revived 'Pestabola Merdeka' which is expected to be a preview of the SEA Games football competition, with the exception of Vietnam and Indonesia, will feature four countries, namely Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia and 2013 SEA Games host, Myanmar.

The Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) had to invite the Myanmar Under-23 squad as a replacement for Jordan who had decided to withdraw from the competition that started in 1957, to commemorate Malaysia's Independence.

Malaysia's challenge would be shouldered by Harimau Muda A which is the national nder-23 squad coached by Ong Kim Swee.

The FAM had given Pahang the honour to host the prestigious tournament at two venues - Darul Makmur Stadium and Temerloh Mini Stadium - from Sept 7 to 14.

As for coach Ong Kim Swee, he will have his work cut out for him as the National squad coached by B. Sathianathan had clinched the title in 2007 after beating Myanmar 3-1 in the final held at the Shah Alam Stadium.

Kim Swee was however, not perturbed by the high expectations for his team since he felt the team was in its preparation stages to defend the gold medal won in Indonesia, two years ago.

"To me, this tournament will definitely be the best platform for the players to prove their worth and earn their place to Myanmar. If they fail to put up a decent performance, I will not hesitate to drop them because as the host, we need to seize the advantage to win the title," said Kim Swee from Melaka.

Kim Swee, 42, said apart from the regulars, he had also called up a number of 'outside' players to beef up the squad, namely Mohammad Nasir Basharuddin (Perak), S. Sivanesan (Negeri Sembilan), Nik Mohd Shahrul Azim Ab Halim (Kelantan), Mohd Zubir Mohd Azmi (Terengganu), Putera Nadher Amarhan Maderner (Sarawak), K. Reuben (ATM), Muhammad Nazmi Faiz Mansor (Selangor PKNS FC) and Japan's FC Ryukyu player Wan Zack Haikal Wan Nor.

Malaysia has won the tournament nine times since its inception in 1957, namely in 1958, 1959, 1960, 1968, 1973, 1974, 1976, 1986 and 1993. - Bernama