Harimau Muda motivated by Malaysian football's woes
Malaysian football down in the dumps, but Under-23s look to carry the fight
TAMPINES ROVERS v HARIMAU MUDA (Tonight, 7.30pm, Jalan Besar Stadium)
It has been a tough fortnight for Malaysian football.
A record 10-0 thrashing at the hands of the UAE in a World Cup qualifier on Sept 3 set off a chain of events that has left the country's football eco-system in turmoil.
National coach Dollah Salleh quit and national Under-23 coach Ong Kim Swee was installed as interim coach.
Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) president Tengku Abdullah Ahmad Shah then said he would step down from the post "in stages".
Then, five days after the UAE debacle, Malaysia's World Cup qualifier against Saudi Arabia was abandoned when a section of the home fans threw flares onto the pitch at the Bukit Jalil Stadium as the Tigers were heading for a 2-1 defeat.
The developments have troubled Harimau Muda, the Malaysian U-23 team competing in the Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League, according to coach Razip Ismail.
"As a team who are part of the FAM family, we are affected because everyone (in Malaysia) seems to be against FAM at the moment," said the 53-year-old yesterday, ahead of his side's S.League match with title-chasing Tampines Rovers tonight.
"But I've told my boys to just focus on getting good results.
"Hopefully, (good results) can go some way to soothing the dissatisfaction among the fans in Malaysia.
"We do feel the pressure when we play in the S.League, because a poor result can be exploited by those who are unhappy, and heap more criticism on FAM.
"But I've asked my boys to try and use it as a motivation instead, to get better results."
Razip's charges are currently on a poor run in the S.League, picking up just one win in six matches, even if that was a shock 2-0 win over defending champions Warriors FC on Aug 28.
Before that, they had been on an unbeaten run of four games heading into the mid-season break for June's SEA Games and won two of the next three games once the S.League resumed in July.
Razip said the three-month break disrupted his team's momentum.
"One reason (for the dip in form) was the break and the second was injuries and suspensions," he said.
"At one time, I had three players out with injury and two suspended. That's half my first-choice outfield players.
"Our performances have been okay. It's just that we haven't been able to put away our chances.
"Even in our last two games, against title-chasing teams like Brunei DPMM and Tampines, we created chances but just could not score."
The coach remains confident in his team's ability to challenge the best and says he is gunning for three points against V Sundramoorthy's Tampines outfit.
"From the last time we played them (a 1-0 defeat on Aug 26), I think we can match them," said Razip.
"And we are playing at a neutral venue, Jalan Besar Stadium, where we know they have not performed too well this season.
"We have had some good games there and I hope tomorrow will be another."