Cool Fandi prepares LionsXII for JDT II match
JOHOR DARUL TA'ZIM II v LIONSXII
(Tomorrow, 8.30pm, StarHub TV Ch 202 & 76.25MHz)
Fandi Ahmad was all smiles yesterday evening.
If he was affected by the commentary written by The New Paper's associate editor Leonard Thomas on Wednesday, saying he is not good enough to coach the LionsXII, he certainly tried to hide it.
He greeted this reporter with his usual genial smile and made small talk at the sidelines of the team's training field at ITE College Central.
Later in the evening, Fandi even took up The Ice Bucket Challenge - the latest social media trend which aims to raise money and awareness for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis - after he was nominated by second son Ikhsan.
But, when approached for a quote for this story, the 52-year-old declined.
He would only say: "You can talk to Nazri (Nasir, assistant coach), I don't want to say anything in the paper."
Nazri smiled and said: "I'll just leave it to the FAS to reply."
This season, the LionsXII finished eighth in the Malaysian Super League (MSL), their lowest position since returning to Malaysia's club competitions in 2012.
Fandi's boys have also yet to win after two matches in the Malaysia Cup group stage.
On Tuesday, they lost 2-1 to Pahang at the Jalan Besar Stadium, where they had drawn 0-0 with Felda United in the first game.
Their hopes of finishing among the top two in Group A to advance to the quarter-finals of the competition now hang by a thread.
As a result, tomorrow's match against second-tier side Johor Darul Ta'zim II (JDT II) at Pasir Gudang has become a must-win affair.
However, they will be boosted by the absence of JDT II's Singaporean star Shahril Ishak, who will miss both tomorrow's match as well as the return tie at Jalan Besar next Tuesday.
The injured national skipper, who captained the LionsXII in 2012 and 2013, joined JDT II before the start of this season on a two-year, double-your-money deal.
He sustained a grade-one tear of his right hamstring during JDT II's 3-2 away defeat by Felda on Tuesday.
LionsXII defender Shakir Hamzah said: "If Shahril was available for them, it would make a big difference because he's their captain. He leads by example as he is one of the most hardworking players in the team.
"So, in that sense, we have the upper hand for the match."
Faris Ramli said the news of Shahril's injury gave him mixed emotions.
"I feel bad for him," said the 21-year-old winger. "I wonder if it's a major tear or a minor one, because he's our national captain and we need him for the Suzuki Cup at the end of the year.
"But, it's good news for the LionsXII, because he is such an important player for JDT II."
Nazri, however, stressed that JDT II are still dangerous without Shahril.
Said the former Singapore midfielder: "They'll miss him, but Fandi and I want to make sure the boys don't get complacent just because he's missing.
"There will surely be other JDT II players who want to step up and show they can play in Shahril's place."
Meanwhile, Shahril is bitterly disappointed that he won't be leading his new teammates out against his former team.
"When the Malaysia Cup schedule was sent out, the dates against the LionsXII were the ones I looked out for first," the 30-year-old said.
"But I guess the injury just came at the wrong time for me.
"I was sprinting for a ball when I suddenly heard a snap... Maybe I didn't get enough rest.
"I played against Pahang (last Wednesday), travelled back to Singapore to play Juventus (last Saturday) and then had only one day-off before I travelled with the team to play Felda.
"I'm really disappointed."
Shahril can’t face former mates
When the Malaysia Cup schedule was sent out, the dates against the LionsXII were the ones I looked out for first. But I guess the injury just came at the wrong time for me.
— JDT II’s Shahril Ishak
If Shahril was available for them, it would make a big difference because he’s their captain. He leads by example as he is one of the most hardworking players in the team.
— LionsXII defender Shakir Hamzah
I wonder if it’s a major tear or a minor one, because he’s our national captain and we need him for the Suzuki Cup...
— LionsXII winger Faris Ramli