What's the impact of U22 call-up on Super League teams?

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11 of the 12 Super League will face a tough two months with players being involved in Malaysia U22 squad

It was announced on Friday, the squad of 26 players that will start their centralised training with the Malaysia Under-22 team from 5 July to prepare for the AFC U-23 Championship qualifier that starts in Bangkok in the middle of the next month.

In total, the players would be away from 5 July until 24 July and from 1 August until 29 August - the latter period for the South-East Asian (SEA) Games. 11 Super League and Malaysia Cup matches will also be played during the course of that period, that could potentially leave the respective teams hampered for considerable number of matches.

While there are domestic fixtures scheduled for 1 July, 4 July, 26 July and 29 July that the players could potentially be involved in - their fitness situation must come as first priority.

Given that they have trained and played for most parts of this fasting month when others have sufficiently more rest than them, any coaches that intends to use these U22 players for those four match days where they are available - must think carefully whether it's a risk worth taking.

Of the 12 teams in the Super League, all but one team will have players being involved with the squad of 26 called up. From the top division, only Melaka United do not have any player in the squad but with a new coach as well as poor form, they have their own troubles to worry about.

Kedah have the highest number of players in the squad with five, followed by Penang with three while Selangor, Pahang and Johor Darul Ta'zim (JDT) each have two players in Datuk Ong Kim Swee's squad. The numbers doesn't necessarily translate directly to how weakened the respective teams would be, given that these are young players but the impact can still be felt by some.

Nidzam Adzha will not have his first choice keeper in Ifwat Akmal but Kedah will also be affected by the absence of first choice back-ups to Akram Mahinan and Ken Ilso in Amirul Hisyam and Syafiq Ahmad respectively. 

The situation is also similar in Penang and Selangor where Zainal Abidin Hassan and P. Maniam will be missing two regulars starters until September. Syamer Kutty, S. Kumaahran, Syahmi Safari and Adam Nor Azlin are normally in the starting XI for both teams.

Title-chasing Pahang side will probably feel the absence of captain Matthew Davies as well as tenacious midfielder Nor Azam Azih. With the team putting up a strong challenge to JDT for the league title, their unavailability could well affect the Elephants hard.

The situation isn't so pronounced with the other teams as they only have one player in the squad or in the case of JDT, who will have to do without Safawi Rasid and Haziq Nadzli but neither are regular starters for their domestic teams.

It's a test for the 11 coaches who are either looking to claim glory at the end of the season or do enough to ensure that they stay in the top flight. The players are not going for meaningless friendlies but rather important international tournaments.

It's not a case of worrying or even contemplating whether to release these important players to the national team but rather, finding the best solution to make do without them - until they return back to the fold. It's a chance for the coaches to give an opportunity or two, to the fringe players and see whether they sink or swim. 

No doubt every coach in the world would hope to have the best players available all the time but in handling such situations and ensuring the team stays competitive even without their bigger names, is the true measure of the a coach's ability.

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