BY ZULHILMI ZAINAL Follow on Twitter
Out of the 23 players selected by Malaysia U-15 head coach Maniam Pachaiappan for the coming 2020 AFC U-16 Championship qualification, one of them is only 14 years old; forward Akid Zamri.
Having edged the likes of Iran, North Korea, Australia and Thailand in two tournaments this year, their true test will start next week in Vientiane, Laos, when they take part in Group J of the qualifiers, against Cambodia, hosts Laos, and group favourites Japan.
They will first take on Cambodia on September 18, before facing Laos two days later, and will finally go up against Japan on 22 September. The 12 group winners will qualify for the finals automatically, accompanied by the best four second-placed teams.
Just before departing for Vientiane with his charges last Friday, Maniam took the time to introduce the Mokhtar Dahari Academy trainee to the gathered press, describing how Akid possesses the rare quality of being good when running without the ball.
"I'm very proud to have been chosen to be on the team. I want to do my best for the country. It's been tough coming back from my injury, but I've been able to convince the coach.
"I must be careful not to feel over-confident, but I hope I get to play against Japan; we want to dethrone the 'kings' of Asia and I want to avenge the earlier defeat in the Wuhan Cup (3-1 defeat in 2018 semi-finals).
While fielding questions from the reporters, several of his teammates, who are one year his senior, could be seen trying to wind him up by entering his eyeline and distracting him. But when asked by Goal, Akid insisted that they were more helpful than annoying; "Oh no, they help me more than they bully me," said the teenager sheepishly.
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