BY ZULHILMI ZAINAL Follow on Twitter
Selangor head coach Maniam Pachaiappan's audacious belief in his youth players has been one of the highlights of domestic Malaysian football this season, having promoted five former President's Cup players to the senior team in order to fill in the gaps in the squad caused by a pre-season exodus.
While the hardwork of tireless 19-year old right winger Syahmi Safari has caught the attention of many, his counterpart on the other side of the pitch too has been handed increasingly more game time by Maniam.
20-year old Kannan Kalaiselvan first featured for the senior team in Selangor's Malaysia Cup campaign last year as a youth player, but he has started in all of the Red Giants' four latest matches this season. Kannan has been utlised slightly further up the pitch from the left back position he is used to as a teenager, relegating the more-experienced Raimi Noor to the bench.
He and Syahmi, alongside Selangor forward Adam Nor Azlin has been called up to the Malaysia U22 centralised training camp under Datuk Ong Kim Swee, in preparation for their China trip next week, the U23 AFC Championship qualifiers in July, and the 2017 SEA Games in August.
When met by Goal on Wednesday evening following their training session at the Malaysian FA headquarters, Kannan told us that rejoining Malaysia U22 is facilitated by the fact that Ong utilises the same formation as Maniam does at Selangor.
"At Selangor, playing alongside more-experienced players, they will support us (young players) if they see our commitment. We're like a family too.
"Over here (Malaysia U22) the coach uses the same formation (3-4-3), so the transition is rather smooth," Kannan pointed out.
When asked regarding Maniam's guidance towards the younger players, Kannan responded that the former Selangor player has shown them commitment and belief.
"He's given us the support as well as commitment. He has also guided us along the way, and at the same time the chance to prove ourselves," he answered.
Asked about his personal target, after breaking through to the first team, he responded that it is to capture the football gold medal at the SEA Games, which will be held in Kuala Lumpur.
"My target is to win the gold medal at the SEA Games, and to establish myself further in the Selangor senior team," answered the Klang-born player.