'Dollah never told me he's won gold!' - Davies surprised club coach kept '89 achievement to himself

Vincent Phoon/CSN Sportstalk
Having missed the AFC U23 Championship qualifiers last month through an injury, Matthew Davies now wants to help Malaysia capture the SEA Games gold.

One of the key members of Datuk Ong Kim Swee's Malaysia U22 squad in the coming South East Asian Games (SEA Games) is one who relatively only recently adopted Malaysia as his country.

Pahang's Matthew Davies arrived on these shores from his native Australia in 2015, having earned the eligibility to play for the country due to the Malaysian heritage on his mother's part.

The 22-year old right back has since made his mark in Malaysian football, having been appointed Pahang captain last year, as well as representing Malaysia, not just at the junior level, but also the senior team.

One thing that he has picked up over the years as a newcomer to Malaysian football is the importance of the SEA Games, and the expectations that come with representing the country in the competition.

If selected in the final 20-man squad by Ong this weekend, the 2017 Kuala Lumpur SEA Games will be the second SEA Games for the former Perth Glory man, having played in the 2015 edition that was hosted by Singapore.

"It's something I didn't know about three years ago, before I came to Malaysia.

"But since I came here and heard all the hype about it, the meaning it has especially when we're hosting it, I realised it's a big occassion," Davies told Goal in an interview conducted over Monday and Tuesday.

Having realised what the tournament means to not just the football fans in the country, but also sports fans in the region, Davies said that gold is their only target.

"We're aiming for gold medal. We've obviously got a favourable draw, we have a very talented squad and a good pool of players.

"We've got high expectations and hopes," he remarked.

But one thing has seemingly escaped Davies' knowledge. He was pleasantly surprised to find out, when pointed out by Goal, that his club coach, Dollah Salleh had been one of the goalscorers for Malaysia the last time they captured the football gold on home soil in the 1989 edition.

In the gold medal match against Causeway Derby rivals Singapore, Dollah scored Malaysia's third goal at the hour mark, and the Malayan Tigers would go on to win the clash with a 3-1 scoreline.

"Oh yeah? He never told me about this, he just said 'good luck!'

"He's a very humble guy. He didn't mention anything about him winning it, but it doesn't surprise me," responded Davies upon learning this.

Dollah Salleh

Dollah Salleh. Photo by Asiana.my

When asked about the injury that kept him out of the squad that went on to capture qualification to the 2018 AFC U23 Championship in the qualifiers in Bangkok last month, he answered that he has fully recovered.

"It's okay now, I managed to string together the last three games (for Pahang). I've got some good momentum going, played some solid games and feeling fit and fresh.

"I'm happy with the way that progressed and now my injuries are all good," he explained.

The Young Tigers defied inadequate preparation time and absence of five players, as well as poor expectations back home, to top Group H and qualify for the tournament for the first time ever.

Article continues below

We also asked whether he feels any amount of jealousy at seeing his teammates achieve qualification to the continental tournament without him, to which Davies answered in the negative.

"Honestly I'm very happy for the boys and the way they performed and represented Malaysia. For them to go over there and do that under the circumstances was a very good achievement for everyone," said Davies.

Malaysia will open their SEA Games campaign on August 14 against Brunei in Group A, with Ong expected to finalise his squad this Saturday.