BY ZULHILMI ZAINAL Follow on Twitter
Following Malaysia head coach Datuk Ong Kim Swee's reassignment as Malaysia U23 head coach by the new Malaysian FA (FAM) president Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim, the former now has less than five months to work with the Young Tigers, before the 2017 SEA Games football tournament.
FAM and the Malaysian ministry of sports have set the target of gold medal in the football competition at the tournament, which will be hosted by Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur.
Kim Swee has not revealed his plans for his new charges to the media just yet, but one player from the senior Malaysia team who may 'follow' the former Harimau Malaysia boss' footsteps is Pahang captain and Malaysia right back Matthew Davies.
At age 22, the Australian-born player is still eligible for the tournament, should his service be needed by Kim Swee. After all, Davies had been a key member of the Malaysia senior team under the 46-year old coach.
He told Goal in an interview on Monday that he is very much interested in participating in this year's SEA Games, his second SEA Games, should he be called up. His first was in the 2015 edition, hosted by Singapore.
And Davies expressed his desire despite knowing the possibility of having to be away from club football for an extended period. FAM had earlier planned for the Malaysia U23 squad members to train together before the tournament, although it is unknown whether they will stick to the plan now, following Kim Swee's reassignment.
"Of course I'd be interested in competing at the SEA games, it was one of my major focuses for the year knowing the SEA games is being held in Malaysia.
"Either way I'd be honored to participate in another SEA games," said Davies.
When asked whether four months is sufficient time for Kim Swee to prepare a competitive team for the tournament, Davies said he has no doubt about Kim Swee's abilities and experience.
Ong Kim Swee. Photo by Sadat Osman
"I think it's enough (time), I don't think anyone is more qualified than Ong Kim Swee to lead another SEA Games challenge, he is very well respected amongst Malaysian players and of course has had success at the SEA Games before.
"What's most important is for the players to be playing consistently at club level. Playing week in week out is so crucial leading up to a tournament like this. So that should be the major goal for players hoping to be selected," explained the former Perth Glory man.
Kim Swee earlier led the Malaysia U23 team from 2011 to 2015, before he was appointed as the Malaysia senior team boss in January 2016. The 2017 edition will be Kim Swee's fourth SEA Games, with the Young Tigers capturing the 2011 edition gold medal under him.
In the 2015 edition, Malaysia were knocked out in the group stage.