As we prepare ourselves for a few games with our national team, recent news article actually caught my attention because it was a topic that was discussed by Team Teh Tarik before but we never did get a decisive answer among ourselves.
With attention being put to promote our national team and league, some ask the question on whether we should follow suit other ASEAN countries and accept "naturalized Malaysians" to play on our squad or should we only rely on homegrown talents?
The reason why I put this into question because at one point of time, unanimously Malaysia takes pride on relying on "home grown talents" in their squad which is the same strategy we have been using since our glory days of the past.
However today, as the popularity of the squad grows, many overseas talents now publicly state their wishes in playing for our grounds and the interest has been growing since.
[Malaysian born or Malaysian heritage linked players]
Today we have the likes of Brendan Gan and Junior Estedal with Malaysian linked families currently playing for Harimau Malaya and while some question their link to Malaysia, their talent and even passion to play for Malaysia is vital in the development of our football.
In fact, there is even now the question of "naturalizing" our footballers from other countries, with the likes of Dickson Nwakaeme, who is seen singing "Negaraku" passionately in every Pahang game and Paolo Rangel, who has expressed his interest before to play for Malaysia.
There has been a huge divide between the current players and the coaches on this topic, for obvious reasons. Malaysia's current talisman Safiq Rahim has mentioned that we "cannot be lazy and groom our local talents to reach international level as that is the purpose of us developing our national team". Current coach for Malaysia Dollah Salleh has publicly mentioned "that he is open to the use any option of naturalized players with extraordinary talents and should not be relying on such players as a mere escape route".
So this would be my humble opinions on the matter.
Representing our country and wearing our colors is not just about playing football. Its about the passion that you have for the country. For that reason, I disagree on having naturalized players to join our squad as the players can never relate to our country the same way as how our players would for this country.
However, I do agree on getting Malaysian heritage linked players into the squad. Come at least their heritage keeps them rooted to the country and they do have that sense of "pride and belonging" to the country, which would then reflect to their own play.
Example can be seen with Singapore, Philippines, and even Indonesia getting players that are "naturalized" to their country so that they can play for their country and to this date, the impact that has been made by these teams have been small, if any. Singapore who until recently have relied A LOT on naturalized players may have dominated the ASEAN scene but that's about it. The after effects today, with using their homegrown players have failed to secure their stronghold here anymore and for reasons I believe is obvious.
Philippines, who are currently skyrocketing their FIFA rankings through the years however have lost their identities to their local fans due to the dwindling number of home grown talents in their squad.
In my honest opinion, I believe that there is more to come with our talent, which needs the strong support from our supporters and a development program that is in play for our players. There is no need for us to "purchase" players to represent our countries but in that perspective, we should be looking to localizing players with Malaysian heritage into our squad to improve the depth of our team.