Malaysia SEA Games team 'assets' to country - FAM boss TMJ
Malaysia's Southeast Asian (SEA) Games men's football team are "assets to the country" after winning a silver medal at the recently concluded multi-sports festival.
That's the view of the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) president, the Crown Prince of Johor (TMJ).
Malaysia narrowly lost Tuesday's final 1-0 to defending champions Thailand, having won their five previous matches at Shah Alam Stadium.
"This is not the final journey... you are all young players. I am disappointed that we lost in the final, but I am proud to see what we have for the future," TMJ told the squad after the gold medal match.
"You are all assets to the country. Thank you for giving your best efforts at the SEA Games. Forget this loss, but use it as a lesson as we move on."
Despite falling short of a third men's title in eight years, the Malaysia under-22 team showed that they can be groomed for bigger tests in the near future.
In front of a sellout crowd, Malaysia were expected to deliver men's football gold, but Haziq Nazdli's own goal meant there wasn't a fairy tale finish.
While there was poignancy in defeat, coach Ong Kim Swee and his players must shake it off, and look forward to January's AFC U23 Championship in China after their successful qualification in July.
They will now be mentioned in the same breath as Japan, South Korea, Australia and Saudi Arabia when the draw takes place later this year. And there is also the Asian Games next August, where Malaysia will get a chance to try for glory at another multi-sports tournament.
Ong's men will not be expected to win both tournaments, considering the higher quality of their rivals, so it will be a different experience to the SEA Games.
Some of the youngsters could feature for the senior side in upcoming AFC Asian Cup qualifiers, as new Portuguese coach Nelo Vingada tries to snap a three-game losing streak.
The quest to qualify for the United Arab Emirates in 2019 means that Malaysia have three important campaigns in the span of 11 months.
And with TMJ now adding his full support, it is likely that Malaysian club teams will now follow suit after their previous resistance in the wake of the success of Ong's youngsters on home soil.
Nicolas Anil is a former Malay Mail and Goal.com Malaysia editor/writer who appears on BFM Radio as a football analyst. Twitter: @nicolas_anil.