Safiq Rahim to stay Malaysia captain despite Cup final outburst
Malaysia coach Nelo Vingada inists Safiq Rahim will remain captain of the national team despite criticism of the Johor Darul Ta'zim (JDT) midfielder's behaviour after Saturday's Malaysia Cup final victory over Kedah, and last month's 2019 AFC Asian Cup qualifier in Hong Kong.
Video footage emerged of Safiq allegedly swearing at his critics and opposition fans as his team celebrated their 2-0 triumph on Saturday.
The incident came a month after Safiq was red-carded for a dangerous challenge in the damaging 2-0 defeat in Hong Kong.
Safiq will miss the first game of the Asian Cup qualifying double header with North Korea in Thailand on Friday through suspension. But he seems set to play in the second match the following Monday.
Although Safiq let down his teammates with his indiscipline in Hong Kong, Vingada is standing by his skipper.
"Of course, Safiq is still the captain," Vingada said, as reported in The New Straits Times. "He will put on the armband after he serves suspension on Friday for the second match against North Korea three days later.
"We have spoken about the red card [against Hong Kong]. I cannot blame him for it as even Frenchman Zinedine Zidane was sent off in the 2006 World Cup final.
"Sometimes, a player can lose control, but I believe Safiq will come back stronger."
However, Kamarudin Abdullah, the former FA of Malaysia (FAM) disciplinary committee chairman, insists Safiq should face disciplinary action for his antics after the cup final. "The disciplinary committee has the right to investigate the incident, even though it was after the final whistle," Kamaruddin said.
"The current committee must look into this seriously. Safiq was wrong and he should have acted appropriately as he is a professional player.
"Based on similar cases in the past, Safiq is likely to be fined and suspended. However, it will be up to the current committee to decide."
Meanwhile, Vingada has played down concerns over his side's limited preparation time before leaving for the two matches in Thailand.
The Portuguese had previously expressed frustration with the scheduling of Saturday's Malaysia Cup final, as it forced the late arrivals of 10 squad members from JDT and one from Kedah.
JDT striker Darren Lok and Kedah midfielder Baddrol Bakhtiar both pulled out of the squad as a result of knocks picked up on Saturday.
While the cup finalists were recovering from their exertions on Sunday, Vingada was conducting a training session with just 10 members of the squad.
But on Tuesday, the 64-year-old insisted that his players would be ready for the clashes with the North Koreans in Buriram.
"We only had a few days training but the players are motivated ahead of the crucial matches on Nov. 10 and Nov. 13," Vingada said before the squad flew out of Kuala Lumpur International Airport.
The Portuguese boss, who has yet to win a game in his five matches in charge, has a big job on his hands to keep Malaysia in contention for a place in the United Arab Emirates in 2019.
His side have to take at least four points from the two games in Buriram to have a realistic chance of qualifying.
Bangkok-based Paul Murphy has lived in Asia for a decade, writing for ESPN FC since 2014. He is a former Daily Express sub-editor. @PaulMurphyBKK