JDT stars Dominic Tan, Syamer Kutty to go to Portugal
Two of Malaysia's under-23 squad are set for a year in Portugal as their club Johor Darul Ta'zim (JDT) look to support their development.
Centre-back Dominic Tan and midfielder Syamer Kutty Abba are ready for a one-year loan deal at Portuguese third-tier side Vilaverdense FC.
20-year-old Tan started all four games in Malaysia's run to the quarterfinals at the AFC U23 Championship in China this month, while Syamer -- also 20 -- came off the bench in three of their matches.
Now, both have the opportunity to experience football in a new culture and environment in the hope that it sharpens up their games for both club and country.
"The management has agreed to send Mohd Syamer Kutty Abba and Dominic Tan to Vilaverdense FC for a year. Both of them will depart for Portugal...26th January 2018," a statement on JDT's Facebook page said.
"It goes without saying that both players will gain valuable experience there and will have a positive impact on JDT FC and the country when they return."
While Tan was a regular for the Young Tigers in China, he was given few opportunities to impress back home as JDT won a league and cup double in 2017. That lack of action cost him a place in Malaysia's silver-medal winning SEA Games squad.
He will certainly hope that the Portuguese experience allows him to step up a level in order to challenge for a regular first-team place.
Meanwhile, Syamer, who has just joined JDT from Penang, has also been identified as one for the future by the Malaysian champions.
He was a regular for his club in 2017, as they fought in vain against relegation from the Malaysia Super League.
Already capped twice by his country at senior level, Syamer will be aiming to develop the skills and mental strength that enable him to star for JDT and the Harimau Malaya for years to come.
Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) president Tunku Ismail Ibrahim (TMJ) had spoken on Wednesday of his hopes for the country's young players to play abroad if given the opportunity.
"I hope all under-23 players will be able to play overseas," TMJ said. "Whoever gets the chance or an offer to play in a higher level competition should go...don't stay here. It will benefit the national team in the future."
Tan and Syamer are the first of this batch to make the move in the modest surroundings of the Portuguese regional leagues.
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