The Malaysia Super League (MSL) came to an end the past week, and with it came self-reflection time for the hundreds of players plying their trade in the domestic league.
For the ASEAN players, the stakes were higher.
The Malaysian football culture doesn’t afford much time to under-performing foreigners, and players around the region will feel the added pressure to perform better than the locals.
Having said that, here are three ASEAN players who impressed in July and should continue playing a pivotal role for their teams in the upcoming Malaysia Cup.
Hariss Harun (JDT)
The Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT) captain can stake claim as one of the best ASEAN players in July, simply because of his performance against Perak. JDT were one game away from victory coming into this match, and three points against Perak would give them a fifth consecutive league title. The visitors were struggling and Perak capitalized to take the lead through Nor Hakim Hassan. Then Harris turned up. The midfielder headed JDT level just four minutes after the Perak goal, and it set the tone for a comeback. True enough, Safawi Rasid got the winner six minutes from time. Hariss has not only made an impact in this match, he has excelled throughout the season and is one of the finest imports in the country.
Safuwan Baharudin (Pahang FA)
It is no surprise why Pahang awarded Safuwan with a contract until 2020. In the context of Malaysian football and foreign players signing long-term deals, it is unheard of. But one can understand why the Elephants rate this 26-year-old so highly. He is not only versatile, but a complete midfielder with his work-rate, tough tackling, aerial prowess and knack for goals. Safuwan played a key role in ensuring Pahang lifted the FA Cup at the expense of Selangor. He dominated the midfield with Nor Azam Abdul Azih, and could have added to the 2-0 scoreline if not for the brilliance of Khairulazhan Khalid. Pahang may have struggled to win matches after lifting the FA Cup, but Safuwan’s performance on the big stage makes him a proven winner.
Faris Ramli (PKNS FC)
The list would not be complete without an all Singapore cast, and so the honour goes to Faris Ramli. Deservedly so too. In the goalscoring charts dominated mostly by a certain Rufino Segovia and the South American contingent, Faris gets the nod of being ASEAN’s top goalscorer with six goals to his name. It is not only his goals that have made an impact, the winger’s link-up play and ability to engineer a counter-attack is priceless. With Faris in the squad, PKNS won four of their five league matches in July to finish third in the MSL and exceed all expectations. The Singapore international’s explosiveness can be further enhanced, as he is only 25. Working with Datuk K. Rajagobal will only continue to bring out the best in him.
Photo Credit: Johor DT, Safuwan, PKNS FC