Monday June 18, 2012
Several junior players prove their mettle at the MSSM championships
THE emergence of budding talents during the recent Malaysian Schools (MSSM) championships has given Penang football fresh hopes of reviving their sagging standard in the Malaysian football scene.
Penang were once a feared football force but now the standard has nosedived. In short, the Penang state team have been a big flop in the eyes of their loyal supporters.
But if the performance of the Penang junior players in the MSSM age-group championship is anything to go by, then hopes of restoring their battered pride are still very much alive.
Although Penang failed to bring home any honours in the Under-12, Under-15 and Under-18 age groups, their overall performance in all the three categories was enough to impress even their critics.
All the three teams wrapped up their challenge with a top four finish in Kuala Lumpur recently.
While their Under-12 boys were placed fourth overall, both their Under-15 and Under-18 sides picked up the bronze by finishing third in their respective groups.
MSSM Penang Contingent leader Mohd Hassan Mohamed was quick to shower praises on his players for their gallant display.
“We may have failed to come out tops in the three categories but we managed to reach the semi-finals.
“I’m satisfied because every time they take the field, they give their best. And I’m proud of them,” said Mohd Hassan.
He added that he was confident this bunch of budding juniors would be making more waves in the near future, either in the Penang local scene or at state level.
The Penang Under-15 team came in for special mention.
The team won the Fair Play Trophy while promising striker Muhammad Jafri Chew took home the Top Scorer Trophy.
A product of SMK Mutiara Impian, Muhammad Jafri, who just celebrated his 15th birthday on June 11, struck six goals in five matches to power Penang on to the last four.
“The lad should serve Penang well in the near future,” said Mohd Azhar Abdul Rahman, who had just led his Penang Free School charges to the Manchester United Premier Cup Asian Zone finals in Jakarta last month.
“I have seen him developed through the ranks, beginning with the Bintang Biru Football Academy and then with Mutiara Impian in the past few years. I’m happy that he bagged the Under-15 top scorer award for his tireless efforts.
“This will surely spur him to train even harder to feature for both the state and the country in the near future,” he said.
Penang’s Under-18 coach Noraeffendi Taib was also satisfied with their challenge despite crashing out in the semi-finals, suffering a 3-0 defeat to Terengganu.
“Frankly, there is nothing more I could ask of my players as the defeat was due to the fact that we were greatly handicapped for the clash.
“We had as many as five casualties on that day,” he said.
“Two players were suspended after picking up their second booking in the quarter-finals while two more were injured. Another one landed in sick bay.
“Despite the handicap, we still managed to play our hearts out, losing to the eventual champions,” said Noraeffendi, the man who has been charting SMK Mutiara Impian’s fortune in the on-going FAM-MOE Under-17 League.
Noraeffendi, whose team was built around players from the state’s top football schools like Mutiara Impian, Penang Free School, Guar Perahu and Georgetown Secondary, was confident Penang football would regain their status in the Malaysian football scene if this set of players could be blended with the Penang Youth team.
“If we can keep all these players together, then we should be able to see promising results, beginning in the President’s Cup next season,” added Noraeffendi.