Last year saw the first naturalised player in Mohamadou Sumareh putting on the Malaysian jersey from friendly matches to the AFF Championship which heralded a new approach within Football Association of Malaysia (FAM). The governing body saw the positives in that move and strived to put the method to further good use.
In 2019, delegation from FAM led by president Dato Hamidin Mohd Amin were seen having discussions with the Malaysia prime minister and home minister to discuss on this venture and how certain privileges could be given to expedite the naturalisation process.
Malaysia will have eight matches to be played in Group G of the joint World Cup 2022 and Asian Cup 2023 qualification with five of those coming in 2019 - Indonesia (Sep 5, Nov 19), UAE (Sep 10), Vietnam (Oct 10) and Thailand (Nov 14). Hamidin confirmed that no newer naturalised options will be available to Tan Cheng Hoe for at least these five matches.
"No, there won't be (any naturalised player in the team for the Indonesia match). We confirmed won't be able to get anyone because none will have qualified for the 5-year rule. If we do get to complete the process, earliest will be next year where the player would have already missed five of those group matches," said Hamidin during a media session on Thursday.
Midfielder Liridon Krasniqi and striker Guilherme de Paula are among those touted to be in FAM's consideration to be part of national team. Both started playing in Malaysia back in 2015 and at the end of this 2019 season would have completed the requirements necessary for FAM to submit their names to FIFA for approval.
That said, improvements to the squad is still likely if FAM pursue the heritage route with Terengganu FC's Lee Tuck being the chief candidate to get his application process pushed through because with a Malaysia parent, he will not be needing FIFA's approval.
Whatever that needs to be done, FAM will have to work hard to push things through. Tan Cheng Hoe will need all the help he can get if Malaysia are to achieve the target of reaching the Asian Cup finals in China in 2023.
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