Sabah Aim To Produce More Players Like James Wong, Hassan Sani, Matlan Marjan

KOTA KINABALU: The Sabah Football Association (SAFA) is focusing on producing a new generation of high-performing footballers in the likes of The Rhinos’ legends James Wong, Hassan Sani and Matlan Marjan.

SAFA acting president Datuk Seri Bung Moktar Radin said Sabah had good footballers at the moment but he thought the state still lacked players with high skill levels the way the game was played by the three legends.

Therefore, Bung Moktar, who is also Sabah Deputy Chief Minister, said SAFA will implement various grassroots football development initiatives to develop young Sabahans and unearth their talents so that they can be featured as players in the Sabah FC Super League squad.

“Football players are just like politicians, there must be back ups to replace the (old) players who are tired … otherwise we will be too dependent on players from outside, either outside Sabah or imported players.

“We want to put hope in new faces but now it is difficult to find players who have skills like the players before, diligent to go down to assist the defence and reach the international level like James Wong, Hassan Sani and Matlan Marjan,” he told a press conference in here today.

Earlier, he had handed over jerseys, balls and materials for the YB Dato ‘Sri Bung Moktar Radin Cup competition here, which is an under -18 tournament with 33 teams involving eight zones in the state.

Wong and Hassan, two lethal strikers in the 70s and 80s, represented Malaysia several times and were even the strikers of the legendary Harimau Malaya (national) squad that qualified for the 1980 Moscow Olympics by beating South Korea 2-1.

However, Malaysia  boycotted the prestigious event due to the then Soviet Union (now Russia) invading Afghanistan. 

Matlan was a household name in the 80s and 90s, and the striker even scored two goals when representing Malaysia against the England A squad on June 12, 1991 which ended with Harimau Malaya losing 2-4.

Bung Moktar said in order to develop Sabah’s young players more effectively, SAFA would also manage the President’s Cup Under-22 and Youth Cup Under-19 teams for the Sabah FC squad.

“We are also holding various competitions such as the President’s Cup, Chief Minister’s Cup, Inter-Club Cup and Women’s Cup. Apart from that, we are also focusing on developing women’s football, futsal and beach soccer teams and we have our own programme,” he said.

Commenting on the YB Dato ‘Sri Bung Moktar Radin Cup, he said the competition would be held from  April 2-4 in a league format in the eight zones before the winners would play at the state level on a date to be determined later.

“This competition is also a space for our young players to show their talents and give exposure to them. I want to see the talents of Sabahans throughout the state so that we can polish them and one day they can play for Sabah FC as well as the country,” he said.