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Naturalising players should be more transparent, says football chief – Free Malaysia Today

PETALING JAYA: Kuala Lumpur City FC CEO Stanley Bernard has called for transparency in the process of naturalising players for the national team.
Bernard said he is in the dark about the process the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) used to select the four footballers for citizenship, which has drawn much controversy in the football fraternity.
Stressing that naturalised players should be the best talents on the field whenever they lace up for the national team, Bernard – a former national footballer himself – noted the local players in the team seemed to perform better than the naturalised players.
“As a CEO of a club in the Malaysian Super League, I have no idea about the process FAM uses to (select) players to naturalise,” he told FMT.
“How did they identify players who are in their mid-30s like Guilherme de Paula and Liridon Krasniqi ahead of our local talent?
“It is all about decision-making, which has not been very good here. Those who have made (the decision) have to be held accountable.”
However, Benard noted how complaints about naturalised players fizzled out when Malaysia qualified for the Asian Cup earlier this year.
Malaysia booked their place in the 2023 AFC Asian Cup with a 4-1 win over Bangladesh in June, the first time the national team qualified on merit for the tournament in 42 years.
“That is how it works here. Let’s say we qualify for the World Cup with a couple of naturalised players, no one will argue about it,” he said.
“When you win, everything is okay. But when you lose, that is when you will get pressure from the fans.”
FAM’s naturalisation programme has been a hot topic in Malaysian football, with Gambian-born Mohamadou Sumareh the first naturalised player to play for the national team in 2018.
The programme was put on hold in August 2021 after Malaysia’s second round exit at the 2022 World Cup qualifiers.
Since then, Sri Pahang FC midfielder Lee Tuck was granted Malaysian citizenship on Aug 31. The UK-born Tuck, who has been plying his trade in Malaysia since 2017, previously played for Negeri Sembilan and Terengganu FC. However, Tuck’s naturalisation was due to Sri Pahang’s FC effort, and not FAM.
Among those who have questioned the government’s priorities in awarding citizenship to football players, while many born in the country remain stateless, are Hannah Yeoh, a former deputy women, family and community development minister.
In a sarcastic tweet after Tuck was granted citizenship, she asked whether the country’s stateless children should take up football for the authorities to pay heed to their plight.
Child rights activist Hartini Zainuddin had also spoken out about the policy, saying it was unfair to those who were born in the country.
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