Tuesday, May 22, 2012


Malaysian Signs For Portuguese Side

SINGAPORE - Jakarta's Gelora Bung Karno Stadium is one of Asia's most inhospitable venues for visiting teams, but even the vitriol spat from 100,000 partisan fans did not faze Nazmi Faiz when Malaysia upset hosts Indonesia to defend their men's under-23 football gold medal at last November's SEA Games final.

Harimau Muda coach Ong Kim Swee was certain that his young protege was in a world of his own that night, and it was perhaps his ability to exist only on the football field that has now put Nazmi in a truly special place of his own.

Today has learnt that Nazmi, 17, who turned out for Harimau Muda 'A' in this season's Great Eastern-Yeo's S-League, has signed a pre-contract agreement with Beira-Mar, making him the first Malaysian to join a Portuguese First Division side.

"He has signed a pre-contract agreement for a three-year deal, and according to FIFA rules, Nazmi will return on his 18th birthday, sign the papers, and join the club," said Marco Guimaraes, director of football at Football Management International, the agency that was key in setting up the deal.

"He did very well, showing good movement and understanding of space. Speaking with the head coach (Ulisses Morais), it was his composure on the pitch, the way he kept his nerve under pressure that stood out the most - even Portuguese youngsters don't have that."

Guimaraes will now work closely with the club to help the player settle in when he moves to the port city of Aveiro where the club is based.

The Malaysian under-22 team are currently in Slovakia to prepare for the 2013 Asian Football Confederation (AFC) under-22 Asian Cup qualifiers, and speaking to Today in a phone interview early this morning, Ong, who also coaches Harimau Muda 'A', could barely contain his joy.

"I believe Nazmi will go far. The fact that Beira-Mar gave him a three-year contract indicates that they must have confidence in his abilities - it is a big achievement, and testament to our youth development programme," he said.

Nazmi will join Ong's under-22 side in Budapest where they will play three friendly games from May 23 to 30 as part of an intensive preparation for the qualifiers that will see the team play one friendly in Slovakia and another in China before their AFC under-22 Asian Cup qualifiers from June 23 to July 3, where they are in Group G with Vietnam, South Korea, the Philippines, Taiwan and hosts Myanmar.

"I have no doubts about his ability, and if he can succeed there, it will open the door to Europe for other Malaysian players," said Ong who firmly believes others will follow Nazmi.

These include Harimau Muda 'A''s Wan Zack Haikal and Wan Zaharulnizam, who have postponed trials at a Japanese club due to their international commitments.

While delighted at the news, Ong hopes Nazmi and the rest of his team will focus on their immediate task at hand.

"I'm certain that everyone in Malaysia is happy for Nazmi, but we have a major assignment in front of us, the AFC under-22 qualifiers," he said.

"I hope that when we do get back to Kuala Lumpur on June 12, the team - and Nzami - won't get carried away by all this talk of Portugal and Beira-Mar."

Looking at Nazmi's trance-like dance every time he steps out onto the field, Beira-Mar and the all the glitz that comes with writing himself into Malaysian folklore may not get to the youngster, as long as he has a ball at his feet.

COMMENT - good luck to the lad but the hard work has just begun.

They ain't seen Hariss Harun yet...
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