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ARKIB : 13/01/2004

Rajagopal caretaker coach for World Cup qualifiers

PETALING JAYA Jan 12 - Former international K. Rajagopal has been picked as the caretaker coach for the Malaysian national football team for the 2006 World Cup Qualifying round which starts in March.

In the meantime, the controversial current national coach Allan Harris will be concentrating on preparing the team for the 2004 Athens Olympics qualifier Asian Zone Finals which coincidentally also begin in March.

The Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) technical director Karl Heinz Weigang told a press conference here Monday that a big team of 36 players had been chosen for the World Cup qualifier assignment, with two matches in March against Hong Kong (March 18) and Kuwait (March 31), both at home.

"Rajagopal is the caretaker coach for the national team for the World Cup. He has accepted to be in charge and I will assist him in any area that he wants me to," he said.

Weigang said the new national team, which comprises players aged between 24 and 30, would report for a get-together from Jan 16 to 18. Malaysia will take on Japan in a friendly away match on Feb 7.

The news of Rajagopal's appointment has ended speculation of Harris being sacked from his job after he failed to guide the national Under-23 team into winning the gold medal in the 22nd SEA Games in Vietnam last month. Malaysia won the bronze medal after beating Myanmar in the play-off.

The 47-year-old Rajagopal thanked FAM for having faith in him to guide the national team even though it would probably be just for a brief spell.

"It is a great honour for me and I should thank the FAM for having confidence in me. I am still the national Under-21 coach to prepare the team for the 2005 SEA Games but I will give my level best for the World Cup qualifier," he said.

Rajagopal, who played for the national team from 1980 to 1982, started his coaching career with Selangor in 1989. He guided Selangor to becoming the league champions in 2000 before moving to coach Kelantan in 2001 and 2002.

By the November 2002, he was roped in as the national Under-21 coach. Rajagopal was assistant to the national coach Ken Worden in 1992 and for a brief spell was with Frenchman Claude Le Roy in 1993.

The national squad, picked by the local coaches during the M-League coaching seminar last month, will see at least 13 players recalled into the team, including Khalid Jamlus, Ahmad Shahrul Azhar Sofian and V. Saravanan (all Perak), Azizul Kamaluddin (Pahang), B. Rajinikandh (Negeri Sembilan) and K. Sanbagamaran, who featured for Sabah last season.

World Cup Squad

Goalkeepers: Azmin Azram Abdul Aziz (Pahang), Kamarulzaman Hassan (Penang), Hamsani Ahmad (Perak), Jamsari Sabian (Selangor MPPJ);

Defenders: Muhammad Khaironnisam Sahabudin Hussain (Perlis), A. Victor (Kedah), Chee Wan Hoe (Penang), Syamsul Saad (Perak), Chan Wing Hoong (Perak), Subri Sulong (Pahang), Rosdi Talib (Pahang), Khairul Anuar Baharom (Negeri Sembilan), B. Rajinikandh (Negeri Sembilan), Lim Chan Yew (Negeri Sembilan), Yuszaiman Zahari (Selangor MPPJ), Faizal Zainal (Selangor MPPJ), Bahtiar Othman (Johor FC), Ramesh Lai Ban Huat (Melaka Telekom), M. Elangoo (Selangor Public Bank).

Midfielders: Tengku Hazman Raja Hassan (Perlis), Chow Chee Weng (Penang), K. Nanthakumar (Perak), Ahmad Shahrul Azhar Sofian (Perak), Gilbert Gawing (Sarawak), Wong Sai Kong (Sarawak), K. Sanbagamaran (Sabah), Idris Karim (Johor FC), Eddy Helmi Abdul Manan (Johor FC).

Strikers: Muhammad Khalid Jamlus (Perak), V. Saravanan (Perak), Liew Kit Kong (Perak), Azizul Kamaluddin (Pahang), Hairuddin Omar (Pahang), Sapian Wahid (Sarawak), Nizaruddin Yusof (Selangor MPPJ), Hardi Jaafar (Melaka Telekom).

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