KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 7 — Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad expressed hope today that Malaysia could one day compete in the Fifa World Cup, after the national football team booked their place in the AFC Suzuki Cup finals.
During a meeting with the national players at the Prime Minister’s Office, Dr Mahathir lamented the days when Malaysia was the region’s football powerhouse, scoring victories over neighbouring countries with relative ease.
“At the time of independence, there was the Merdeka Cup. At a time when other countries never really played football, so we always came out victorious.
“Now the teams who couldn’t play last time are victorious, while we are trailing behind,” he said.
Dr Mahathir then spoke about how the Japanese national team was at one point inferior to Malaysia’s, with local athletes coaching their northern Asian neighbours.
“Japan especially has achieved great success quickly. Last time they were not footballers, but after they trained and practised hard, they managed to advance their national team until they competed in the World Cup.
“But we — who previously taught the Japanese how to play football — cannot play in the World Cup. So my hope is to see the national team play in the World Cup. Can ah?” he said in jest.
Dr Mahathir was also presented with a national jersey during the meeting, causing him to remark that he hopes to see Malaysia emerge victorious in the AFC Cup finals.
“I hope we will achieve victory in the game against Vietnam.
“I hope you won’t let me down, will work hard, train hard, and live, sleep and only think about football and winning for Malaysia,” he said.
Malaysia is set to take on Vietnam in the first leg of the final to be played at Bukit Jalil National Stadium next Tuesday.
The second leg will take place at My Dinh Stadium in Hanoi four days later on December 15.