PETALING JAYA: The Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) are open to using naturalised players for the national team but stressed that they would not rush into taking in the players.

There has been a slew of foreign footballers claiming to have heritage connections with Malaysia and offering their services to the Harimau Malaya on social media recently.

However, FAM deputy president Datuk Wira Mohd Yusoff Mahadi, who is also the chairman of the naturalisation programme committee, said they had strict guidelines on naturalising footballers.“We always welcome footballers who claim a connection to Malaysia but please keep in mind the process is not that easy, ” said Yusoff.

“These footballers need to prove their connection to Malaysia with proper documents, which need to be verified and submitted to FIFA for approval. At the same time, the naturalisation programme committee will evaluate the players’ abilities.”

“We are not going to take players who are not better or are just at the same level as our homegrown players… these foreign footballers must be of higher quality. Only then we can propose these players for citizenship.”

Under the naturalisation programme committee, the FAM have looked into a number of mixed-blood footballers who had been born in Malaysia.

This term includes those whose parents or grandparents were born in the country.

Among the players who have been recruited by the committee are Matthew Davies, Darren Lok, Brendan Gan, Kiko Insa and Natxo Insa, who had featured for the national team in recent time.

Johor Darul Ta’zim’s Kosovo-born midfielder Liridon Krasniqi, who was granted Malaysian citizenship after staying five years in the country, has received the green light from FIFA to represent Malaysia.

The 28-year-old became the second footballer to be naturalised after Pahang’s Gambia-born Mohamadou Sumareh, who received his Malaysian citizenship in 2018 after coming to the country as a teenager.

Yusoff asked foreign footballers who claim to have blood connection to Malaysia to approach FAM directly instead of making statements in social media and media.

“They can contact us directly if they are sincere in representing Malaysia but many can’t provide documents to support their claims, ” said Yusoff.

“We have a number of talented youngsters coming through our football development programmes and we will not neglect these talents. They will get their chance to represent Malaysia.

“National team football is about merit, whether you are a homegrown player or a naturalised player. FAM are very particular about this.”

All copyrights for this article are reserved to The Star