Right on the ball

For the past three seasons, Johor Darul Ta’zim’s winger Safawi Rasid has combined with veteran wingback S. Kunanlan on the right.

That partnership has been one of the highlights of the league champions as international Safawi constantly terrorised defenders with his dazzling dribbles and powerful shots, while Kunanlan assisted him with his overlapping runs.

However, with Kunanlan already 33, the Southern Tigers decided that it was time to add some depth in the rightback position.

JDT recently announced the signing of 25-year-old Matthew Davies from Pahang and many are expecting him to slot into the first XI immediately for the Super League, which kicks off on Feb 29.

Davies is no stranger to Malaysian football as he is a regular in the national team and well respected among his peers for his exemplary performances for club and country.

Safawi is familiar with Davies too, as both of them have played together in the national set-up for almost three years now.

Safawi said he is game for combining with anyone on the right flank.

“I think it’s going to be a good fight between Kuna and Matt. I’ve played with Kuna for a long time but I have been with Matt since the national Under-23 days, ” said the former T-Team player.

“So for me, I’m OK playing with anyone. At the end of the day, the aim is to give our best for the team. Our preparation this year has been excellent, especially with the friendlies in Dubai.

“The experience was great and it will serve us well for the Charity Shield.

“We want to retain the title we won last year.”

Safawi’s reputation gained prominence in 2018 after he won the Malaysia Football League (MFL) most promising player, best midfielder and Most Valuable Player (MVP) awards after scoring 16 goals in 34 matches.

He proved even more lethal in 2019 when he scored 20 goals in 34 matches to win the MFL best striker, most popular player and also the MVP for the second year in a row.

The wizard from Dungun made towering contributions for JDT as they hoisted the Charity Shield, Super League and Malaysia Cup trophies. For the country, he played 10 matches and scored six goals.

Playing in the spanking new Sultan Ibrahim Stadium, Safawi believes that the new home ground will reinvigorate the whole team but reminded his teammates not to underestimate opponents in the Super League.

“We’re beginning to embrace modern football and with modern facilities, we’re headed in the right direction. We have to thank Tengku (Johor Regent Tunku Mahkota Tunku Ismail Ibni Sultan Ibrahim).

“For me, all the teams have prepared well for the new season and will surely give a strong fight. Underestimating any team will be detrimental and we have to be on our toes.”

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