Datuk Seri Ahmad Ismail. Photo: Bernama

KUALA LUMPUR: The Malaysian Sepak Takraw Association (PSM) stressed that age is not a factor but rather current achievements are the benchmark for selection to represent the country at the 2021 SEA Games in Vietnam.

PSM president Datuk Seri Ahmad Ismail said senior players would still be given the nod ahead of young players who could not match their performance.

Ahmad stressed that his decision was not to deny the proposal made by the Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM) to list back-up athletes for the biennial games but to place a premium on experience.

“PSM agrees that the best players should go to the Vietnam SEA Games. We do not care how old they are; only the best will be chosen.

“To look for the best players, there should be a tournament. From there, we will select the best for the SEA Games. We don’t want to deny them the opportunity because of this new criterion,” he said today. 

Ahmad said the same thing was practised by traditional rivals Thailand, who also rely on senior players in their bid to retain the gold medal at the biennial games.

“Thailand have been our main rivals. Sepak takraw fans are also aware that their players are old and experienced, which is why they have been dominating the sport. 

“Thai player Ponchai Kaokaew has played at the SEA Games and the Asian Games seven, eight times. His age is not an issue. This year he is 39, and I heard he will play again at the SEA Games.

“We have lost to Thailand all this while not due to lack of skills but due to lack of mental strength. Mentally we are not as strong as the experienced Thai players. I am confident that within a year or two, Malaysian athletes can also be at that level,” he said. – Bernama