KUALA LUMPUR: Irfan Zakaria is used to being shunted back and forth on the pitch, leaving many Kuala Lumpur fans confused which role suits him best.
Primarily a defensive midfielder when playing for Super League side KL, Irfan was used in defence when earning his first cap in Malaysia’s 2-1 defeat to Lebanon in an Asian Cup qualifier in Beirut on Tuesday.
That came on the back of steady displays as a centre-back at the AFC Under-23 Championship in January when Malaysia reached the quarter-finals under youth coach Ong Kim Swee.
But KL coach Fabio Maciel said Irfan’s best position is in midfield though he values the 22-year-old’s versatility.
“I prefer Irfan playing in defensive midfield because he has a good range of passes, both long and short,” said Maciel, whose side lost 2-0 to Felda United in a friendly in Cheras on Friday in the absence of Irfan.
“He can control the game from there. But when he comes back we’ll see his condition because he has one more game to play for the national team.”
KL face Selangor in the FA Cup quarter-final first leg in Cheras on Saturday when Maciel hopes Irfan, Zaquan Adha Radzak and Syazwan Andik Ishak return from national duty without injuries.
Irfan, seen as a future leader for club and country, offers Maciel various tactical options with his ability to play in more than one position.
“I can use him as a centre-back and change the system during the game,” said Maciel, who did so twice last year when KL won the Premier League title.
“This is good because he gives me two or three options. This is very important because during the game I can change the system without switching players.
“I don’t think it bothers Irfan because he is used to it and always gives his best.”