Malaysia national under-23 football team (also known as Malaysia Under-23, Malaysia U-23 or Malaysia Olympic Team) is the former youth national football team represents Malaysia in international football competitions in Olympic Games, Asian Games and SEA Games, as well as any other under-23 international football tournaments until it was succeded by the new Malaysia national under-22 football team.
It was managed by the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM). The team won the 2009 and 2011 SEA Games gold medal.
After Harimau Muda project disbanded, FAM needed a fresh start for the U-23 team where a new set of players was brought in for the team with the creation of SEA Games Project 2017 team. The players in the current team mainly consist of players with age around 18 to 21 years old where the oldest players will be below the age requirement of 22 years old when 2017 SEA Games in Malaysia started. With bigger pool of players within age of 18-22, the team will also play in other age-restricted tournament as the younger side such as U-21 and U-22 when needed.
The team is considered to be the feeder team for the Malaysia national football team. It is for players aged 23 and less, however 3 senior players can also be selected to play. Also in existence are national teams for Under-20s, Under-17s and Under-15s. As long as they are eligible, players can play at any level, hence it is possible for one to play for the U-23s, senior side and then again for the U-23s.
After the 1997 FIFA World Youth Championship, Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) aiming to qualify for the 2000 Sydney Olympic. Thus, the FAM spent about US$6 million and continue the contract of Malaysia youth coach, Hatem Souissi. Then FAM form a squad known as Olympic 2000 with a combination of 1997 youth squad and other under 23 players. FAM decided to include Olympic 2000 as one of the team in Malaysia League. Their first match was against Johor FA in qualification match for Malaysia Premier I League. The team won their first match away 1–0 before drawing 1–1 at home to qualify for Malaysia Premier I League. However the team finishes bottom during 1998 season with only 4 win in 22 matches. The Olympic 2000 also show poor performance in international stage. They were humiliated by the Thailand Asian Games squad in a 1998 friendly match as the Thai's beat them 9–0. During the qualification matches, Olympic 2000 only manage to finish third behind Hong Kong and Japan. It is questionable among the fans how a squad who was playing together since 1995 given so much exposure and with fine talent cannot achieve the expectation.
On July 2009, Datuk K. Rajagopal was named as the new coach of Malaysia U-23 team. Under his management, Malaysia qualified to the semi-finals of 2009 SEA Games after becoming the runners-up of Group A with only one point behind the group champion, Vietnam. Malaysia then defeated Laos 3–1 in the semi-finals, before meet Vietnam again and defeat them 1–0 in the final with an own goal scored by Mai Xuân Hợp in 85th minute. This would be their fifth SEA Games gold medal and also the first great achievement for the U-23 team on 20's under Datuk K. Rajagopal that also led Malaysia to qualify for the second round of the 2010 Asian Games as one of the best four third-placed teams after a lapse of 32 years.
On 2011, the team then had been taken over by Ong Kim Swee. Ong Kim Swee later arranged two friendly matches against Thailand and Singapore in a preparation for the 2012 Olympics qualifiers. Malaysia later lost narrowly 1–2 to Thailand but won 2–0 against Singapore.
Malaysia then advanced to the semi-finals of the 2011 SEA Games at the top of Group A after defeating the host, Indonesia by 1–0. Then, Malaysia also beat Myanmar 1–0 in the semi-finals to advance to the final. In the final, they met Indonesia again and held them to a 1–1 draw until the end, resulting in a penalty shoot-out which Malaysia won 4–3. This was also the sixth SEA Games gold medal led by Ong Kim Swee after the successful achievement in 2009.
The team then continues their success by qualifying to the third round of 2012 Olympic Asian Qualifiers after defeating Pakistan on the first round and Lebanon on the second round. Amazingly, Malaysia was the only team from Southeast Asia that qualify to the third round. However, in the third round, Malaysia lost all of their first three third round at the 2012 Olympic Asian qualifying matches, both lose 2–0 to Japan and Syria and 2–3 to Bahrain. Malaysia also lose on their second three third round and has been eliminated.
The Malaysia national football team uses the same squad for the Under-23 team and the national team under the new management of Datuk K. Rajagopal. Malaysia national football team uses players below the age of 23, together with their senior players like Safee Sali and Mohd Norhafiz Zamani Misbah. This was set for the national team to prepare the challenges ahead of them.
Malaysia used the under-23 team for the tournament such as the Ho Chi Minh City Cup, 2010 Asian Games and 2010 AFF Suzuki Cup. Malaysia used this way since the Football Association of Malaysia chairman, HRH Sultan Ahmad Shah, planned this and set the plan mainly for K. Rajagopal. This is as a result after the humiliation lost 0–5 to the United Arab Emirates at the 2011 Asian Cup Qualifiers.Southeast Asian Games
Gold medals (2): 2009 and 2011
Silver medal (1): 2001
Bronze medals (2): 2003 and 2005
Winner (1): 1997, 2015
Winners (2): 2007, 2013
Winner (1): 2012