The national Under-23 football team coached by Ong Kim Swee (right) will be heading off to Australia in March to play in the Queensland State League as part of their preparations for the Asian Games in September. - Filepic
PETALING JAYA: Harimau Muda A coach Datuk Ong Kim Swee will leave for Australia on Monday to finalise the team’s participation in the Queensland State League.
The former international said he has yet to decide where the team will be based when they compete in Australia’s second tier football league in March.
Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin revealed last Saturday that the ministry will contribute RM2mil to fund the stint in Australia, which will serve as the team’s preparation for the Incheon Asian Games in September.
“I need to thank the minister and the National Sports Council (NSC) for supporting our programme in Australia,” said Kim Swee on Sunday.
“We will be playing competitive league matches and I believe it will give the players a valuable experience ahead of the Asiad.
“We have the option of picking either Brisbane or Gold Coast as our base ... I will survey the facilities in both places before making a decision.”
Last year, the Harimau Muda A squad were based in Slovakia for eight months as a part of their preparation for the Myanmar SEA Games.
The team failed to retain the gold medal in the biennial Games, finishing fourth after losing to Singapore in the bronze-medal playoff.
Kim Swee stressed that the team’s playing stint in the Queensland State League is vital for the newcomers in the team as he has released nine players from the previous squad.
The 43-year-old Kim Swee said that the national Under-23 team’s lack of depth was obvious in the Myanmar SEA Games when the back-up players failed to fill the void left by injured regulars.
“The stint in Australia will be a good opportunity for the newcomers to step up and claim their spots in the Asian Games squad,” said Kim Swee.