A mess in Manila but Ong’s men get lucky

Looking relaxed: (from left) Cambodia’s coach Felix Dalmas, Myanmar coach Velizar Popov, Philippines coach Goran Milojevic, Malaysia coach Datuk Ong Kim Swee and Timor Leste coach Fabiano Flora at a press conference in Manila yesterday. — AFP

IT was all fumble and grumble in Manila as teams started arriving for the SEA Games but, luckily, the national Under-23 football team did not face any issues in Manila apart from the traffic. Other teams reported having to wait for hours for the team bus and even being brought to the wrong hotel.

Coach Datuk Ong Kim Swee said they faced no problems travelling from the airport to the hotel on Saturday, and were able to conduct their first training session at the Rizal Memorial Stadium on the same day.

“The only thing we cannot control is the traffic in downtown Manila. The jam is going to be massive because there will be crowds for the Games,” he said.

“We have to plan our journey to the stadium well. We have to be careful in terms of our timing.”

Team manager Datuk Seri Subahan Kamal said some stadiums were not completed, but the team would have to manage.

“The dressing rooms are still under renovation. But, we have a big game against Myanmar tomorrow, and our focus is on that match. We just want a good start.”

At the football press conference, teams moaned over the poor preparation by the organisers.

Some arriving athletes were left stranded for hours at the airport or were driven to the wrong hotel, a logistical nightmare that was lambasted by many. Thailand’s Under-23 coach Akihiro Nishino said his team do not want to use those reasons as an excuse, but wished things were better prepared.

“From our hotel to the training ground, it takes two hours. That is not realistic at all. We had to manage by training on the streets.

“The games will be held on artificial pitches, but we were given a natural pitch for training. It is not good at all.”

Cambodia Under-23 coach Felix Dalmas said his team had to wait for almost nine hours to get to their hotel.

“One thing good about my Cambodian side is they are adaptable to any situation. We know things are not perfect, but the guys took the situation in good spirits.”

Even Myanmar coach Velizar Popov lamented that his team were made to wait at the airport.

“This is not the right image for the Games. We are not happy with some things on our arrival. I do not want to enter into details, because if you start to look for excuses from the first day, you will look for something to blame all the time.

“Our target is to do well. Nothing will stop us from doing that.”

Even at the press conference, Vietnam coach Park Hang-seo questioned the media officer for not allowing other coaches to talk about their preparations.

The Philippines SEA Games organising committee has since offered an explanation, pinning the blame on a last-minute change in travel plans and the afternoon check-in time of the hotel.

“We sincerely apologise to our guests ... for the inconvenience caused to them by the confusion,” the committee said in a statement.

“We ... vow to do better.”
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