Cambodia the springboard to AFC for Kedah

Eyeing new challenge: Kedah, the 2019 FA Cup champions, are going to Cambodia to prepare for the new season.

PETALING JAYA: Kedah have their eyes on a place in the AFC Champions League (ACL) – and they aim to get there via Cambodia. They leave for a pre-season tour of Cambodia on Sunday.

The Red Eagles will begin their 2020 campaign early as they meet Hong Kong’s Tai Po in the first round of the AFC Champions League (ACL) qualification at the Darulaman Stadium in Alor Setar on Jan 21.

A win over Tai Po will pit them against Seoul FC of South Korea in the final preliminary round on Jan 28. If they win again, they will get a berth in the ACL group stage.

Kedah coach Aidil Sharin has opted for a tour of Cambodia, where they will play league champions Visakha on Jan 8, followed by Boeung Ket Angkor (Jan 10), Angkor Tiger (Jan 12) and Phnom Penh Crown (Jan 14).

The Singaporean coach, who guided Kedah to the 2019 FA Cup title, said the tour would serve as their team building programme as well.

“Our season starts early compared to the other M-League teams because of our ACL commitments. There’s a perception that Hong Kong teams are inferior to M-League teams but it’s actually very wrong, ” said Aidil.

“The Hong Kong league is ongoing so their players will be fit. On top of that, they several naturalised players in their roster. As for us, we have six new players including imports so we need to get our preparation right. I believe the tour of Cambodia is the right one for us.”

“Cambodian clubs have a lot of input from Japan and we see that they have similarities to Hong Kong teams. We will hire an expert in team-building for the tour because we need all the players to be on the same page.”

“We could have gone to Thailand or Indonesia but we could end up wasting time in traffic. On top of that, the nightlife could be a distraction to the players. In Cambodia, we will stay in the outskirts of the city to avoid distractions.”

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