KUALA LUMPUR: The prayers of the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) have been answered as the national footballers will be vaccinated before they head to the United Arab Emirates for the 2022 World Cup-2023 Asian Cup qualifiers in June.
Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Seri Reezal Merican Naina Merican announced this yesterday, saying the Harimau Malaya squad will get their first vaccine shots on April 19 in Putrajaya.
“We will also arrange for them to get the second vaccine shots before they leave for Dubai in May.
“We will do what it takes to protect our athletes when they go overseas for national duty, ” said Reezal, after launching the 100 days Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics countdown for the Malaysian contingent in Bukit Jalil yesterday.
FAM secretary-general Stuart Ramalingam said on Tuesday that the governing body did not want any untoward incidents to happen to the national team, who will be leaving for Bahrain on May 19 for two friendly matches in the Middle East country before departing for Dubai to resume the campaign which was suspended since early last year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Malaysian team coached by Tan Cheng Hoe are due to play the UAE on June 3, followed by Vietnam (June 11) and Thailand (June 15).
“The vaccine is taken as a protection for the squad. We don’t want to lose half of our players when we arrive for the main challenge. If we look at the AFC tournament (Asian Football Confederation Champions League) last year, several teams were forced to withdraw as there were clusters in the teams.
“The vaccine is to ensure the safety of our players who will be travelling and when we arrive in Dubai, there is no worry of an internal cluster. It is optional and is very important, ” said Stuart.
The first group of athletes and officials involved in the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics received their first vaccine shots on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, Reezal also announced that the Malaysian contingent for the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics will adopt the “Demi Malaysia” slogan battle cry.
“Regardless of the state, city or town you come from, you are competing for Malaysia. The whole of Malaysia will be behind you, that’s for sure and I want our opponents to know that they will never have an easy encounter if they meet a Malaysian athlete, ” said Reezal.