It’s mind over matter as Kim deals with match fitness issues

Gimme your love: Kim Pan-gon (right) wants to get full support from the fans for the World Cup 2026-Asian Cup 2027 second-round qualifiers against Oman in Muscat on March 21 and in Bukit Jalil. — FAM

PETALING JAYA: National football team coach Kim Pan-gon is adopting a mind-over-matter approach as he faces an uphill task to get his players match fit in time for their World Cup 2026-Asian Cup 2027 second-round qualifiers against Oman in Muscat on March 21 and in Bukit Jalil (March 26).

With the league season only starting in May and only a few national players being fully fit for action, most notably Buriram United centreback Dion Cools thanks to his exploits in the Thai League, Pan-gon is focusing on boosting his team’s mental strength and motivation.

“The motivation for the players is getting into the top 18 of Asia by progressing to the next round of the qualifiers. I have to play the mental and motivation game now because physically, we’ll be behind because our league has not started,’’ said the 54-year-old Pan-gon.

“We have to be smart with our prep. If we push too hard, some players may get injured but if we push too softly, they may not be fit enough.

“So, we have to plan well and come up with a game system that suits us in the next two matches against Oman.”

Pan-gon also urged the Malaysian public to be supportive of him and his players, and understand the situation that they are going through.

“We must all stay on the positive side and we’re hopeful of accomplishing something. In the Asian Cup, we lost badly in the first game, and some members of the media even suggested that I should quit.

“That isn’t fair, as they have to consider that in the last two years, we gave the people a lot of joy with some good results. So you can’t decide my fate after just one loss or two.

“For the World Cup qualifiers, we have won two games in Group D but now we have a situation where there is a match fitness issue due to the league not having started.

“This is the time to stay united as we focus on getting into the third round of the World Cup qualifiers. We need all the support we can get.’’

Pan-gon is hoping that his side can at least snatch a point from Oman in Muscat and get full points in Bukit Jalil.

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