JOHOR BARU: The coming Chinese New Year and school holidays have forced at least three states - Sarawak, Johor FC and Sabah - to cancel their M-League pre-season training-cum-playing tours.
The festive season blues forced the teams to call off their proposed tours due to heavy flight bookings. The weeklong school holidays begin on Jan 30 while the Chinese New Year falls on Feb 1.
Sarawak were scheduled to go on a weeklong playing tour of Johor and Singapore from Monday.
Johor FC and Sabah had lined up a playing tour of Australia before the season kicks off with the Charity Shield match between FA Cup champions Penang and Malaysia Cup champions Selangor at the State Stadium in Batu Kawan on Feb 9.
Sarawak coach Jalil Ramli described the cancellation of the Johor-Singapore tour as a “big disappointment” as it deprived the Crocodiles the much-needed warm-up matches to get into stride for their opening match against Pahang at the Darulmakmur Stadium in Kuantan on Feb 11.
“We were able to get bookings for flight out of Kuching but because of the Chinese New Year and school holidays we couldn’t get any return flights,” said Jalil from Kuching yesterday.
Sarawak had arranged matches against Singapore clubs Singapore Armed Forces and Geylang and Johor FC.
The Crocodiles had also lined up a friendly against Negri Sembilan in Johor Baru.
With the tour off, Sarawak will instead head to Kota Kinabalu for a quadrangular involving Sarawak, Sabah, Brunei, who will be playing in Premier II in the M-League, and a team from Indonesia.
“The quadrangular is some consolation. It will enable me to try out the players and work out the strategies,” added Jalil, who is already one player down even before the start of the season when he lost his first choice goalkeeper Asri Sanusi.
The Johor-born Asri, who played for Johor and Malacca before moving to Sarawak last year, is recovering from surgery following a hairline fracture to his hip bone sustained during training at Sri Aman, Kuching, three weeks ago.
Sabah coach Justin Ganai, who took over the team in mid-season last year after Australian Ken Worden was sacked by the Rhinos, was also looking forward to the Australian tour to try out his players.
The tour would have also served as a reward to the Sabah team for their good run last year when they finished runners-up to Selangor in the Malaysia Cup and third in the Premier I League.
“We have to forget about the tour and instead concentrate on our preparations,” said Justin who was retained after he took Sabah to the Malaysia Cup final.
Sabah have set the elusive Malaysia Cup as their target after losing 0-1 to Selangor last year through a golden goal.
It was Sabah’s second appearance in the Malaysia Cup final.
As for club side Johor FC, they were scheduled to go for a training-cum-playing tour of Sydney, their regular base for pre-season preparations.