PETALING JAYA: National coach Allan Harris has reiterated that players in the final phase of training for the pre-Olympic tournament will not be released for domestic competitions.
The Englishman, whose team checked into camp at the Wisma FAM in Kelana Jaya here yesterday, said that he had made the compromise to call the players in yesterday instead of April 1.
“I have done my part and I hope they would keep theirs (State FAs and clubs) by not interfering in my work. I have a job to do and they have to decide whether they want a good M-League or a good national team,” said Harris.
The Negri Sembilan FA (NSFA) have already requested for the release of their national players for the FA Cup quarter-finals against Premier I defending champions Perak. The first-leg match will be played tomorrow and the return leg will be held on April 19.
Negri have four players in the national team. They are defenders Norhafiz Zamani Misbah, K. Rajan, Yusri Dermaraju and midfielder Saiful Sabtu.
Harris said that his plans had already been affected by the current situation in the world – the war in Iraq and the spread of the deadly illness, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).
The squad's two-match playing tour of Bangkok, which was scheduled for April 15-21, has been cancelled because of the SARS threat.
Attempts to bring the Thais here have also drawn a nought, leaving Harris with no choice but to test out his boys in friendly matches against M-League teams.
“There is nothing we can do about it. In fact, other national associations are also affected. The only confirmation now are two friendly internationals against the Jordanian national team here on April 25 and 28,” said Harris.
Malaysia open their pre-Olympic campaign in the second round against the winner of the first-round match between Turkmenistan and India. The first-leg match will be played in Kuala Lumpur on May 3 and the return leg is scheduled for June 7.
If Harris and his boys progress to the Finals of the Asian qualifiers, the team will be involved in home and away matches between Aug 30 and Oct 18. The 12 finalists will be divided into three groups and the group champions will advance to the Olympics in Athens in 2004.
The M-League will resume competition in Premier I and II on April 22. Teams involved in the FA Cup will not have the services of their national players for the quarter-finals, semi- finals (May 10 and 17) and the final (May 31).