PETALING JAYA: The national Under-22 football squad’s training programme for the pre-Olympic campaign next month has gone topsy-turvy.
Manager Datuk Ibrahim Saad said that there was nothing much they could do in their preparations because of the war in Iraq and the spread of the deadly illness, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).
“We are in a dilemma. The team need exposure to matches and there is nothing we can do about it at the moment,” said Ibrahim.
He is keeping his fingers crossed that the two friendly international matches scheduled against the visiting Jordanian national teams on April 25 and 28 will go without a hitch.
Malaysia have a first-round bye in the Olympic qualifying tournament. They will play the winners of the match between India and Turkmenistan in the second round. The first-leg match will be played in Kuala Lumpur on May 3 and the return match is scheduled for June 7.
Coach Allan Harris has several new recruits in the 24-member training squad, including Bukit Jalil Sports School’s Zulbadly Ismail Selangor’s P. Gunalan and Kuala Lumpur’s Azralan Azmi.
The Englishman has also roped in four from the national Under-21 squad – striker R. Surendran and defenders Mat Saiful Mohamed, Yusri Dermaraju and M. Ravinthiran.
The four earned the call-up following good performances in the Youth International Tournament last month in which Malaysia lost 0-3 and 0-2 to the national Under-20 sides of Brazil and South Korea respectively.
Last year, the FA of Malaysia (FAM) decided that the national teams should not play friendly matches against the local state teams or clubs. They felt that the national teams should be exposed to higher-level matches against international opponents.
But due to the current state of affairs, Harris has no choice. The team travelled to Kuantan to play against Premier I’s Pahang last night. The match ended in a 2-2 draw.
Since the beginning of the year, the Under-22 squad have played only one international friendly – against the Maldives’ senior side last month. The match ended in a 1-1 draw.