National team venture abroad ahead of tight playing schedule


By ERIC SAMUEL

PETALING JAYA: The national football teams under Englishman Allan Harris will go to Oman and the Czech Republic for exposure as they prepare for various tournaments this year. 

A 10-day trip to Oman is scheduled for the end of May and a playing tour to Prague in the Czech Republic is due from June 26 to July 7.  

The Malaysians have also been invited to compete in the LG Tournament in Vietnam in September. 

The war in Iraq and the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) have affected the national teams' preparations, with the cancellation of at least five friendly matches against visiting teams and also their proposed playing tour of Bangkok last month. 

There are four major assignments this year for the national teams. The Under-22 boys will play in the pre-Olympics from May 3-Oct 18 and the Vietnam SEA Games from Dec 1-15, an Under-23 competition. The senior team will feature in the FA Premiership League (FAPL) Asia Cup from July 25-27 and the pre-Asian Cup from Aug 19 to Feb 18 next year. 

A relieved Harris said he had badly wanted the Under-22 boys to play in international matches before they open their pre-Olympic campaign against Turkmenistan in the second round. Malaysia will host the first-leg at the Shah Alam Stadium on May 3. The return-leg will be played at the Ashqabat Olympic Stadium on June 7. 

“It's nobody's fault,'' said Harris, whose Under-22 side had played only against the visiting Maldives national team (1-1) and the Pahang Premier I side (2-2) since the beginning of the year.  

The Under-22 boys. who comprise a mixture of national players and rookies, left for Australia last night to play two friendly matches against club sides.  

They are scheduled to return on June 29. Harris is bringing along 22 boys and will shortlist the final 18 upon their return home. 

“The two matches will allow me to narrow the players down for the pre-Olympics. There is competition for places and some of the boys from the Under-21 squad will be pushing the seniors for places,'' said Harris, who has 12 core players from the Under-22 squad, which will play in the senior team as well. 

Meanwhile, tickets for the pre-Olympic match between Malaysia and Turkmenistan at the Shah Alam Stadium on May 3 are priced at RM10. Kick-off is at 8.45pm. 

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