BY ZULHILMI ZAINAL Follow on Twitter
Two days into the Malaysia U22 training camp ahead of the 2017 SEA Games, matters of fitness and recovery are foremost on Young Tigers head coach Datuk Ong Kim Swee's mind.
Most of his men have joined the camp from their clubs; having undergone as many as 11 matches in a period of 36 days and Ong told the press on Tuesday that his main concern at the moment is their fatigue.
Understandably, a number of them are exhausted while one of his men may be carrying a serious injury.
"(Main concern is) fatigue and tiredness. The boys have been playing in so many matches so in the first two days of training I have been resting Amirul (Hisyam Awang Kechik), Ariff Farhan (Md Isa), Syamer Kutty (Abba). From the report we have received, they are completely exhausted so they have been given a rest to allow them to recover fully.
"Kumaahran (Sathasivam) seems to have seriously injured his hamstring, and in a few days we have to assess whether he can recover fully in time," revealed Ong at the Sime Darby training ground on Tuesday, after the second day of the training camp.
He too harbours hope that injured Perak midfielder Ahmad Khairil Anuar Ahmad Zamri can still recover in time.
The 22-year old, also known as Beto by his teammates and fans, has joined Ong's set-up since the first day of their training camp in preparation for their three friendly matches in China, earlier in May this year, but was neither selected for the friendlies nor the AFC U23 qualifiers in July, due to a lengthy injury.
Khairil was not listed in the preliminary 27-man SEA Games squad by Ong, but he has been with the squad, undergoing recovery and light training.
Ahmad Khairil Anuar Ahmad Zamri. Photo from MP & Silva
"Beto too may recover soon although he was not listed in the preliminary squad, and he has been training with us.
"I hope his injury will heal in time for me to assess his chances," explained the 2011 SEA Games gold-medal winning coach, adding that he will finalise the 20-man squad this Saturday.
When asked on his solution should any of his players had to be dropped because of injuries, the 46-year old trainer responded that he would not be calling any last-minute additions.
"The 27 players I have now are already sufficient to fill the positions," remarked Ong.
But despite the injuries and fitness concerns, Ong has described the squad's situation going into the tournament as a lot more positive than the 2015 edition. He also feels that this time around, he has a lot more squad depth to draw on.
"(Our situation is) not as bad as the previous SEA Games, when we had a match on every other day. In the coming edition, after we play against Brunei (in the first group match), we'll play Singapore two days after that.
"But afterwards we'll have a four-day break (before the third group match), and then there will be two days (after the last group match) before the semi-final match and the final.
"We have a lot more depth, and I believe whoever play will deliver," pointed out Ong.