BY ZULHILMI ZAINAL Follow on Twitter
One day before the 2018 AFC U-16 Championship kicks off, Lim Teong Kim, the head coach of host country Malaysia, has dismissed the notion that he is under intense pressure to make sure that his boys perform in the tourmanent.
The Malaysia squad comprises youth footballers from the government-run National Football Development Programme (NFDP), and the former Malaysia international and Bayern Munich youth coach has been tasked with leading the Young Tigers as their head coach personally in the tournament. They have been given the objective of reaching the semi-finals, which guarantees a spot in the 2019 U-17 World Cup finals.
In his introductory speech during the pre-tournament press conference, Lim began almost jovially, welcoming Japan, Tajikistan and Thailand head coaches as the host country coach.
"It's nice to see the press providing coverage of the tournament; I welcome members of the press. To my colleagues too, welcome to Malaysia.
"We've been preparing the squad for four years, now it's game time for us. We are the hosts and we'll do our very best," said Lim.
But when asked by a local reporter and a tournament official about the pressure he is under, given the objective and the fact that his charges are the host team, Lim responded defensively, dismissing it as part and parcel of his job.
"Every team here wants to qualify for the World Cup, and we are no different. In terms of pressure... this is my profession. Pressure comes with the job, so I don't know how to answer that. It's either you become a coach and cope with the pressure, or do something else.
"And why do you say there's pressure (as the host country)? I like to play at home, I know the weather, the stadium and the people. There should not be pressure and I must use this opportunity as the coach of the host team. I'd rather it be here than in Japan, where it's cold now this time of the year!" he remarked.
Malaysia kick off the competition against Tajikistan at the Bukit Jalil National Stadium on Thursday, with kick-off at 4.30 pm Malaysian time. Tickets for matches involving Malaysia are priced from RM10 (around USD2.5).
The full tournament fixtures can be viewed and downloaded from here.
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