The Malaysia national under-22 team training camp in preparations for the AFC U-23 qualifying tournament couldn't have started off on a more negative note as only six players turned up on the first day of reporting on Wednesday. The balance 20 players were held back by their respective teams and this throws a giant spanner in the plans that Datuk Ong Kim Swee has for his team.
Adam Nor Azlin and Syahmi Safari; Amierul Hakimi Awang (Terengganu), Ahmad Khairil Anuar Zamri (Perak), Irfan Zakaria (Kuala Lumpur) and Danial Amier Norhisham (Felda United) were the only ones who reported for the camp on the first day as Ong and team manager, Datuk Wira Yusof Mahadi worked to come to an agreement with the teams for the remaining 20.
As the under age tournament comes on a non-FIFA calendar dates, the teams have reserved their rights not to release their players for the camp - citing the need for them in the upcoming domestic fixtures but Ong and Yusof have managed to work out an agreement that will see the squad increase almost on a daily basis.
The remaining 15 players will report in stages with Arif Fadzillah Abu Bakar (T-Team) on 7th July; Syazwan Zaipol Bahari (PKNP FC) on 8th July; Haziq Nadzli and Safawi Rasid (JDT), Syazwan Andik Ishak (JDT II) with Adib Zainudin and N Thanabalan (Felcra FC) on 9th July and Raphi Azizan Mariappen (PJ Rangers) on 10th July.
Five Kedah players - Ifwat Akmal Chek Kassim, Ariff Farhan Md Isa, Farhan Roslan, Syafiq Ahmad and Amirul Hisyam Awang Kechik along with Tommy Mawat Bada (Sarawak) and Danial Ashraf Abdullah (Kelantan) will report on the 12th July.
However question marks still remain with five players - Pahang's Matthew Davies and Nor Azam Azih, Penang's Syamer Kutty, Jafri Chew and S. Kumaahran. Neither teams are prepared to release the players whom they considered to be a vital part of their starting XI and a consensus have yet to be reached with the two teams.
So poor was the turn-out and the subsequent staggered arrival of players, the team had intended to delay the planned friendly match against Myanmar U22 from the 13th July to 14th July but information received from the Myanmar Football Association was that flight tickets have already been booked which meant that a change of fixture date couldn't be accommodated.
With the squad expected to depart for Bangkok for the qualifers on 17th July, it leaves Ong with just a couple of days training with the full squad, if it comes to that. This puts the time spent earlier when they squad last convened and their subsequent playing tour in China, in a more crucial light.
The turn-out problem is not expected to repeat itself for the South-East Asian (SEA) Games preparations starting from early August as teams have already given their pledge that the players would be released, according to information provided by Yusof.
Full press-conference as shown in the video below.