BY ZULHILMI ZAINAL Follow on Twitter
Malaysia U23 head coach Datuk Ong Kim Swee is unfazed about the latecomers on his team's first day of their training camp, ahead of their AFC U23 Championship campaign.
Out of the 30 players who had received the call up to the training camp; four were not present on the first day, on Monday. But Kim Swee told the reporters that they all had valid reasons.
"Syafiq [Ahmad] will be married and has asked to be exempted. Tommy [Mawat Bada] will only report tomorrow (Wednesday), as flights have been delayed Sarawak due to the monsoon. Amierul Hakimi [Awang] meanwhile will arrive tonight.
"Everyone else has arrived on time for the first training session, and I believe that by the 4th everyone will have reported for duty," said Kim Swee before leading the training on Monday.
Asked about his plans in terms of friendly matches, he answered that two encounters have been confirmed, against local clubs.
However, when given a suggestion to play friendlies against Middle Eastern sides as all three of his team's opponents in Group C of the tournament are from the region, Ong ruled out this possibility.
"It's almost impossible for us to arrange friendly matches against them (Middle Eastern sides) unless we head there ourselves. I don't think it is necessary, as it entails us travelling there before going to China [for the tournament].
"We will probably play more friendlies in Korea (where Malaysia will undergo acclimatisation and the second part of their training camp), including one in China against another team that have also qualified for the finals but were drawn in another group," explained the former Malaysia senior team coach.
Commenting on the appointment of former Selangor and Malaysia player Khan Hung Meng as the team's second assistant coach, Ong responded that he was hoping that the new hire will help sharpen the team's attack.
"Khan Hung Meng begins his new role today, and he is a former Malaysia international. He is not a newcomer to the coaching job, in fact he has been involved with the AFC (Asian Football Confederation), and he will be an asset to us.
"During his playing days he was a formidable attacker, and his experience both as a player and a coach will help us, especially in terms of improving our forwards in the coming competitions," he remarked.
The centralised camp will take place at the FAM headquarters in Kelana Jaya until December 17. They will then continue the camp in Mokpo, South Korea, before leaving for Nanjing, China on December 30 for the AFC U23 Championship finals. The Young Tigers' first group match will be against Iraq, on January 10.