The 2017 South-East Asian (SEA) Games kicks off in a week and with a favourable grouping in hand, Malaysia look set to make at least the semi-final stage of the competition.
The four participating teams in the SEA Games that goes under the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) banner are the mens and womens team in football and futsal. They were granted a session with the FAM president, HRH Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim (TMJ) on Sunday ahead of the competitions proper next week.
TMJ huddled amongst the players and officials and spoke to them on what is expected of the players during the tournament. Speaking at the press conference later, TMJ while confident of the respective teams' abilities, doesn't want to burden them with the load of target, especially in men's football.
"Expectations are very high but I do not want to give that pressure to the players. I want them to play with an open mind and motivation. Because we know the whole country is watching but with the recent performances of the U-23, there are a lot positve results and I'm confident that they will do well."
"I believe that the coach has prepared the team well and we should give them the best support we can give to come out with the best result for the country," said Tunku Ismail.
Malaysia do not go into the competitions as clear favourites. Qualification for the AFC U-23 finals was also met with a 3-0 defeat to Thailand, who will be the one to beat in the SEA Games. As such, TMJ wants everyone to be realistic and he intends to support the team over a more long-term outlook.
"In football, you have to be realistic. I'm going to focus on our own team and how we deal with that. We have to come out with the best solution on what we can do. I'm not going to quickly punish the U-23. As the president, I'm going to stand by them and fight for them. Every year we have to improve and that's what we have to achieve," he added.
In the same press conference, it was also announced that every player in the squad that qualified for the AFC U-23 finals will be rewarded with RM25,000 per person. That money is part of the RM4 million gift by the Sultan of Johor, Sultan Ibrahim Ismail.
TMJ also promised that should the Malaysian team reach lands the coveted SEA Games gold medal, FAM will also look to make an effort to rewards the players.
"If we get gold, then of course we would give more. But I also hope that KBS will give some, as they have a lot. Gold makes the country proud and I'm will definitely give more as they deserve it," answered Tunku Ismail when asked.