AS of today, it is 421 days since Tan Cheng Hoe was able to gather the national team together and that was in the 2-0 win over Indonesia in the 2022 World Cup/2023 Asian Cup qualifier on Nov 19, 2019.
It has been a long wait for Harimau Malaya to assemble again but the lapse will soon be over after FAM reached an understanding with the government for a 10-day training camp.
The proposed quarantine-based camp has been given initial approval by the authorities, pending the details of the safety measures. That would mean a bio-secure “bubble” being enforced for the duration of the training camp.
Everyone involved in the training camp will be tested for Covid-19 and there will be no outside interaction for the whole squad during the training period.
The FAM statement on Tuesday proposed that the facilities at the National Sports Council (NSC) in Bukit Jalil be used for the national training camp.
However, there is concern that the field and its facilities are not fenced up to stop people’s movement, thus making it “vulnerable” to infections in the middle of a Covid-pandemic.
Perhaps the best solution would be to seek the consent of Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT) in using their Padang Seri Gelam training facilities as they have better security. And many national players are from JDT.
Coach Tan Cheng Hoe, who is looking forward to getting his men together for the first time in over a year, said he will accept whatever decision by the management.
However, he felt that the ideal place for his team to have the best possible preparation is JDT’s Padang Seri Gelam.
“Ultimately the decision lies with FAM whether it’s at NSC or JDT. I will comply with whatever decision made as my main concern is the work that we do for the training camp,” Cheng Hoe told Timesport.
“But of course, if we are able to use the JDT facilities, it would be great as everyone knows that it is the best in the country, and it would definitely help the players.
“The purpose of this camp is to polish up the team in terms of tactical understanding. After so long not being together, this camp will hopefully help boost back team spirit. I’m sure everyone will be happy to assemble again.”
If FAM submits a request for Padang Seri Gelam, it would not be the first time that the national team train at the Southern Tigers’ base.
Previously, national head coach Eduardo “Nelo” Vingada also held his training camp in Johor Baru with Cheng Hoe as the assistant to the Portuguese.
The state-of-the-art facilities at JDT, which is the best in Southeast Asia, and its better security can help the national team prepare better for their pre-World Cup matches against the United Arab Emirates (March 20), Vietnam (March 25) and Thailand (June 15).