Harimau Malaya locked out of Shah Alam Stadium

The Malaysian football team suffered a setback in its preparations for Tuesday’s huge challenge against the United Arab Emirates after it was forced to change its training venue at the last moment on Sunday.

Just 15 minutes before the scheduled 4pm training session at Kuala Lumpur’s Shah Alam Stadium, where caretaker coach Ong Kim Swee wanted to replicate the closed-door environment the side will face in Tuesday’s joint World Cup and Asian Cup qualifier, they were informed they weren’t allowed to use the pitch.

Several members of the coaching set-up and some reporters arrived at the stadium some 20 minutes before training, only to find it locked with no doorkeeper in sight.

At 3.49pm, the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) media personnel confirmed training had been moved to Wisma FAM.

Ong had hoped to train at the stadium to get a feel of playing without fans as the match against the UAE will be played behind closed doors due to the crowd trouble that halted the match against Saudi Arabia in September.

“We were not allowed to use the stadium as Asian Football Confederation (AFC) rules provide the pitch must be taken care off in days leading to the match,” said Ong.

“It not really an issue in terms of getting comfortable with the pitch … it’s a stadium all the players have played in, some regularly.

“But I wanted to have a close door environment as it is something new to us. We don’t know what it is like to play without fans.”

The Malaysians are preparing to avoid another drubbing at the hands of UAE, who gave Malaysia a footballing lesson in Abu Dhabi in September.

Then, Harimau Malaya’s record-breaking 10-0 loss led to Dollah Salleh’s resignation and FAM enlisted Ong on a temporary basis.

Ong steadied the sinking ship against Saudi Arabia, Laos and Timor Leste, but couldn’t prevent a second consecutive 6-0 loss to Palestine in another concerning defensive display.

The Malaysians are sitting fourth in their five-team group on just four points from six matches and with an alarming minue-24 goal difference.

The Emirati are on 10 points from five matches, three points behind Saudi Arabia, who face Timor Leste in Dili on Tuesday night.

Photo: Courtesy of flickr.com