Hey FAM, did you forget about the national team?
The Malaysia Cup's final round of group matches takes place on November 7-8. Four days later, the Malaysians play Palestine in Hebron in the World Cup qualifier on November 12.
Malaysian coach Ong Kim Swee has requested the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) review the dates to allow more room for Harimau Malaya’s preparations.
Changes to the schedule would be met with criticism, especially considering numerous changes were made during the Malaysia Super League season.
If there is another change, teams would also need to rethink their preparations plans. Travelling fans will have to make changes too.
While it is not feasible to constantly alter the schedule, FAM may have no choice – albeit their doing – but to cater for the plight of the national team.
“I made the request because the dates are too close. Let’s see what the decision is,” Ong told FourFourTwo on Monday.
“If the match goes on in Hebron as scheduled, we need a few days just to travel. We can only fly to Amman in Jordan ... we will need to take buses and pass through several checkpoints to get to Hebron, where it is not safe now.
“This means we won’t have much time to even train. [If FAM changes the schedule] I’ll call around 20 players on October 28 and those from JDT and Perak can join after their Malaysia Cup match on November 4.”
“Ideally, we need to get there a few days earlier to acclimatise. Palestine are strong opponents and showed it in Kuala Lumpur already,” said Ong, who applied for the Malaysian hot seat vacancy yesterday.
On October 12, the FAM competition committee provided two alternative Malaysia Cup schedule – dependant on JDT’s AFC Cup progress. The Southern Tigers qualified for the final on October 31 after a FIFA ban on Kuwait FA disqualified Qadsia SC and this meant the Malaysia Cup fixtures would only take place the following week.
It is clear not much thought was given to the national team. In all fairness, the FIFA’s determined international break is from November 9-17.
Yet, the Palestine-Malaysia tie is one which the Malaysians must get a result to stay in contention for a direct slot in the 2019 Asian Cup final qualifying round.
Going by past practices, the national team has always been allowed to have at least three to four days of preparations. The team could reach just in time for the pre-match press conference and have just one training session before the qualifiers.
Looking at the schedule – which was known well in advance – the competition committee could have been wiser. Overlooking it is not an acceptable answer considering even the 2017 international calendar is up on FIFA’s website.
Will the match in Hebron take place?
The FAM have requested for FIFA to change the venue due to security concerns arising from recent Palestine-Israel tension in Hebron and some other parts of Palestine.
FIFA postponed Palestine’s match against Saudi Arabia on October 13 after the latter cited safety reasons.
“I am concerned of the safety of my players. Even Saudi Arabia didn’t want to play there. I was informed FIFA could decide this week,” Ong said.
“A neutral venue would be ideal. However, considering it could be in one of the Middle Eastern countries, we still would need more time to prepare than presently allocated.”
Palestine, however, hosted the United Arab Emirates (UAE) at the Faysal Al-Husseini Stadium in Al Ram on September 8. The UAE team travelled by bus from Amman and were subject to checks at the Israeli border. Israeli soldiers have introduced more checkpoints due to the tense situation in recent weeks.