MCO not affecting Harimau Malaya’s preparations – Stuart


KUALA LUMPUR – The implementation of the Movement Control Order (MCO) in Kuala Lumpur and several districts as well as sub-districts in Selangor, Terengganu, Johor and Perak has not affected the national football team’s preparations for the second round of the 2022 World Cup/2023 Asian Cup qualifying campaign starting May 16.

Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) secretary-general Stuart Ramalingam (picture) said he was confident that the sports bubble for the Harimau Malaya squad and the training venue that would be used until they leave for the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on May 20, are safe.

“But with this new announcement (on MCO), there may be constraints or a change in SOP (standard operating procedures). We will ensure that all instructions and guidelines given (are complied with) and the national team will not be distracted,” he said.

He said this to reporters after the M3 League 2021 draw ceremony and the signing of a sponsorship agreement between the Malaysian Amateur Football League (AFL) and Extra Joss, last night.

Stuart said the national squad’s preparations for the qualifying campaign are running smoothly, adding that only a few matters related to logistics and training venues were being discussed with the UAE Football Association.

He added that although the team, coached by Tan Cheng Hoe had not played in any competitive match for almost 18 months and only held a central training camp in March, the players’ spirits remained high to go through the remaining three Group G matches.

“The feedback I get from coach Tan was extremely positive…I think we shouldn’t let the negatives distract us, we focus on the positive sides,” he said.

He also confirmed that the Harimau Malaya squad will complete the second dose of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine on Monday (May 10) after getting their first dose last month.

On North Korea’s desire to withdraw from Group H qualifying matches in South Korea due to concerns over the spread of COVID-19, Stuart said he had yet to receive an official decision from the Asian Football Confederation (AFC).

“Let the AFC decide on the position in the group and the slot to the third round later,” he said.

After two friendly matches against Kuwait on May 23 and Bahrain (May 28), Malaysia will resume their more than a year-delayed qualifying campaign against the UAE (June 3), followed by Vietnam (June 11) and Thailand (June 15) in Group G action.