When the SEA Games football team left Wisma FAM for the journey by bus to Singapore – which took about six hours – coach Datuk Ong Kim Swee had plenty of time to ponder on Malaysia’s hopes for the football gold – often described as ‘Mother of All Golds’.
This is Kim Swee’s third SEA Games and there are reasons why the Malacca-born former international is taking a cautious approach after Malaysia failed to retain the gold medal at the 27th edition of the biennial games in Myanmar in 2013 – finishing fourth.
Malaysia were the champions in Laos in 2009 under Datuk K. Rajagobal. Kim Swee retained the gold in Indonesia in 2011. It was a different story for Kim Swee in 2013 when he battled a spate of injuries to key players and came off with contrasting fortunes.
This time around Kim Swee, although taking a less prepared team to Singapore compared to the preparations in 2011, said: “Our preparations for this year’s SEA Games is nothing compared to the 2011 games in Indonesia and also the 2013 edition in Myanmar, but this time around I have a squad of fit players.
“So much so I had a very difficult task in naming my final squad to Singapore. But it does not make our chances of regaining the (football) gold any stronger,” said Kim Swee from Singapore.
Malaysia are drawn in the Group of Death which is made up of Thailand, always strong favourites for the gold, Vietnam, Laos, Brunei and Timor Leste.
“I had plenty of time to reflect on the team during the long journey from Wisma FAM to Singapore by bus. It was good change to take a comfortable trip.
“Let’s not put pressure on ourselves by focusing on winning the gold. It is best we take one match at a time and take off from there. No team is going to be an easy opponent and we have to respect even the so-called football minnows.”
In the same breath Kim Swee added that “there is a lot of familiarity” in the environment. Malaysia’s matches will be played at the Bishan Stadium – a stadium all too familiar for Kim Swee and some of his players during their stint in Singapore while playing in the S-League in 2013.
“Some of the players are still in the team and they are familiar with the surroundings,” said Kim Swee, referring to players like skipper Fandi Othman and Gary Steven Robbats.
As a parting shot, Kim Swee added: “The first step is always important and this means we have to kick start our campaign with a win against Timor Leste.”
Malaysia face Timor Leste on Saturday.