Friday, 6 January 2012

Olympic squad ready for challenge in Singapore league

Ong Kim Swee turned out to be the most outstanding local coach last year following his Under-23 team's success at the Sea Games and Asian Zone Olympic Qualifiers.

But this year the former international foresees a more difficult season as he sets out to groom his team for three priority international tournaments (June's AFC Under-22 Qualifiers; 2013 Sea Games; 2014 Asian Games) over the span of three years.

Kim Swee named 29 players with 10 of them members of the national Under-19 squad for the Young Tigers' mission in the S-League, which starts next month.

The 42-year-old said the S-League would be a perfect platform for his players to gain exposure.

"It is not just about the S-League. We are competing in it for experience. I am thinking about the future and I believe our stint in this league will help us achieve our targets," said Kim Swee yesterday.

"I've picked a young team with 23 of them eligible for the AFC Under-22 Qualifiers. This batch will also form the core of next year's Sea Games and the 2014 Asian Games squads.

The Tigers squad reported for their first training session of the year at the National Sports Council (NSC) training ground in Bukit Jalil yesterday. They will break camp before Chinese New Year.

Kim Swee's focus will then shift to the Olympic Qualifiers against Bahrain on Feb 5, where the yet-to-be announced squad face Saudi Arabia in a friendly on Jan 31.

On the target set for the S-League, he said he would be happy with a top-five finish.

"It would be tough as teams in Singapore are allowed a maximum of five foreign players. I've told my players that I want only good results. I want them to achieve my target," said Kim Swee.

He  said his team would be based in Kuala Lumpur instead of Johor Baru during the S-League.

"I've requested for the change. We rather travel from KL. Our S-League matches will be in Singapore," he added.

THE SQUAD -- Mahali Jasuli (captain), Affizie Faisal, V Kalaichelvan, Syahid Zaihon, Izzaq Faris Ramlan, Shahril Saari, Fadhli Shas, Wan Zack Haikal, Thamil Arasu, Irfan Fazail, Wan Zaharul Nizam, Izham Tarmizi, Ferris Danial, Ahmad Hazwan, Fandi Othman, D Saarvindran, Garry Steven Robbat, Amer Saidin, Syahrul Azwari, Farhan Abu Bakar, Nazirul Naim, Shahrul Saad, Nazmi Faiz, Syazwan Tajuddin, Akmal Ishak, Azizan Nordin, Nur Areef Kamaruddin, Firdaus Muhammad, Izuan Salahuddin.

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