KUALA LUMPUR, April 15 – Questions are being asked if it was a well-scripted ‘sandiwara’ script for political mileage after Sports Minister, Datuk Seri Reezal Merican Naina Merican announced that the national football squad will get their Covid-19 vaccination on April 19 (Monday).
It was a U-turn within 48 hours after the minister had announced on Wednesday (April 13) that his ministry cannot give a guarantee that the Harimau Malaya squad will receive their Covid-19 jabs before traveling to the Middle East.
For a team that carries the nation’s flag with pride and dignity with the hope of advancing from the qualifiers in Group G, it deserves to be given better treatment…not second class treatment before the U-turn.
Do not politicize sports for political mileage which is a norm in Malaysia. Everyone knows that politicians thrive on the massive publicity in sports – a nd there is no denying that politicians love to get into the thick of everything in sports, more so when there is SUCCESS.
For the record, Malaysia is well placed to stay in contention. Malaysia is currently in second place with nine points after Vietnam (11 points) after five matches. Thailand is third on eight points, and UAE, with a match in hand, is on six points. Indonesia is at the bottom without a point.
On Thursday, it was a different tune from the minister with a positive note. It is a welcome gesture from the minister but in the first place, he should have worked out a better plan knowing that Harimau Malaya is racing against time in preparations.
Harimau Malaya should have been given priority and placed into the first group of national athletes and not into the wait and see category.
The Sports Ministry should have worked things out with Coordinating Minister Khairy Jamaluddin, himself a former sports minister.
Harimau Malaya is scheduled to leave for Dubai on May 19 and play two friendly matches there against Kuwait and Bahrain before flying to the United Arab Emirates.
The remaining matches in World Cup 2022/Asia Cup 2023 qualifiers from Group G will be played on a carnival basis in the UAE.
Malaysia will face the UAE on June 3, Vietnam (June 11), and Thailand (June 15). The matches will be played on a carnival basis in the UAE.