It wasn't the start of the journey that Malaysia Under-23 head coach Ong Kim Swee wanted for this team for the 2019 Southeast Asian (SEA) Games.
First of all the squad had to be split into two traveling teams on different flights, one at 8:25am and the other at 11:05am on Saturday. But delays to the first flight meant that the later flight eventually took off earlier than the first one. Then upon arrival in Manila, the traffic woes further complicated matters on the ground.
But all that is increasingly becoming part and parcel of a multi-events competitions like the SEA Games and Kim Swee will not let that disturb his preparations as he looks to pit his wits against a familiar opponent in Velizar Popov who is the head coach of Myanmar U23, having formerly taken charge of Kelantan in the Malaysia Super League.
"I believe that this is a totally different SEA Games. This time we have two overage players. You can say that we are the favourites but the inclusion of the two players and the preparations the others teams have had means that we can't be overconfident. It won't be decided after the first game, to qualify we need to be consistent.
"There's always an advantage when a coach has worked in other countries. We know he (Popov) has worked in Kelantan and is well respected. It's not going to be easy. He knows a few of our players. We need to keep focus and I hope we can get a positive result," said Kim Swee in the press-match press conference held on Sunday.
Because of the delays, the Malaysian team were forced to leave for training as soon as they checked into their hotel and still had to endure a two-hour journey to reach the training ground. Kim Swee is understood to be putting in a request to have their trainings at the Rizal Memorial Stadium instead, which is only a 10 minutes walk from their hotel.
Malaysia were not alone in the problems that they faced with Thailand having to cancel their training yesterday because of the traffic jam while the Timor Leste squad were made to wait for hours at the airport before they were picked up and it got worse for them when they were taken to the wrong hotel.
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