INCHEON - There were nudges in ribs, good-natured ribbing about everything from socks to sticks and much laughter at the sidelines of the Seonhak Hockey Stadium yesterday, when the Republic's hockey men had a first look at the arena where they will fight their battles at the Incheon Asian Games.
Looking at the team, you couldn't tell that they were already fighting battles - off the pitch.
One player, Farhan Kamsani, has had to fly back to Singapore to attend the funeral of his fiancee's mother, and will rejoin the team only tomorrow.
Another, key forward Enrico Marican, is still struggling with a hamstring injury that could see him play only a bit-part role in the tourney.
While National Service issues are part and parcel of the Republic's landscape, at least the Singapore Hockey Federation (SHF) managed to obtain permission for Johnson Sivalingam to come to the Asiad, although he will link up with the team only tomorrow.
Coach Solomon Casoojee revealed that tomorrow will be the first time that he will have his full squad together, ahead of Saturday's Group A opener against Malaysia in Group A.
"The first time we will have the entire team together is on the 17th, but one of the strengths of this team is the ability to cope, and move on," Casoojee told The New Paper yesterday.