A BIG smile enveloped Gabriel Quak's face as he and his Singapore team-mates trained at the 30,000-capacity Zayyarthiri Stadium for the first time yesterday.
"It feels like a miracle," the 23-year-old winger told The Straits Times later.
But he was not referring to the carpet-like grass pitch, described by coach Aide Iskandar as the "best football field I've ever laid my eyes on".
Rather, Quak was thankful that he had recovered from a hamstring strain sustained a fortnight ago, which nearly robbed him of his final shot at SEA Games football gold.
Several plasma injections later, he is fit and raring to go for tomorrow's opener against Laos.
"I'm pain-free for the first time in a while, thanks mainly to our physio Nurhafizah (Sujad)," he said chirpily, giving two thumbs up when he was quizzed on his fitness.
Aide welcomed the return of the LionsXII winger, whose guile and probing runs were missed in recent friendlies.
"Gabriel looks good and I won't hesitate to start him if need be," said the former national captain.
Only left-back Shakir Hamzah missed training yesterday, owing to a bruised ankle.
But the Young Lions were not all happy campers at their remote hotel, which is a 45-minute drive from the stadium.
While the Laos and Brunei players lounged and mingled freely with reporters, the Singaporeans cut a grumpy lot, marching in with their heads lowered to the dining room at the three-star Royal Kumudra hotel.
One team official stopped Singapore media from taking pictures of the players, claiming it was their "alone time".
Aide, however, denied that pressure or boredom - a factor at overseas tournaments where players come out of their rooms only for meals and training - had got to his Under-23 squad, who were among the first athletes to arrive on Tuesday.
"The players were told what to expect before arriving and have been very professional about it so far," he noted.
"They've got a job to do - we can't afford to take our foot off the pedal."
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