'We cannot switch off': Fandi

'We cannot switch off': Fandi
LionsXII coach Fandi Ahmad (above) is hoping that skipper Isa Halim and utility man Hafiz Abu Sujad can benefit from the extra day’s rest.

About 150 fans showed up to watch Malaysian Super League (MSL) side Kelantan train yesterday.

But, apart from the annoyed voice of a mother chiding her son for jumping up and down the stands at the Sultan Muhammad IV Stadium, there was subdued silence.

Kelantan is still in mourning for Nik Aziz, who died on Thursday.

The 84-year-old was the spiritual leader of opposition party Parti Islam SeMalaysia and also served as Kelantan chief minister for two decades.

As a sign of respect, the MSL fixture between Kelantan and the LionsXII, originally scheduled for this evening, has been postponed to tomorrow.

Kick-off is at 8.45pm.

The LionsXII, who sit atop the 12-team MSL standings on goal difference, have lost all three matches played in Kota Baru since they joined the league in 2012.

But LionsXII coach Fandi Ahmad is taking the postponement in his stride.

"It is disruptive to our preparations, but we must show respect and, hopefully, the extra day will help our injured players," said Fandi yesterday.

With skipper Isa Halim and utility man Hafiz Abu Sujad still nursing knee injuries, an extra day's rest could benefit the LionsXII.

"I told the boys to not switch off, the important thing is to keep the players on their toes - we'll have meetings, watch videos, and have team-bonding (activities)," added Fandi, who is hoping that his team can train at the match venue this evening.

With Kelantan coach and former Holland international George Boateng declaring his respect for the former FC Groningen forward yesterday, Fandi will likely get his wish.

"Look at the game the LionsXII played against PDRM, you can't disrespect them," said Boateng of the Singapore side's season-opening 5-3 win last Saturday.

On the same day, Kelantan beat ATM FA 2-0.

"I respect Fandi very much... but I think (the postponement) won't be easy for the LionsXII. They are away from home, that could be disruptive but my boys will be sleeping in their own homes."

Like Fandi, Boateng had to tweak his training programme yesterday, putting his charges through fitness drills, which they wouldn't do if not for the postponement.

"They are fit. They know what to do," he added.

The postponement does not affect only the players.

EXTRA DAY

Singapore fans who travelled north to support the LionsXII will also have to spend an extra day in Kota Baru.

A group of 30 supporters who travelled with tour operator Akbar Hashim was scheduled to leave Singapore last night and return tomorrow morning.

Now they can return only on Monday morning.

"We are driving home straight after the game on Sunday night, and we are targeting to arrive in Singapore latest by 9am on Monday," Akbar told The New Paper.

"It was a bit of a rush rearranging the bus bookings but, thankfully, there were no cancellations. There are some fans who had to make arrangements to arrive late for work on Monday morning."


This article was first published on Feb 14, 2015.
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