Thai FA insulted ‘Harimau Malaya’

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Perhaps amateurs playing a game amongst friends at the weekend could have settled for it, but Malaysia’s FA feel that the “training facilities” provided by Thailand ahead of the crucial second semi-final of the Suzuki Cup are inappropriate for top tier players.

Describing the training site as a “paddy field”, Football Association of Malaysia general secretary Azzuddin Ahmad revealed that he had lodged a formal complaint with Thai FA officials and the ASEAN Football Federation (AFF).

The national team certainly got something of a shock this week when they arrived at the Jaran Buraparat ground in Bangkok – a sodden paddy field-like pitch, with no changing room, toilets, or other basic amenities.

Officials even found broken glass strewn across the site, posing a serious risk of injury to the Tigers.

What is particularly unusual is that it is the off-season in Thailand at the moment so the TFA could easily have arranged to use the facilities of a local team, rather than a plot of empty land for public use.

In contrast, Thailand were given good training facilities in KL for practising at the Maybank Sports Complex in Bangi, before the first leg of the semi-final last weekend.

It comes after Thailand coach Winfried Schaefer was sent off during the 1-1 draw in the Sunday game for remonstrating with players. He argued that he was just passing directions on and that it was in fact Malaysian fans that were misbehaving.

“The AFF should punish them for doing this,” Schaefer said.

“We will do our best to get a clear-cut result. I’d like Thai fans to pack the stadium,” he said.

Thailand were eliminated in the first round of the last competition, having previously won the championship three years ago.

Malaysia meanwhile are the defending champions.

“The FA of Malaysia (FAM) was gracious to Thailand when they were in Kuala Lumpur. I am disappointed (with the facilities in Bangkok),” said Team manager Datuk Seri Subahan Kamal.

“We gave them a police escort, a proper training ground and even granted their request for closed door training but they gave us a paddy field. I think we have better conditioned fields in villages in Malaysia,” he pointed out.

Coach K. Rajagobal, however, refused to be drawn into speculation over whether or not the hosts were trying to sabotage them.

“I am upset. I did not expect this. They needed to get a feel of things but I guess they would only get it tomorrow (today) during official practice at the venue,” he said.

“Definitely, it has disrupted our training today (yesterday). I also wanted to evaluate the condition of our injured players.”

Badminton fans may remember a similar story back in 2008 at the Beijing Olympic Games, when Datuk Lee Chong Wei and his teammates were forced to use training facilities at strange hours while all the prime slots were allocated to the Chinese squad.