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KUALA LUMPUR, April 15 -- “It’s a huge weight off their shoulders.”
That’s how Harimau Malaya team manager Datuk Mohd Yusoff Mahadi described the national football players’ reaction to being guaranteed the COVID-19 vaccine jabs as they gear up for the three crucial 2022 World Cup/2023 Asian Cup second round qualifiers in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in June.
Harimau Malaya team manager Datuk Mohd Yusoff Mahadi said the latest development had come as a relief for head coach Tan Cheng Hoe’s men ahead of their Group G matches against the UAE (June 3), Vietnam (June 11) and Thailand (June 15).
In fact, Mohd Yusoff viewed the assurance on the team getting the vaccine jab had also boosted the players and officials’ confidence as they plan to leave for the UAE earlier for two friendly matches against Kuwait (May 23) and Bahrain (May 28).
“The health of our players is guaranteed. They can now go (to the UAE) with peace of mind and not worry or be concerned about being infected (by the virus). For us, it is very important that the national team are vaccinated before we leave for the UAE,” he told Bernama today.
Previously, it was rumoured that there was no guarantee the Harimau Malaya squad would get the COVID-19 vaccine jabs before they leave for the UAE, thus raising concern among the players and coaches.
However, Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Seri Reezal Merican Naina Merican yesterday confirmed that all 78 individuals, including players and team officials, as well as Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) president Datuk Hamidin Mohd Amin would receive the first dose of the vaccine jab in Putrajaya on Monday (April 19).
Meanwhile, Mohd Yusoff said more than 23 players would be called up to receive the first dose of the jab, adding that this would help in the management of the team, especially in terms of preparation, apart from giving them an ideal period of time to take action should any of the players suffer any side effects from the inoculation.
“The second dose will be given on May 10, 21 days after the first dose. So, we have more than a week after the second dose to see how they react to the vaccine before we fly off to the UAE on May 19,” he said.
Malaysia are well-placed to qualify for the 2023 Asian Cup Finals as they are currently second in the Group G standings of the 2022 World Cup/2023 Asian Cup Qualifiers after collecting nine points from five matches.