Football: Kelantan match postponement a blessing in disguise for LionsXII

LionsXII footballers, from left, Firdaus Kasman, Madhu Mohana, Samuel Benjamin and Sufian Anuar training at the Yishun Stadium on Feb 12, 2015. -- ST PHOTO: LIM SIN THAI
LionsXII footballers, from left, Firdaus Kasman, Madhu Mohana, Samuel Benjamin and Sufian Anuar training at the Yishun Stadium on Feb 12, 2015. -- ST PHOTO: LIM SIN THAI

Although they will spend an extra day away from home and largely cooped up in the hotel, LionsXII coach Fandi Ahmad is taking positives ahead of Sunday's Malaysian Super League (MSL) game at Kelantan.

Originally scheduled for Saturday night, the football fixture is delayed by a day as the northern state is in mourning after the death of Nik Aziz Nik Mat, the spiritual leader of the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS).

Sounding calm and relaxed on Friday evening in Kota Baru, Fandi said: "This may disrupt our preparations but we have to respect the decision.

"I have told the boys not to switch off even though we now have an extra day of rest. It (the postponement) is a positive because it will make a lot of difference for the players with injuries."

Centre-back Afiq Yunos has been passed fit after recovering from gout while captain Isa Halim and left-back Hafiz Sujad are winning their battle against knee injuries.

After touching down in Kelantan yesterday evening, Fandi gave the team time off after dinner. And while Kota Baru may lack the big city lights, the coach is keeping the players occupied until kick-off on Sunday night.

He said: "This is a good time for team bonding. Apart from training, there will be activities like watching videos together. This also means we have an extra day of treatment for the injured players."

The match against the Red Warriors is the LionsXII's second fixture of the new MSL season. Last Saturday, the team began its campaign with a 5-3 home win over Malaysian police outfit PDRM at Jalan Besar Stadium.

Kelantan coach George Boateng, who played in the English Premier League with Middlesbrough, said: "This (the postponement) is not something negative. We have to respect the decision.

"The extra day does not make a difference for my players as we are at home. To them, it's another day in paradise. But it will not be easy for the LionsXII. They are away from home and such changes will be more disturbing.

"However, I want my players to keep their focus. The postponement means that I have an extra day to kick their butts in training. They are fit and hungry."