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Kim Swee and Bima want fans to set aside off-field issues

THE Malaysia-Indonesia rivalry is all set to be reignited when they clash in the men’s football semi-final at the Shah Alam Stadium tonight.
A controversy over last weekend’s opening ceremony, where the Indonesian flag was published upside down in the souvenir booklet, left a sour taste in the Indonesian fans’ mouth.
And that could well ignite the powderkeg clash, especially with 70,000 Malaysian fans and 10,000 Indonesian supporters crammed into the 80,000-capacity stadium.
So, it was not surprising that yesterday’s pre-match press conference saw both teams’ coaches asking their fans to keep their emotions in check.
National Under-23 team coach Datuk Ong Kim Swee hopes that the fans will get to enjoy a good game of football.
“We need to set aside other issues. I hope the match will not be affected by any negativity and, most importantly, both teams will be able to give their best,” said Kim Swee.
Indonesia’s assistant coach Bima Sakti also urged the fans to keep a cool head.
“We have fought very hard to be in the semi-finals. I hope that fans from Indonesia and Malaysia will be able to control their emotions as this is only a football match ... nothing else,” said the former international.
Malaysia advanced to the last four after winning all four of their Group A matches.
But that has come at a cost as Kim Swee is sweating over the fitness of striker S. Kumaahran and defender Ariff Farhan Isa, who picked up injuries in the group stage.
Malaysia also hold a psychological advantage over Indonesia, having beaten them 3-0 in the 2018 AFC Under-23 Championship qualifiers in Bangkok last month.
But Kim Swee begs to differ.
“The Indonesians have improved since the AFC Under-23 qualifiers. They are on an unbeaten run after losing to us in Bangkok,” said Kim Swee, who led Malaysia to the SEA Games gold by beating the hosts at Jakarta 2011.
“Indonesia were in a tough group here but they still managed to qualify for the semi-finals. That shows their credibility.
“Our boys are in good shape and we just need to execute our game plan properly.
“I don’t need to give the players any extra motivation because the crowd at the stadium will surely spur them on.”
Indonesia qualified for the semi-finals after finishing second behind Thailand in Group B.
However, they will be without skipper Hamsamu Yama, midfielder Muhammad Hargianto and striker Marinus Wanewar as they are all suspended after picking up two yellow cards in the group stage.
Bima believes that their replacements will be able to cover sufficiently and is counting on seasoned Evan Dimas to pull the strings in midfield.
“We have been rotating the squad to make sure all our players are fresh.
“We will miss some players tomorrow (today) through suspension, so we need to work together as a team,” said Bima.
The stage is set for an explosive game but let’s hope the fans won’t spoil the show.
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