KUALA LUMPUR, The Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) has refuted claims that it did not assist Harimau Malaya in the squad's preparation for the two Group D matches of the second round of the 2026 World Cup/2027 Asian Cup Qualifiers against Oman last month. Its president, Datuk Hamidin Mohd Amin said the 'less-than-ideal preparation' by the squad under coach Kim Pan Gon was due to unavoidable technical problems. He said the issue then was not being able to gather the players faced at that time was that the players could not be gathered as it was outside the International Football Federation (FIFA) international match calendar. Hence, he said, it affected the original plan to send the national squad to a central training camp and play two friendly matches in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). "Kim Pan Gon requested to go to the UAE or anywhere to play two friendly matches with a club. We looked for it, but when we were negotiating, some (local) clubs refused to release their players. How can we go with f ive people...we did want to go early (to the UAE). 'I also spoke to Kim Pan Gon if it was possible not to fight with a club, (but) with a country, but at that time it was outside the FIFA international match calendar... (and) because of that we went to Oman early," he told a press conference after the FAM's 60th annual congress in Subang Jaya, yesterday. He said this in response to the allegation that Harimau Malaya's two defeats to Oman were due to Pan Gon's requests not being fulfilled by FAM. When asked about Pan Gon's request for the 2024/2025 Malaysia League to be played earlier instead of in May, Hamidin said the request could not be accommodated as it could slow down all the preparations made by the Malaysian Football League (MFL). Based on FIFA's regulations on the status and transfer of players, it is not compulsory to release players outside the international match calendar, and this resulted in some of the 33 national players going to the national squad's central training camp at Wisma FAM, Kel ana Jaya, which started on March 8, about a week later due to commitments with their respective clubs. Harimau Malaya's two consecutive 0-2 defeats to Oman in the Group D action of the 2026 World Cup/2027 Asian Cup Qualifiers last month, dropped the squad to third position with six points, three points behind Kyrgyzstan and Oman who collected nine points in the top two positions. The situation requires Malaysia to win in the remaining two matches against Kyrgyzstan and Taiwan in June to qualify for the third round of the 2026 World Cup Qualifiers and secure an early spot for the 2027 Asian Cup as the top two teams in the group. Source: BERNAMA News Agency