| JAKARTA (8 July 2008) – Throwing caution to the wind is certainly the last thing on their minds as the teams look forward to the first day of the AFF Under-16 Youth Championship which begins tomorrow at the Stadion Lebak Bulus.
At the pre-tournament press conference this afternoon at the Hotel Sultan in Jakarta, the five team managers/coaches admitted to the importance of the championship but refused to be drawn into assessing their opponents.
Bahrain’s team manager Omran Abdulla, whose team will begin their campaign against a confident Australian side, said that while the concentration is on the AFF meet, the ultimate target would be the AFC finals in Uzbekistan later in the year.
“Our aim is of course to win the championship – after all, we travel all the way here not to be tourists,” said Omran.
“This championship is part of our development programme where we came here after spending some time in Malaysia where we played two matches.
“Certainly, this meet is an important continuous preparation for us (for Uzbekistan).”
With the general consensus being that they are the firm favourites to win the tournament due to their physical advantage, Australian head coach Martyn Crook said that they are taking a more practical outlook instead.
“We’ve had no international camp since last year although I will say that we are using this meet as a slow build-up to Uzbekistan,” added Martyn.
“We are looking forward to the competition ahead but like Bahrain, we are focusing more on Uzbekistan and using this meet to better prepare our team.”
With hosts Indonesia not taking to the field tomorrow, Singapore will be playing in the second game of the day against Malaysia.
Singapore team manager Tay Peng Kee stated that the AFF U16 championship is an opportunity for his team to use as a benchmark for the AFC meet.
“What’s lacking in the Asean region is an international youth tournament and that is why we are grateful for this meet,” added Peng Kee.
“I know that size is an advantage (for Australia) but it is not everything and the fact is that at the last Lion City Cup, we only lost to Australia 1-0. So that is saying a lot.”
Malaysian team manager Wan Erjunaidi Wan Mohamad said that the lack of a calibre youth tournament has forced them to go to Uzbekistan for matches.
“We were in Uzbekistan before coming to Jakarta and just like it was there, this tournament is a chance for us to get the right exposure in preparation for the AFC meet,” added Erjunaidi.
“It will be close against Singapore but I think that it will give us the right rhythm to kick start our campaign.”
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