The hazy condition in Kuala Lumpur could work in favour of Malaysia football coach Tan Cheng Hoe and his team when they battle against UAE in the 2022 Fifa World Cup qualifier later tonight.
But the on-going episode of Malaysia and other neighbouring nations being enveloped by smog, no thanks to open burning in Indonesia, has left many wondering if the concerned governments are truly committed in addressing the annual issue.
National Under-22 coach Datuk Ong Kim Swee acknowledged a drop in temperature or poor weather conditions will affect the performance of elite athletes.
“But the haze situation in Kuala Lumpur is not critical at the moment. We have seen worse.”
“I’m sure (national coach Tan) Cheng Hoe and his team are prepared for this situation. The way I see it, our boys will be able to adapt better in such a condition compared to the players from UAE,” added Ong.
Malaysia will want to erase their 2015 nightmare after the team was hammered 10-0 by UAE in the 2018 Fifa World Cup qualifiers in Abu Dhabi.
Ong stressed the Asian Football Confederation and National Sports Institute would issue warnings or raise concerns if the air quality drops further tonight.
Kuala Lumpur recorded an ‘unhealthy’ Air Pollution Index reading of 147 this morning while Sri Aman in Sarawak is the worst hit with a reading of 200 (very unhealthy).
An API reading of between 0 and 50 is good; 51 to 100 moderate; 101 to 200 unhealthy; 201 to 300 very unhealthy; and 301 and above is deemed hazardous.
Ong said he cannot recall a time when he or his team played competitive football under such conditions.
“Well, we’ve played and seen matches stopped when flares were burnt but that’s different.”
Malaysia, once again, offered to assist Indonesia to put out its raging fires in Kalimantan and Sumatra. Such pledges have been made repeatedly in the past.
Smog hits many parts of the region during these months as jungles are cleared through open burning.
Face masks have been distributed to schools mainly in Kuching, Samarahan, Sri Aman, Betong, Sarikei and Mukah as Year 6 students undergo their UPSR examinations.
The hazy conditions are expected to linger till the end of the month.