Garrido's men celebrate Hari Raya 5,890km away from home ahead of Under-23 Asian Cup

KUALA LUMPUR: It's the 10th day since the national youth team arrived in Doha, Qatar, for the Under-23 Asian Cup, scheduled to kick off in five more days.

For most of the 23 players, celebrating Hari Raya Aidilfitri abroad away from their families is a new experience.

However, national Under-23 coach Juan Garrido has a plan to cheer up his men, although he is keeping it under wraps.

To break the monotony of training, the national players were introduced to the racquet sport, Padel at the Padel In - City Center Doha Mall on Tuesday.

"We have planned a Hari Raya celebration with the players and team officials, but it's a secret as we want to lift the players' spirits, despite being away from their families this time," said the Spaniard.

The Young Tigers' tune-up for their Group D campaign has not been ideal, but Garrido reckons that his men are on the right track.

The team played four friendlies in the build-up to the tournament, securing a 2-1 victory and a 1-1 draw against India here last month, followed by a 2-1 defeat to China on April 4 and a 1-0 loss to Qatar on April 7.

Garrido's men will play another closed-door friendly with Qatar before kicking off their campaign against Uzbekistan on April 17, followed by matches against Vietnam (April 20) and Kuwait (April 23).

The former Barcelona chief scout said the players understand well what they need to improve and will use the remaining time to prepare well for the tournament.

"It was a good experience for the team, and we have a week more to prepare the team and work together," said the 44-year-old Garrido.

"We know what we need to improve and we know our strengths. We have to use the time that we have well to prepare before the competition begins."

A top-three finish in the Under-23 Asian Cup will earn Malaysia a ticket to the Paris Olympics in July.

The fourth-placed team will take on Guinea for the last ticket to Paris.

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