Friday, February 01, 2019


Malaysia Crying Out For A Club To Challenge Irrepressible JDT

I can only look enviously at Malaysia where today the Super League kicks off. You can't  beat the feeling that comes on the eve of a new campaign where everyone starts level. From a footballing point of view let's hope that interest remains for the duration of the season and we are not left with another one horse race where other clubs are left staring at the heels of Johor Darul Ta'zim as they gallop towards another title.

2018 Champions JDT 22 19 2 1 47-9 59 
23 points clear of second place Perak

2017 Champions JDT 22 15 4 3 50-19 49
9 points clear of second place Pahang

2016 Champions JDT 22 18 4 0 56-14 58
15 points clear of second place Felda United 

2015 Champions JDT 22 14 4 4 36-18 46
7 points clear of second place Selangor

2014 Champions JDT 22 13 5 4 39-22 44
3 points clear of second place Selangor

JDT are blowing every other club out of the water on the field and the onus has to be on other clubs to up their game or we could see the Super League turn into a farce. It is no good saying other countries are also dominated by one or two teams; other countries have far stronger footballing roots. What's the point of being the Galacticos in what is essentially a one team league? And what is the point of supporting another side when you know all you have to look forward to is a fight against relegation?

Sadly two of the larger clubs in the country, Kelantan and Negeri Sembilan, were relegated at the end of last season while Felda United and MISC-MIFA, who get name-checked in my book Support Your Local League - A South East Asian Football Odyssey, fortunately now rebranded as Petaling Jaya City and, perhaps less fortunately, linked with the Manchester City group of clubs, have taken their places in the top flight.

It could be interesting watching PJ City over the season. After just two seasons in the Premier League they earned promotion after runners up Felcra, another government department were disbanded despite finishing third. The idea of naming a football club after a district or a city isn't that common in Malaysian football and this attempt to tap into the large population of PJ could prove to be a smart move. Or they could find themselves coming up against more established clubs like Selangor and PKNS and find themselves out on a limb.

They have kept K Devan as coach. The experienced for international has brought success to the likes of Selangor and Negeri Sembilan in the past but it remains to be see what kind of funds he will be allowed as he seeks to stablise PJ City in the top flight.

Pahang are one team many have predicted to challenge JDT but have all too often fallen short with one second place and two third place finishes since 2014. For some reason they have never been able to maintain the consistency to overtake the rampant JDT. 

Forward Dickson Nwakaeme has returned to the club after time in France and his partnership with Norshahrul Idlan Talaha offers promise for the new season as does the recruitment of young Indonesian winger Saddil Ramdani. The presence of the versatile Singaporean Safuwan Baharudin also offers coach Dollah Salleh options either in the middle or at the back. Crikey, is Safuwan really 27?!

It's always dangerous to predict good things for a football team based on their striking options but who can't fail to be impressed by the attacking options Kuala Lumpur coach Yusri Che Lah has at his fingertips. Brazilian Guilherme de Paula has averaged nearly a goal a game since arriving in the capital while the addition of Dutch striker Sylvano Comvalius, who struggled to make an impact with Suphanburi in Thailand after an explosive season with Bali United suggests an attacking approach from KL.

It was undoubtedly goals which kept KL in the top flight last season; only champions JDT scored more. However they shipped 51 goals, conceding at least three goals in a game on 10 separate occasions. The KL faithful will no doubt be hoping the coach has been spending time on the defence ahead of the new season.

Elsewhere supporters of Selangor, Kedah and Perak will be expecting their team to be there or there abouts but as with the rest of Malaysian club football do their owners share that vision? From a distance it appears not. In recent  years some privately owned, and it must be said poorly branded, clubs have just given up, even when it comes to the second and third tier. Money issues or the futility of trying to compete with a club that has outgrown the league?

For the good of Malaysian league football there needs to be a club to come along and challenge the hegemony of JDT. 

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