PETALING JAYA: The FA of Malaysia (FAM) are put on the spot again.
This time they have to decide whether they want to help local teams raise the bar in the AFC Cup competition or just be contended with the mediocre M-League.
Since the AFC Cup kicked off in 2004, none of the Malaysian teams have been able to shine ... none have gotten past the quarter-final stage. It is obvious the Malaysian teams have been competing with an under-strength side. The AFC Cup teams are eligible to field four foreign players, including an Asian player.
But the FAM have had their own set of rules - they banned imports, then re-introduced the foreign legion and now have increased the foreign quota from two to three (one Asian) for the 2014 season.
The Kelantan FA (Kafa) have been requesting for a fourth foreign player to be registered in the M-League since last year ... but their plea has fallen on deaf ears.
The FAM competitions committee, which met at the Wisma FAM in Kelana Jaya on Thursday maintained that they must be fair to all teams in the M-League. But there is still hope when the FAM exco sit to deliberate the issue on Nov 16.
Kafa secretary Azman Ibrahim hopes the FAM will grant the two Malaysian AFC Cup representatives next year - Kelantan and Selangor - a special allowance to make an impact in the second-tier of the Asian club tournament.
“Our aim is to raise the bar in the AFC Cup and to get past the quarter-final mark. Our task is difficult if we do not have the full quota of foreign players. Playing with a handicap defeats the purpose,” said Azman.
The two teams also participated in the AFC Cup this year. Both failed to get past the quarter-final mark.
Last year, the FAM rules allowed only two foreign players to be registered in the M-League. Kafa signed an additional two players on their own just for the AFC Cup. The problem they faced was that the two additional players did not have much playing time on the field and it resulted in the players lacking match fitness. As a result, Kelantan failed to make an impact and bowed out in the last 16.
“All we are asking is to be allowed to rotate the foreign players and keep them match fit in the M-League. We will play by the rules in the M-League and field only three foreign players like the other teams. The only special allowance is that we can rotate the fourth foreign player in the M-League. Then, when we play in the AFC Cup, we will have four fit foreign players,” said Azman.
It is sad that the FAM do not make special allowances for teams who want to progress rather than wanting to satisfy the other teams in the M-League. FAM must take into consideration that the teams playing in the AFC Cup have a much tighter schedule compared to other teams. Then there is the travelling time and distance involved, too.
THE number of foreign players is increased from two to three next season. The third foreign signing must be an Asian.
REGISTRATION of local players closes on Dec 17 while for foreign players, Dec 4. The second window for new player registration is from March 23 to April 22, 2014.
THE Super League will remain with 12 teams next season. Pending approval of the FAM exco, the Premier League next year may be increased from 12 to 13 teams, with the inclusion of the Harimau Muda B (Under-21) boys. The Harimau Muda A boys (Under-23) will return to play in the S-League (Singapore) next season.
THE Charity Shield match between Super League winners Lions XII and Malaysia Cup champions Pahang will be held at the Shah Alam Stadium on Jan 17 (Friday). The tie will also be counted as a Super League match with three points awarded to the winning team. The other Super League matches kick off on Jan 18 (Saturday). The Premier League competition will commence on Jan 24.
THE President’s Cup (Under-20) competition is open to clubs again. The 18-team competition was open to only the affiliates this season. The club sides from the Premier and Super Leagues can register to take part in the 2014 President’s Cup, which is scheduled to kick off on Jan 27. The top four teams from the two groups qualify for the quarter-finals. The closing date for registration is Nov 30.
ELEVEN teams have registered to play in the FAM Cup next season. Registration closes on Dec 31. The participating teams are K. Lumpur, Harimau Muda C, Pahang Kuantan FA, Malacca, Sabah Cebagoos FC, Kuantan Port Shahzan Muda, PB Melayu Kedah, Perak YBU FC, KL KPKT United, Majlis Sukan India Malaysia, and Penang Sungai Ara FC.
MALACCA will host the Youth Cup championships on a carnival basis next year. The national women’s football competition will be held on a carnival basis in April 2014.
THE national football awards will be held at the Blue Wave Hotel in Shah Alam on Nov 23. The M-League draw and briefing will also be held at the same function.