JOHOR BARU: The Johor Football Association (JFA) intend to be a major football force in the region by qualifying for the Asian Champions League in 2015.
That’s the target JFA president Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim has set for Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT).
He wants to see his team create history in the local football scene and he believes they are capable of achieving it, especially after seeing the kind of consistency JDT has shown since he became the president two years ago.
“Personally, I aimed to win the league within five years ... but last season we exceeded expectations when we won the Malaysian Super League for the first time,” he said at a press conference here on Tuesday.
“We also made it to the FA Cup final last year (losing to Kelantan 1-0) and this year’s semi-final (losing to Pahang 2-1) ... and qualifying for the knockout stages of the Malaysia Cup this season. I am very proud (of the achievements) but I do believe it is time for JDT to set bigger targets next year.”
Tunku Ismail also wants JDT to become the first Malaysian football club to participate in the prestigious Asian Champions League and take on the best clubs in the region.
The Southern Tigers have qualified for Asia’s top-tier competition after winning the Super League this year.
However, JDT will have to compete in the qualifying tournament in February. If they fail to make the tournament proper, they will compete in the second-tier AFC Cup.
Tunku Ismail expects the journey to be very tough as “the other clubs have years of experience and better programmes compared to Malaysian clubs”.
“We are years behind them and 2015 is a platform for JDT to become international ... where JFA have set several marketing strategies to achieve our targets, including signing big names for the team.”
Among the big names Tunku Ismail has targeted for the 2016 season are new AC Milan player Fernando Torres, Fiorentina striker Mario Gomez and Juventus forward Fernando Llorente.
“Asia is the new football destination, with the big names currently playing in China, India and Australia. With good marketing strategies, as well as playing in the Asian Champions League annually, we will be able to get them to play for JDT,” he said.
But it’s not all about getting the big names as JFA are also serious about signing Johor-born players to be part of the JDT team.
“Besides the President’s Cup players, we will also form a JDT III side to take part in the FAM Cup, starting from next year,” he said.
“Players from these two teams (President’s Cup and JDT III) will then gradually move to JDT II and the first team.”