GEORGE TOWN: The prospect of playing in the biggest match in their history will whet Sungai Ara FC’s appetite when they take on the Malaysian Indian Sports Council-Malaysian Indian FA (MISC-MIFA) in the FA Cup second round at the City Stadium on Friday.
The reward for the winners of this tie is a third-round meeting with either Malaysia Cup champions Pahang or the Super League winners Johor Darul Ta’zim, who meet in Kuantan on Monday.
But the Penang-based club side do not want to be distracted on what lies ahead, preferring to fully focus on overcoming fellow FAM Cup League side MISC-MIFA first.
Sungai Ara FC are also hoping for their coach Merzagua Abderrazzak’s string of successes at the City Stadium to continue during the Moroccan’s competitive debut with the club side.
It was at the City Stadium that Merzagua attained cult status as a player with the Penang state team in the late 90s, leading them to the First Division title in 1998. He returned to lift the 2013 FAM Cup at the same venue in his only season as the Penang coach.
“After six months of preparations and playing over 30 friendlies, we will finally play our first competitive match of the campaign,” said Sungai Ara FC team manager Zainol Abidin Ahmad.
“Coach Merzagua has done a good job in his three months with the squad. The fitness level has improved, and his mere presence inspires the players and motivates them to perform better. Now, it is up to the players to show what they can do against MISC-MIFA.”
Zainol acknowledges that fellow FAM Cup side MISC-MIFA, helmed by former Armed Forces coach Jacob Joseph and skippered by former international K. Nanthakumar, will be no pushovers.
Last season, Sungai Ara finished next-to-last in the 12-team FAM Cup League while fellow debutants MISC-MIFA were ninth. Both teams, who received first-round byes, are making their debuts in the FA Cup competition.