SEREMBAN: An unknown football club side from the Industrial Estate in Senawang, Negri Sembilan, made the headlines two years ago.
They were Negri Sembilan Chempaka, popularly known as Pumas. Just a Premier II outfit then, they pulled off a major surprise – beating the national team 2-0 in a friendly match.
It was no flash in the pan for the ambitious club. The following year, Chempaka continued with their giant-killing feat and made a bigger impact to win promotion to play in Premier I.
But the club noted for their unpredictable showings will make no further advancement in the M-League. They have been forced to withdraw. It is a sad end for the club, who showed so much promise after having worked their way up to the top flight since their humble beginnings in the FAM Cup in 1994.
Against all odds, the club formed by a textile company have stunned some of the state teams, including three-time Malaysia Cup champions Kuala Lumpur, to remain in Premier I for the new season.
Chempaka avoided relegation with a 12th place finish in the 14-team league. Their state side, Negri, and KL were demoted.
Sports co-ordinator K. Dharmarajasingam, who has been largely responsible for the club’s rise in the domestic league, chose not to comment on why they withdrew from the Premier I competition.
“We did not submit our entry to play in the new season. There are many reasons behind this and we have informed the FAM about it,” said Dharmarajasingam yesterday.
But it is obvious that the lack of finance is one of the main reasons for their withdrawal.
It is sad that no one has come forward to bail out a club who had fought the odds and showed good professionalism, especially in the management of the team.
The Chempaka team trained at their company’s grounds. And they even engaged players on loan from their parent company in India a few seasons ago.
In fact, the FA of Malaysia’s (FAM) plans for a major overhaul of the structure of the M-League to a smaller scale competition next year also has something to do with Chempaka’s decision to pull out.
The FAM competitions committee’s new proposal next year has not gone down well for smaller clubs.
Barely three years ago, the FAM had called for a bigger participation of the clubs and gave them hope with an opportunity to get into the big league (Premier I and II).
Chempaka, Johor FC and Malacca Telekom, who won promotion this year, are among the clubs who rose from the ranks.
But all that will be history from next year. The competitions committee have made it clear that only the cream of the crop and those who meant business would be associated in the proposed smaller “elite” league next year.
Teams and clubs with shoestring budgets have got to go because the FAM, who are fed up with mediocre and below par performances, have opted for quality teams with strong financial backings.
The FAM are also taking the interest of the national team at heart with the emphasis on quality.
So, what is in store this season? It is anyone’s guess because the competitions committee will only meet in March to go in detail of the mechanics of the M-League next year.
The general consensus is that the new proposals will not favour the clubs, especially those with smaller budgets.
The FAM had provided financial assistance by providing clubs in Premier I an annual grant of RM400,000. Those in Premier II get RM200,000. But the amount is not sufficient to run a team for a season.
It is sad that Chempaka will go down in history as the first team from the top flight to withdraw from the competition.