New ASEAN Club Championship may not have a Malaysian team

Thus far Hanoi FC and Ho Chi Minh City FC (Vietnam), Shan United FC (Myanmar), Chiangrai United FC and Prachuap FC (Thailand) and Bali United and Persebaya FC (Indonesia) and Preah Khan Reach Svay Rieng FC (Cambodia) have all confirmed their participation in the tournament that offers half a million dollar in prize money.

Malaysia are among the four teams alongside Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia who are given two slots in the competition but as yet have not made any announcement regarding the teams that will compete in the tournament. Expected to be played starting from the end of April, it is a new tournament mooted by Asean Football Federation.

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Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) through its general-secretary Stuart Ramalingam opened up to Goal on just what the hold-up is and what are the barriers that are currently preventing the national body from submitting their two participants.

"The ASEAN Club Championship (ACC) we just received a couple of weeks ago. For FAM there's two areas why we cannot confirm our participation. One of the AFC sanction, we require a competition to receive AFC sanction before we confirm participation. 

"Second is when we looked at the match schedule, it has certain clashes with our local leagues and also national team training camps which have already been confirmed for 2020. So we find the match schedule submitted to us doesn't suit the national team calendar, which is why we are unable to give the confirmation to AFF," explained Stuart.

La'Vere Corbin-Ong, Kedah v Johor Darul Ta'zim, Malaysia Cup final, 2 Nov 2019
La'Vere Corbin-Ong, Kedah v Johor Darul Ta'zim, Malaysia Cup final, 2 Nov 2019

That means FAM are still seeking AFC's approval on the tournament, one which would give the ACC more credence. Looking at the 2020 calendar released by Malaysian Football League last week, there are alread limited midweeks where the ACC can potentially slot in matches.

Which also means that if a club like Johor Darul Ta'zim are entered into the competition, they would have a sustained period of playing every three days which are neither preferable by the association as well as the respective teams.

What would be more preferable for FAM is to have teams that finished high up in the Super League but are not involved in AFC club competitions to be the ones participating in the ACC but AFF are known to be eyeing the top two finishers instead.

"Looking forward to such an initiative, the ACC if it was remodelled in a way where it may suit the regional football calendar, AFF's football calendar, our football calendar that we do not have multiple match days over match days for already very taxed football clubs. 

"If the ACC requires my number one to play, it would mean the number one in my league to have multiple regional games over the span of one or two weeks. That kind of punishing schedule may work against us as a national body as well as the club's performance in AFC competition, which should be our priority.

Sandro da Silva, Ifedayo Olusegun, Johor Darul Ta'zim v Selangor, Malaysia Cup, 19 Oct 2019
Sandro da Silva, Ifedayo Olusegun, Johor Darul Ta'zim v Selangor, Malaysia Cup, 19 Oct 2019

"The higher performance of our clubs at Asian level is where we want to support and ensure that we are able to excel. Let's not forget that in AFC club competitions, the point calculations is very important for us in the next cycle. If we do badly in the AFC competitions during this term, it will affect our slot in the next term.

"If the ACC allows our third, fourth and fifth teams to compete then that allows a better development direction that we can support. As long as there's no multiple match days for the same clubs but more matches for more clubs in our domestic structure, that's a more development initiative than a commercial initiative," added Stuart.

There are still a substantial time between now and the first draw of the competition in April and things may yet change with further discussions between FAM and AFF but as it stands, Malaysia will have a spectator viewpoint of the new regional tournament.


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