Malaysia hope to learn from Premier League giants

SINGAPORE - The unique scenario of playing Premier League giants Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool within seven days in an already congested schedule is a 'handful' Malaysia are happy to cope with in order to develop their national team.

The Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) vice president and national team manager Subahan Kamal says that taking on the extra fixtures was important as the relationship the Asian country had built with England's leading clubs allowed them access to world class expertise.

"We in Malaysia are excited," Kamal told Reuters. "It is not only the public and fans of Arsenal, Liverpool and Chelsea that are excited, even the management, the head coach, even the players are all very excited to play.

"I think this is the first country in the world that will play three (Premier League) giants in a week... not even Brazil have done that."

The southeast Asian champions will host Arsenal on July 13 before facing Liverpool three days later and then Chelsea on July 19, all at the National Stadium in Kuala Lumpur which has a capacity of more than 80,000.

The matches come in the middle of first and second round World Cup Asian qualifiers with Malaysia heavy favourites to advance past Taiwan to set up a clash against bitter rivals Singapore.

"Three matches is a handful and three is more than enough,"Kamal said, before adding that negotiations were ongoing as to what monetary benefit Malaysia would receive for hosting the three teams, and explaining that FAM had already fixed deals to train with the English clubs in the future.

"It is a good start by having this partnership or relationship. We have opened the door so Malaysian players can go to England and it will be good for us to work with them for the long term.

"Chelsea have actually agreed to let us send our national team players over there to be with them for maybe a month and our coaches also," Kamal said.

TRICK OR TWO

Liverpool already have a tie-in with the Kuala Lumpur Football Association and the duo plan to form a youth development programme which would start within a month, while negotiations on sending players to train at Arsenal are ongoing.

"Playing one game here is not going to make much of a difference but we have spoken to Arsenal about sending our boys there, so maybe when they are there for two or three weeks. I think there will be more of an opportunity to learn a trick or two and make themselves better."

The fixtures were organised by Hong Kong-based soccer events management and marketing consultants ProEvents, who had selected Malaysia because of their past success at supporting English club tours.

"The more clubs we have come over the better as the boys can learn from them and it is quite important for us including me to keep football alive in Malaysia and by bringing these idols over it will keep football healthy and give more room for development in Malaysia."

Kamal said he hoped that despite Malaysia's love for the Premier League, more local fans would choose to wear the black and gold shirts of their country rather than those of Liverpool and Arsenal.

"When Manchester United came over to Kuala Lumpur two years ago you would see a packed stadium and maybe 30,000 wore a Manchester United jerseys and less than 10,000 wore Malaysia ones. I would be surprised if it was the same this time around."


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