Success can breed jealousy, acrimony, even downright hatred, so it's no great surprise Johor Darul Ta'zim (JDT) aren't everyone's favourite team. But considering they are once again making a deep run in the AFC Cup, Malaysia and Southeast Asia should be uniting behind them and here are five reasons why...
Another triumph in the AFC Cup does no harm to the region's football scene
The Southern Tigers are close to winning the continental title for the second successive year. With a third straight Malaysia Super League title already in the bag, Mario Gomez and his men will be able to focus completely on defeating Bengaluru of India and progressing to the final.
The team is dominant at home and domination sometimes breeds dislike. There have long been ‘ABUs’ in England, people who supported Anyone But United, after the decades of Manchester United success.
ABJDT does not have the same ring to it, but regardless, Malaysia and Southeast Asia should be offering their support for these reasons:
1 Flying the national and regional flag
While there is serious passion for the beautiful game in Southeast Asia, it can sometimes be overlooked. Much of the attention goes to the western and eastern reaches of the continent.
This is true in World Cup qualification, the Asian Cup and much of the Asian Champions League (ACL).
But teams like JDT are making a difference. Southeast Asia deserves more representation at the ACL and another triumph in the AFC Cup does no harm at all to the reputation of the region's football scene.
It can only help calls to widen the door to more clubs from this part of the world to enter the Champions League.
Around Asia, there is a growing sense that JDT are a good team and a force to be reckoned with and this can only be good for the regional game.
2 Setting the standards for others
HOW THEY GOT THERE
The constant success that JDT enjoy may get a little boring for fans of other clubs and neutrals alike, but it shows what happens if you invest in the right things and the right people. It is a model for others to follow and it is completely correct that it brings results and ultimately trophies.
The path has been set then and it is up to others to follow. That is what happens in football, or what should happen. One team finds a way to get results and then others follow suit. JDT have upheld their half of the bargain and then some.
They should be applauded in this and then supported when they are in the hunt for continental trophies. The money is important, of course, but it is not just about finance, it is about time, patience and vision. These are qualities that are often in short supply in Malaysian football and in other countries too and a bucking of that trend is more than welcome.
3 Good news story in Malaysian football
Nobody needs reminding that Malaysian football has not had the best of times in recent years. There have been massive defeats suffered by the national team at the hands of United Arab Emirates and Palestine. The most recent outing, the 3-0 loss in Indonesia, was depressing.
The Malaysia Super League title race has been done and dusted for a while, there have been rows between the federation and the club and there is generally not that much positivity around the country's football scene.
A second continental success will be a story that everyone can sink their teeth into.
We all saw how Singapore got excited about the gold medal success of Joseph Schooling. The AFC Cup is obviously not at the same level, but Malaysian football has been starved of success for so long that any silverware should be celebrated.
4 It could help the retirees return
Any player who turns out for JDT is going to be on the radar of the national team coach before long. Or at least that used to be the case before four of the club's biggest and best players decided to retire from the international stage in July.
Few teams in Asia would be unaffected by the absence of a talent such as Safiq Rahim – the captain of JDT who should still be the captain of Malaysia. The fact that the midfielder has been in such sparkling form in the AFC Cup must make watching the games a painful experience for national coach Ong Kim Swee.
The tension between those powerful acronyms of JDT and FAM is well known. Malaysia need the quartet back. With a nation cheering JDT on in the AFC Cup, perhaps a feeling of national solidarity would tempt the JDT four out of international retirement.
5 They are fine ambassadors
Every game the team plays, they play to win. There is no parking the bus
The great thing about JDT is that every game the team plays, they play to win. There is no parking the bus, no sitting back and nothing else than a desire to get forward.
The full-backs hare up and down the wing, Safiq pulls the strings in the middle and the interplay between the two Argentine attackers can be a delight.
Fast and fluid, JDT play an exciting game. A good team, playing good football – what's not to like?
JDT are not purveyors of the ugly side of the game. If all people around Asia see of Malaysian football is the kind that JDT play, then that is no bad thing.
Photos: JDT unless stated