2014 Malaysia Cup musings
It will definitely be Hari Raya celebrations at a moderate key for players from the teams who have qualified for the Malaysia Cup.
Already the coaches are having a headache in preparing their team to be at their best after the long break after the end of the M-League at the end of June coupled with the fasting month. Coaches will have another task of keeping their players fit and injury free when the Malaysia Cup begins with the hectic fixtures.
Indeed, it is going to be a challenging campaign and seems like a fresh league is beginning instead of a continuation from the M-League to the Malaysia Cup. But no matter what the challenges and hiccups are, the Malaysia Cup never fails to bring the magic of the competition. In fact, for many teams, the Malaysia Cup is more prestigious than the League title.
If you thought that the fans were great during the M-League, just see them during the Malaysia Cup. We certainly can expect bumper crowd, especially after the Brazil World Cup had captured the minds of fans.
Is there going to be any favourites? This is the Malaysia Cup and everyone has a shot at it. Records, of course, will put Selangor as the one, having won it 32 times and emerged runners-up 15 times since the tournament inaugurated in 1921. Defending champions Pahang, who won Cup after a lapse of 21 years for the third time and have emerged runners-up four times, and Super League champions JDT also cannot be ruled out. And despite traditionally being won by state teams, MPPJ did win it in 2003, underlining that even a club team can win the Malaysia Cup.
The draw has been made and a majority of teams are coy about their chances, knowing only too well the trickiness of the competition. The best teams have fallen out of the competition while minnows and underdogs have triumphed. So will the 2014 season be another intriguing tournament? Everything points to it.
The 16 teams in the competition – Group A: Pahang, LionsXII, KL Felda United FC, Johor Darul Ta'zim II FC; Group B: Terengganu, Sarawak, Perak, Kedah; Group C - Johor Darul Ta'zim I FC, Kelantan, ATM, Penang; Group D - Selangor, KL Sime Darby FC, Police, T-Team FC – will indeed be battling it out tooth and nail.
However, I hope that the hidden hand does not interfere in the magic of the game and bring shame and disrepute. Time and again we saw unbelievable results and we hoped that it happened as one of the surprises of the game, not because of some hidden elements. Only the players will know what happens on the field, and I hope that the players will not take their passionate fans for a ride.
Here's hoping to see an entertaining, clean and fair football. May the best team of the day triumph and win glory and honour.