Are JDT bigger than Selangor now?
As a topic it is both as important as the AFF Suzuki Cup and as pointless as the Young Lions in the 2016 S.League season. It is a debate that has no end and usually no quarter is given, no point accepted.
Which club is the biggest. Fans argue until they are blue or red in the face. Is it Liverpool or Manchester United? Barcelona or Real Madrid? And in Malaysia, the debate would have to be between Selangor and Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT).
In terms of size, the dynamic is an interesting one. These are not two traditional rivals in the sense of United and Liverpool or Barcelona and Real Madrid, with a needle that stretches back decades.
Perhaps it is more of a Liverpool/Chelsea dynamic. An established giant is challenged by an up and coming aggressive and rich new kid on the power bloc.
The question is: how do you define 'bigness'?
Current success is important but can't be everything. Few would argue that Leicester City are a bigger club than Aston Villa or even Nottingham Forest in the second tier, but recent triumphs have to be taken into account.
History is vital but how far back do you go? In the nineties when Manchester United started to win league championships, Liverpool fans could sit back and bask in the still warm glow of their seventies and eighties dominance. When the Red Devils won the league in 2013, the memories of the domestic crown being paraded at Anfield had faded.
Attendances play a part. You can't be the biggest club in Europe with attendances of 20,000 but once you get to a certain number, does it matter? Arsenal's crowds are 50 per cent bigger than Liverpool's but it is debatable as to whether the London club is bigger.
Everything is debatable. In Malaysia too. On the one hand you have Selangor. The Red Giants (even the nickname proclaims the size of the club) are the most successful club in Malaysian history. The list is lengthy.
At the moment it is JDT but if you look at the history of Malaysian football, Selangor is bigger than any club in Malaysia.
There is more room on the Federal Highway just before Chinese New Year than in Selangor's trophy cabinet. There are seven league titles, five FA Cup wins and, incredibly, 33 Malaysia Cup victories.
It is truly impressive. When Selangor won the Malaysia Cup for the 33rd time last year, the state declared a day's holiday.
JDT don't have the history of Selangor, few do. They have been making up for lost time however with the last two league titles and a team full of stars. Few would bet against a third coming the way of (a usually packed) Larkin Stadium this year. One championship is great, two is amazing, three suggests dominance.
Continental success is an issue. Liverpool may not have won the English title for over 26 years but the club has five European crowns. Urawa Reds can't come close to matching Kashima Antlers' domestic success in Japan but an Asian title gives the club a bigger profile, overseas at least. And JDT have won the AFC Cup, a mighty achievement for a Southeast Asian club and one that Selangor can't match.
Most recently, Selangor even crashed out of the AFC Cup on a disappointing note after failing to hold off Tampines Rovers.
Off the pitch, in terms of facilities, plans and ambitions, JDT outranks any club in Malaysia and most in Asia.
The debate is open and a few others in Malaysian football have their own opinion. Here are some of them.
What others say:
Khairul Helmi Johori (Kedah captain):
“For me it is JDT. They are a complete team. They have good facilities, the training ground and all that. They can attract all kinds of good players and, most importantly, they have good management.”
Jacksen Tiago (Former Indonesia national team coach):
“In Indonesia, it is 100 per cent Selangor due to the history, the club is much bigger. At the present time, it is JDT and JDT are above most clubs in Asia, not just Malaysia.
“It all depends how you define big. You just can't talk about Malaysian football without mentioning Selangor. They have contributed so much to the national team and have produced so many good players.
“JDT may be the best at the moment but don't have the history of Selangor. . You can't forget the trophies and all they have done.”
Mehmet Durakovic (ex-Selangor coach):
“Selangor have long been the biggest club in Malaysia and have the history but now it is JDT, they have the money and the structure.
“What JDT are doing for Malaysian football is unbelievable and they are going the right way about it. They are building up the new stadium, their facilities – it's like being in Europe or Australia. Selangor, and others, can learn a lot.”
Tan Cheong Hoe (Kedah coach):
“At the moment it is JDT but if you look at the history of Malaysian football, Selangor are bigger than any club in Malaysia.”
Brent Griffiths (Penang defender):
“For me in the Malaysia Super League, there is only one team that is a standout in MSL and that is obviously Johor. The club's facilities, players, management, structure and media attention allow this to continue to happen. There are many big teams and many big teams with a lot of great history in the Malaysia Super League but Johor has taken football to another level in Malaysia and all clubs should look to emulate their efforts in order to grow and survive.“