FFT's Forgotten Clubs: Public Bank, the team that briefly soared before closing its doors

Financial institution Public Bank once emerged as a big-time player in Malaysian football, taking a club from the third-tier FAM League all the way to Malaysia Super League (MSL) runners-up in just four years. Within 12 months they were gone from the scene, but their history dates back well before that heady period...

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The story of Public Bank that often gets retold is about their brief stay in the top two tiers of Malaysian football, but the now-defunct club actually has history for years prior to that.

E. Elavarasan, who announced his arrival onto the coaching scene by winning the 2003 Premier League Two (now known as the Malaysia Premier League), actually played for the club when the landscape of football in the country was very different to the one seen today.

There were trial and errors to some extent, but we were convinced the team could do better with a few upgrades

Public Bank once competed in a competition known as the Selangor Dunhill state league, when national superstars such as Dollah Salleh and Zainal Abidin Hassan would turn out for the club in the state league while representing Selangor at national level.

There was even a high-profile annual Governor’s Cup among banks that saw plenty of national players demonstrate their skills.

“I was playing for the team and then became player-coach in 1994. Public Bank gave me opportunities … I picked up coaching there and was a staff member for 22 years in total,” Elavarasan told FourFourTwo.

Public Bank won three Selangor league titles between 1994 and 2000. According to Elavarasan there was an opportunity to compete in the FAM League – Malaysia’s third tier – in 1997 but the club stayed put.

It wasn’t until victory in the Governor’s Cup and a clean sweep of state trophies in 2000 brought belief that it was time to take the next step.

Public Bank competed in the FAM League in 2001, winning promotion to the second tier the following year.

Winning the league, having a successful first season in the MSL and being the first club side to qualify for the Malaysia Cup were our best moments

The Bankers followed up a fourth place finish in 2002 by winning the 2003 Premier League Two and later getting themselves into the newly re-branded Malaysia Super League (MSL) for 2004.

“It was a good experience for the club. Playing the FAM League and the second tier for the first time gave us a lot of exposure,” said Elavarasan, who was only 38 when the club won the second division.

“The first season in the Premier League Two there were trial and errors to some extent, but we were convinced the team could do better with a few upgrades. We analysed things a lot, even when we were in the FAM League.

“The Public Bank chairman Tan Sir Teh Hong Piow and team manager Datuk Razak Dali were supportive of the team’s cause too.

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