‘Little sister’ PKNS making waves in growing Selangor rivalry

Promoted side PKNS and Malaysian giants Selangor hogged the headlines in the 2017 pre-season via a public conflict that led to talk of a burgeoning rivalry. FourFourTwo spoke to Red Ants coach E. Elavarasan about that ahead of Saturday’s clash between the two...

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Like his predecessors, Selangor’s Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Azmin Ali helmed both the Football Association of Selangor (FAS) and PKNS – the Selangor State Development Corporation – taking over the posts in September, 2014.

All seemed to be working well until an internal rift in the FAS left the majority of their executive members at loggerheads with Azmin, who retaliated by refusing to grant state government funding to Selangor, as had occurred in previous years.

We are just another club participating in the league and there is no grudge towards Selangor. We need to focus on ourselves

- E. Elavarasan

Yet it was business as usual for traditional ‘little sister’ PKNS, who had an active transfer window while Selangor were scrambling to collect enough funds to even start the 2017 season.

Selangor played hardball on PKNS’ MSL participation by relying on an archaic rule that requires clubs under affiliation to get approval before competing in the league.

The rule was later deemed irrelevant as the Red Ants had signed a partnership with Football Malaysia Limited Liability Partnership (FMLLP) in 2015, but damage had already been done.

PKNS found a new affiliation under the Selangor Malays Football Association.

The FAS rift, meanwhile, also led Shah Alam Municipal Council to refuse Selangor the use of Shah Alam Stadium as their home venue. Instead, PKNS will be using the iconic stadium in 2017.

Selangor have made the better start of the two teams

Some associated with Selangor – fans included – have rallied behind PKNS and there were calls for a revamp at FAS, thus giving birth to the Revamp Selangor Football movement.

PKNS have maintained there are no ill feelings, but the club appears to be actively trying to replace Selangor as the No.1 team in the state. Using the stadium was one thing, but PKNS then introduced their third jersey in red and yellow – renowned Selangor colours.

Selangor, who have had the better start of the two teams in the MSL through two games, with four points to PKNS’ zero, can reaffirm their status as the state’s No.1 club when they visit Shah Alam on Saturday evening.

Elavarasan, however, is refusing to see the clash as any more than an ordinary MSL encounter, insisting improving PKNS’ performance is his only concern.

“The off-field issues are not affecting us. We have been preparing as per usual … perhaps it had affected Selangor more but the season has started now,” Elavarasan told FourFourTwo.

“We are just another club participating in the league and there is no grudge towards Selangor. We need to focus on ourselves, improve a number of weaknesses and get into shape.

“Shah Alam is our home but there is no special nostalgia about playing there this season because we have used the stadium in the past. Many of our home matches feel like away days anyway.”

A tough night ahead

Elavarasan feels Selangor, who defeated Penang in the opening day and held Malacca last week, will be tough to overcome. The Red Giants have shown a lot of grit to start the new campaign, while PKNS have yet to get their season going.

The Red Ants fought gallantly against Felda United in their MSL opener a fortnight ago before losing 1-0 and were then taken apart by Kelantan 3-1 in their following match, a result Elavarasan felt was deserved.

The whole team didn’t perform in the second match. We are not demoralised though and have been rectifying things

“The whole team didn’t perform in the second match. We are not demoralised though and have been rectifying things,” he said.

“When we looked back at the Kelantan game, we deserved to lose. I told the players to accept the result because we didn’t play well at all. It is as simple as that.

“We have been working on our weaknesses for a week now and I need to see a better performance.”

A passing moment, nothing permanent

Elavarasan has no doubt PKNS will turn things around and believes it is just a matter of time before his squad finds its rhythm.

PKNS grabbed headlines last year with their giant-killing run in the FA Cup, losing out to Johor Darul Ta’zim in a closely contested final. The then-Malaysia Premier League club also reached the Malaysia Cup quarter-finals.

Safee (right) still needs time to settle in

“We will turn things around … definitely. Some of the players are settling down and this takes time,” said Elavarasan.

“Safee Sali for example is doing well but we need to understand his game and vice-versa. He is also playing with Patrick Wleh for the first time. They are combing well and improving so it gives me confidence.”

PKNS have still not been able to field all imports as the club could not obtain Argentine Lucas Espindola’s international transfer certificate in time for their previous matches.

“I have a decision to make against Selangor. Three imports, Wleh, Gonzalo Sato and Matias Jadue, will start but I’m unsure about having a fourth.”