Malaysia Cup changes to bring early excitement
The Malaysia Cup has been seen as a monkey on Malaysian football’s back in recent years despite it being among the oldest competitions in Asia
It does not offer the winners continental qualification, it is exclusive to 16 of the best sides in the top two tiers of Malaysian football and previously for those sides outside those 16, there is simply no football on offer when the Malaysia Cup takes place over three months at the end of the year.
Yet it still attracts attention, year in and year out. Teams look forward to the competition and so do the players, resulting in a desperate last-gasp scramble by some teams to qualify – an excitement considering the traditionally slow and inconsistent start by many teams.
So Football Malaysia Limited Liability Partnership (FMLLP) have introduced two changes that will turn this around. Firstly the Malaysia Cup will start in July and run concurrently with the second half of the MSL season. The top 11 MSL teams and five Malaysia Premier League frontrunners at the halfway mark of the season (11 games) will qualify for the Malaysia Cup.
The changes were announced to the Malaysian teams at an ongoing three-day workshop to brief them on the coming season. There will also be a one-off exhibition match at mid-season, pitting a fan selection of players from northern teams against those from the south.
The changes mean teams have something to play for at the halfway stage and could lead to a more exciting start as points dropped early in the season could be crucial in a team’s aspiration to play in the Malaysia Cup.
There is a school of thought that the changes will destroy the excitement of the Malaysia Cup as teams could focus on the more rewarding MSL and MPL, instead of risking winning the league title or escaping relegation to focus on the Malaysia Cup.
However, there couldn’t be a win-win situation. The Malaysia Cup denies footballers outside the 16 competing any football and the changes will only mean a more exciting MSL from the first whistle until the winners are crowned on the final day.
The MSL is after all Malaysia’s most important competition and a sacrifice of the Malaysia Cup excitement to ensure more competitiveness in the MSL should be fitting, considering there were also calls from some to scrap the Cup altogether.