Ronaldo and Mourinho among those learning the JDT way
Turn on the television on a Saturday evening in Malaysia for the latest installment of MSL action and before the game and during the half-time adverts, you can see Datuk Seri Dr Hasmiza Othman advertising 'beauty products'.
If the crown prince can lay the foundations for a fruitful friendship with some European giants, then this kind of trip is important
There's nothing wrong with that but if Kelantan, the team her company sponsors, are playing then a few seconds later you may also see her sitting in prime position on the bench. That bears repeating. One of the biggest clubs in Malaysia has its sponsor sitting where the head coach should be.
She has injected a lot of funds into the club and seems intent on getting every ringgit worth in return. From changing the team's nickname, to painting the stadium pink and to the advertising hoarding that is the shirt, you can certainly say Seri Vida has a talent for publicity, both for herself and her company. And you can't blame her for that; the arrangement is a business one.
In Malaysian football, Johor Darul Ta'zim has a president who has the same promotional gifts, but is using them to benefit his club, rather than a product or a company.
It has become almost a cliché to say the Southern Tigers are setting the standards for the rest of the country, on and off the pitch. Boasting the last two MSL titles, an AFC Cup crown and training facilities that would have plenty of European clubs feeling a little envious, show that the bar is being raised year upon year in the border city.
In terms of promotion, Tunku Ismail Ibni Sultan Ibrahim is at a different level than any other in the league. The president is not afraid to say what he thinks about the state of the game in the country. Not all agree with his opinions but at least it seems to be the case that he has the best interests of JDT at heart, while also wanting to see the entire Malaysian game move forward. After all, the two are connected.
In recent weeks, the crown prince traveled to Europe to spread the word of the champions in meetings, primarily with clubs in Spain.
The recent pictures taken with Jose Mourinho and then Cristiano Ronaldo were widely seen, here and overseas. It could well be that Ismail was delighted to meet two of the biggest names in the world of sport, but it also raised the profile of his club.
The messages from Ronaldo and Mourinho publicised the 'JDT project', as the Real Madrid star put it. It is unusual to see the best – or second best or whatever – player in the world holding aloft a JDT scarf. This plays well with the fans and media back home. Nobody else is doing this.
Most European fans would probably struggle to name one Southeast Asian club. There isn't one that has really penetrated outside of the continent. Having Ronaldo talk about your team helps in this regard.
CR7 is not about to pull on his boots and trot out onto the Larkin pitch but there are other benefits from such trips to Europe.
It was in fact more interesting to see the crown prince with the president of Paris Saint-Germain. The obligatory scarf holding image was there, but there are also things that weren’t seen. The discussions, the explanations about what JDT is doing in Malaysia and Asia, and perhaps where a club like PSG can step in.
Relationships have to be built and it takes time. Perhaps in the future if the French powerhouse has a young talent who needs some time on the pitch but is not ready for Ligue 1, then he can spend a few months at a certain club in Malaysia. There can be coaching exchanges and opportunities for young prospects to spend time in France.
Or Spain. The news that Atletico Madrid have invited the champions to a friendly next year suggests there are some interesting relationships developing. Who knows where these links will end up?
Other clubs in the region, like Thailand's BEC Tero Sasana, have had 'partnerships' with European giants before, but officials at the Thai club complained in the past that the relationship with Arsenal was not an equal one.
BEC felt the English Premier League club would never send prospects to Thailand and that the Gunners had little interest in young Thai players going to London. If there is to be any successful relationship with a big European club, it has to be on built on respect.
If the crown prince can lay the foundations for a fruitful friendship with some European giants, and they don't really have to be giants at all, then this kind of trip is important. If he can make JDT the first club that people think of around the world when they think of Southeast Asia, then he has managed something that has never been done before.
The publicity is great and it is also great to see a major Malaysian football figure taking the initiative and doing something different and raising the profile of a team around the world. If the trip can have longer-term effects, even better.
Kelantan have a sponsor on the bench who has injected much-needed funds, but is milking the cameras at every opportunity.
JDT have a president travelling the world and meeting some of the biggest players in world football.
Photos courtesy of Johor Darul Ta'zim unless stated