Interviews

TMJ Part II: The Crown Prince on match-fixing, Malaysia and making waves

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Some princely opinions

As he suggested earlier with his comments about fellow club owners, the Crown Prince can rub people the wrong way outside of Johor and clearly isn’t afraid to ruffle a few feathers.

He is regularly encouraged to stare down the FAM and attempt to resuscitate a governing body that has been treading water at best in recent years.

For the past two months, Malaysia had been languishing at a record-low No.174 in the FIFA rankings – mercifully lifting one spot to 173 this week – and are coming off a series of embarrassing results.

To me the national team needs a foreign coach. We need foreign expertise. We need to learn

After words were exchanged between TMJ and current Malaysia coach Ong Kim Swee earlier this year, the pair met to clear the air.

As the Crown Prince put it: “I’ve always been like the so-called revolutionary in Malaysian football, so the media like me to take on FAM. I think they’re frustrated with FAM for not changing for 30 years.

“It’s not that hard, I can take on FAM, but it won’t benefit anything. It’ll be a lose-lose situation. They lose, we lose.

"So I thought if I want to genuinely help Malaysian football, why not give them a piece of my mind and try to help them out.

“That’s exactly what we’re doing. So I called Ong.”

They discussed a number of issues and part of the resolution was for the national team to use JDT’s home base for training and matches, with this week’s two-legged Asian Cup qualifiers against Timor Leste held at Larkin Stadium.

But TMJ also underlined the fact that for certain national matches, he may not release his players, who make up the vast majority of the Malaysian squad.

TMJ and OKS recently cleared the air

Ong was named head coach of the Tigers at the turn of this year following two stints as interim manager, but TMJ told FFT in no uncertain terms he felt the appointment was a mistake, at least in the short term.

“To me the national team needs a foreign coach,” he said. “We need foreign expertise. We can’t be arrogant, we need to learn.

Whatever the Crown Prince’s approach or beliefs about the beautiful game, they are clearly working

“That’s what Japan did, that’s what everybody does. After our coaches learn from them, then we can carry out the duty on our own, but right now we’re not prepared to handle it on our own.

“I’m not saying Ong Kim Swee is a bad coach. I’m a very honest guy and I call a spade a spade. I’m saying that he lacks experience at the top level.

“If FAM really want Ong Kim Swee to be a long-term coach, send him to Germany for two years for a course. Then when he comes back and has more exposure and more knowledge, then he can carry out the duty for the national team. But for now? No.”

Tigers continue to roar

Whatever the Crown Prince’s approach or beliefs about the beautiful game, they are clearly working.

His club is once again topping the MSL standings and is perfectly positioned for an unprecedented third straight league title.

Their AFC Cup defence has so far involved a perfect six-from-six in the group stages, followed by a 7-2 destruction of Kaya FC in the round of 16.

Inside JDT's state-of-the-art training facility

Add a first Malaysia FA Cup secured just last month and JDT is laying a marker down that no one in Malaysia can match.

FFT asked the Crown Prince what he wants people across Southeast Asia to think when they hear the name JDT.

[I want] a club that, in this part of the world, in Southeast Asia, is the best

“From a football perspective, I want people to know that we play good football and we’re a very determined and ambitious club,” he said.

“A successful football club and not just about putting money into the club, but doing things the right way.

“Also a club that, in this part of the world, in Southeast Asia, is the best. That’s always been my aim. Right now it’s between us, Chonburi, Buriram, Muangthong and all that.

“People have started comparing us already. Obviously they have a head start and that is why they are doing very well. But my aim is to do better than them in the future.

“It can happen, we just have to put hard work in. Everybody has to play a part. This club belongs to the people of Johor. It doesn’t belong to me. I’m only the caretaker.”

Photos courtesy of JDT unless stated