Analysis

TMJ's next trick: A football schedule in Malaysia that actually makes sense

Two month-long breaks in 2017, outside of the post-season holidays, resulted in a tight fixture list for Malaysia Super League (MSL) teams. Such a common issue in Malaysian football over the years, will it improve in 2018?

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Just about every coach in Malaysia has made the comment “my players are tired” in recent weeks and it’s really no surprise.

Such comments have become a yearly norm in the MSL and typically a better scenario is expected the following year, only for it to happen all over again for any number of reasons – poorly planned schedules, unforeseen delays and the demands of the national team often among them.

Pre-season isn’t always smooth for Malaysian teams and plenty of time is spent merely getting players fit rather than working on routines and tactics

In 2017, MSL and Malaysia Premier League (MPL) teams competing in the Malaysia Cup had 12 games scheduled in just 40 days from July 1 despite the AFC Under-23 qualifiers taking place at the same time.

Pahang, Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT) and Penang even felt compelled to refuse to release their players for national duty because they were needed for battle on the domestic front, a situation that should never be replicated.

Such is the situation that Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) and Football Malaysia Limited Liability Partnership (FMLLP) are mulling a last-minute change in schedule to cater for SEA Games preparations, just weeks out from the opening ceremony.

As things stand there is a Malaysia Cup round of group matches barely a week before the Games, where Malaysia have ambitiously targeted a gold medal on home soil.

TMJ’s 2018 plans

FAM president Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim, who is also the FMLLP chairman, is bent on improving the standard of Malaysian football and among the key areas he has mentioned in the past are starting the league early in January and having a better pre-season.

Pre-season isn’t always smooth for Malaysian teams and plenty of time is spent merely getting the players fit rather than working on routines and tactics.

Can TMJ find a way to make it work more smoothly?

Selangor and Kelantan weren’t even sure if they would be competing in the 2017 season due to financial concerns and preparations were left to the very last minute.

The 2018 season is expected to start in the second week of January instead of the third week like this year. The season even started in mid-February in 2016 because the previous season dragged on into December.

Finding a better time to break

FAM experimented with having matches during the Ramadhan fasting month in 2015 but it was unsuccessful.

Stadiums were empty because of the late kick-offs while there was a massive drop in standard and intensity even when the best teams in the league faced each other.

The MSL took over a month break in June for Ramadhan and the Aidilfitri celebrations and 2018 will not be different. The league will again take a break for a month, this time starting in mid-May.

[NEXT: Internationals, continental tournaments and the new national coach]