The rise of Johor Darul Ta'zim

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The beginning of the southern revolution

At the end of the 2012 season, Johorean football was in a shambolic state. Johor FC, then under the management of the Johor Corporation (JCorp), barely avoided relegation from the Malaysian Super League, while three Johor-based clubs – Johor FA, Johor Bahru FC, and Muar FC – were struggling in the Premier League. There was also another Johorean club too, known as Melodi Jaya Sports Club that finished second bottom of the lowest tier of the M-League. It was a far cry from the state’s glorious years, and the people of Johor as a whole had not had anything worth celebrating since 1998, when Johor FA lifted the Malaysian FA Cup after defeating Sabah at the Likas Stadium – unless you count Johor FC’s 2009 President’s Cup triumph as one. There were simply too many teams in Johor, which divided the fan base into a few fractions and forced the teams to compete among each other to get players, sponsors and financial aids.

To make things worse, the two biggest teams in Johor, Johor FC and Johor FA, were constantly at loggerheads with each other, with the latter unhappy with the club side’s more successful years. It reached the boiling point in the 2010 season, when the Scorpions were relegated from the Super League and failed to qualify for the Malaysia Cup, whereas the Bees finished comfortably in fourth place and made it to the tournament. It angered Jais Sarday, president of the Johor Football Association [ed’s note: we will refer them as PBNJ to avoid confusion with Johor FA the football team], so much that he tried to get the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) to kick Johor FC out of the Malaysia Cup, arguing that the tournament should be open to state teams only. His idea was sensibly criticised and shot down.

Tired of seeing the lack of football progress in his beloved state as well as his people getting divided by a sport that should be bringing them together, Tunku Ismail finally declared enough is enough. Right before the start of the 2013 season and just months after becoming the new PBNJ president, the Crown Prince of Johor announced that all Johorean clubs would unite under his management. Perhaps taking a leaf out of the famous bundle-of sticks story, one of many fables written by Greek storyteller Aesop, for Tunku Ismail, in unity is strength – a common message he often conveys in his press conferences and on JDT’s official website.

The Crown Prince of Johor and President of PBNJ

As a result, all Johor-based clubs except for Johor FC and Johor FA were withdrawn from the M-League, but to stamp home his philosophy of unity and nationalism, he rechristened the former as Johor Darul Ta’zim after the official name of the state, and the latter unofficially as Johor United (they were renamed as Johor Darul Ta’zim II a year later); and both teams’ original nicknames, mascots and emblems have been retired in favour of the Southern Tigers to reflect the official animal on Johor’s coat of arms. And just like that, the southern revolution began...