Three lessons from Matchday 1 of the 2014 Malaysia Cup

As another edition of the Malaysia Cup gets underway, Goal looks like at three lessons that we learn from Matchday 1

GOALBY    ZULHILMI ZAINAL     Follow on Twitter

Will the real local forwards please stand up?
Of the 27 goals scored in the eight matches of matchday 1, only seven of them were scored by local players, and even then two of those goals were from penalty kicks. After our national team was demolished 4-1 by Tajikistan two weeks ago, it is becoming painfully obvious that local forwards simply cannot keep pace with their foreign counterparts, to the detriment of the national team who will be competing in the 2014 AFF at the end of this year.
This was telling in the JDT I-Kelantan match, as JDT were without their two Argentinian forwards and fielded the 2010 AFF Cup-winning national pairing of Norshahrul Idlan Talaha and Safee Sali. Safee had to be taken off early on for an injury, and Norshahrul was far from threatening. In the end, it took JDT and Malaysia midfielder Safiq rahim to score the only goal of the match. The other Malaysian forward in the match, Kelantan's Fakri Saarani had an even more subdued game.

Match scheduling
Last weekend We wrote about how the historical Malaysia Cup risks losing its appeal in the future, especially to the younger fans. Judging by the crowd turnout at various venues on Matchday 1, this may happen even more quickly, and FAM may have a hand in it. Stadium Tan Sri Hassan Yunos, the home to recent MSL champions JDT was not as full during their match against Kelantan as it normally is. The attendance at Darulmakmur, which hosted the match between the defending champions Pahang and JDT II, was even more dismal even though the heavy rain which delayed the start of the match for some time also might have contributed to it. And it was not any better at the rest of the venues.
FAM seems to not grasp the importance of gate receipt to the finance of teams, and they still decided that it was apt for the first match day of the tournament to be held on a work day. Of course at this day and age, middle-of-the-week fixtures are not avoidable, but surely the tournament opener of one of the oldest football tournaments in Asia has enough significance to warrant allowing as many fans as possible to attend it. On top of financial reasons, the lack of fans will further reduce fans' interest in the tournament, which does not provide any qualification spot to Asian competitions to the champions.
Matches should be held on the weekend as much as possible, and weekday fixtures should only be held when there is not enough time. This begs further question, why has FAM skipped this coming weekend, and scheduled Matchday 2 for the coming Tuesday and Wednesday instead?

More referees, more problems
The JDT I-Kelantan match saw the first-time inclusion of two goalline judges in a domestic competitive match. Malaysian referees have been under severe criticism from almost all directions for several major questionable decisions during the league season, so it was understandable for FAM to try and improve the state of refereeing in its competition.
The match looked to be ending as an uneventful debut for the extra referees...until right at the very end of the match. The visitors' forward Forkey Doe latched on to a brilliant pass by his teammate in JDT's penalty box with a chance to equalise, only to be felled by centreback Marcos Antonio. Replays showed that there was contact, but the referee waved play on. The match ended 1-0, and Doe later had to be restrained from confronting the ref aggressively by his teammates after the whistle.
It seems that more (Malaysian) referees does not necessarily equate to better refereeing. Our referees still need to be trained to make better calls and have better judgement.
Furthermore, it was unusual to learn afterwards that the extra refs are only used for certain matches, as the T-Team-Selangor and Perak-Kedah matches did not feature extra referees.