BY ZULHILMI ZAINAL Follow on Twitter
Kuantan FA head coach Ismail Zakaria had an insurmountable task in his team's Malaysia Premier League match against Pulau Pinang on Tuesday.
With his team not having been paid by the club management for three months, most of his key players have departed the side. Although he had 11 players to start the match, he had only four players on the bench.
But despite the difficulties, the Seagulls managed to cling on to a goalless draw at the Selayang Municipal Council Stadium, even with the sending off of midfielder Fikri Elhan in the 68th minute for a second yellow.
"Seven of our former first team members left, some have joined D'AR Wanderers while the rest have joined MOF FC in the FAM Cup. Daudsu [Jamaluddin], Zairul [Fitree Ishak] and Helmi Remeli are among those who went to Temerloh, while Manaf Mamat, Hadi Yahya and three of our young players have joined MOF.
"But praise Allah, we still managed to nick one point from the match, despite the difficulties," said the former Sime Darby head coach after the match.
But Ismail said he understands the decision behind the exodus, as they haven't been paid in a while.
"They met me before they left and I told them this is a bread and butter issue, if they can't take it anymore I won't force them to stay. They need to feed their family and have mortgages that need to be paid off.
"The players sticking around are mostly the younger ones, who are still confident in my effort. And I have to try hard for their sake, who still want to play football. It's not for the club, it's for the players.
"A number of other clubs have approached me, but I decided to stick around even though my assistants have left for other teams as well, because I feel responsible for signing the players," he remarked.
Kuantan had earlier been in discussions with Marcerra United for a possible takeover of the former; after it emerged last year that their 2017 squad had not been paid for 11 months.
However, news surfaced that the takeover never materialised, and their 2018 squad players have not received their wages since January this year.
Things are not any better for Marcerra. On Sunday, the third tier side turned up to their league match against D'AR Wanderers with only eight players, and ended up with a 4-0 hammering.