BY ZULHILMI ZAINAL Follow on Twitter
Malaysian Football League's (MFL) recent announcement of the teams that will be participating in Malaysia's third tier, M3 this year raised a few eyebrows.
The increase in the number of teams from 14 to 20 in 2020 has seen the inclusion of new clubs that did not have to go through the fourth tier.
Among these teams are KL Rovers and Melaka United FC, who had been rumoured to compete as a feeder club and reserve team, respectively.
But officials from both teams have denied this notion, insisting that they are separate and independent entities.
KL Rovers manager Ashraf Mazlan denied that they are Premier League outfit Kuala Lumpur's feeder club. The second tier side's application to enter a reserve team in the third tier had recently been denied by MFL.
"I must insist that the Rovers are a new team, one that has no ties with Kuala Lumpur nor are we their reserve team. We are taking part with the intention of providing a platform for former President's Cup (U-21) players to reestablish themselves.
"The club is run independently and we have signed all the players we need, with the announcement set to be made soon," he remarked in an interview with MFL.
The case with Melaka United is even more curious, if their explanation can be believed. Despite sharing its name with the Super League club that is based in the same state, assistant manager Fairullizam Isahak was adamant that it has no plans to become a reserve team.
(Although Super League's Melaka United refer to itself in promotions and on social media with that name, they officially go by Melaka FA, or just Melaka, at the MFL and Malaysian FA level.)
He also insisted that the team has not taken over the slot left behind by the Super League outfit's former feeder club SAMB FC, which was recently shut down.
"The Super League team is Melaka United while we are Melaka United FC. The situation is similar to what used to happen with Johor FA and Johor FC. This is a developmental team, and we have no intention of becoming the Super League club's reserve team as we will be playing in the M3.
"We want to provide an avenue for Melaka-born players who did not make the cut for the President Cup squad, those in the age range of between 22 to 25. For the time being, almost all of the 28 players are from Melaka, with only four of them from outside the state, from Terengganu and Kelantan," explained Fairullizam.
However, the Melaka-based M3 team's explanation seemed to contradict an earlier attempt at clarification by the Super League outfit's president, Damian Yeo:
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