BY ZULHILMI ZAINAL Follow on Twitter
Selangor head coach B. Satiananthan has voiced his support for Malaysian domestic matches to be played through the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.
He was quoted as saying this by competitions organiser Malaysian Football League (MFL).
"Players should have no trouble playing through the fasting month because this would not be the first time for them. Teams can't afford to train without playing competitively for a month.
"Critics are going to question me saying this because I'm not a Muslim, but I've been coaching for 29 years and I understand full well the players' situation during the Ramadan month.
"For Selangor, our training begins at 11pm daily, while we will provide milk and dates to the players after every training session. While we can't begin daily training sessions earlier as a lot of the players want to perform their nightly 'tarawikh' prayer, what's more important is for them to be disciplined in terms of their diet and sleep," explained the Malaysian Football Coaches Association president.
He also drew comparison with leagues contested in other Muslim-majority countries.
"Middle-Eastern competitions still take place during the fasting month, while there are Muslim players currently involved in the later stages of European competitions.
"And I believe that the Ramadan matches will help Malaysia national team players, who will be called up for centralised training towards the end of Ramadan, before playing in two matches (against Timor Leste in World Cup/Asian Cup first play-off round) in the first week of Eid. If they don't have club matches during Ramadan, they will lose the momentum required going into the two international matches," pointed out Satiananthan.
Up until the 2017 season, the Malaysian football calendar would be halted during the fasting month every season, and would only resume after the Eid festivity, which marks the end of Ramadan for Muslims all over the world.
Malaysian clubs are generally reluctant to play competitive matches during Ramadan due to decreased interest among match-attending fans, but the suspension of domestic matches for a month is not without adverse effects. The most obvious repercussion is fixture congestion, which would pop up when the latter half of the season resumes.
When Johor Crown Prince and JDT FC owner Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim became the MFL chairman, he introduced Ramadan fixtures as one of the many changes.
This season, three Super League and Premier League matchdays, as well as the remaining leg of the FA Cup quarter-final stage, will take place during Ramadan.
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