HRH Tunku Mahkota Ismail Ibni Sultan Ibrahm, Regent of Johor spent an afternoon at the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) headquarters at Bukit Jalil on Wednesday and was introduced to the changes that will be happening to the premier club competition in the continent, the AFC Champions League (ACL).
Tunku Ismail also took the time spent with the general secretary of AFC, Dato Windsor John to seek more guidelines and assistance not only to his club but also to Football Association of Malaysia with Dato Hamidin Mohd Amin also in tow in the vist to the AFC House.
Last week AFC revealed that they will be adding an additional eight spots in the ACL beginning 2021 with four each to West Asia and East Asia. No slot changes will be given to the top six member association club ranking and that means the next four best ranked will be given direct slots into the group stage, a move well received by the JDT owner.
"That is very positive. It would be taken as a very positive thing in Malaysian football as well because it will open more doors for clubs. But they must understand that this is not only about participating but it's bigger than that. You must improve the facilities for the long term benefit of the football club. I think when all football clubs in the country will have this policy or principal, in the long run Malaysian football will improve.
"Let's not have Malaysian football as one of the most popular league in Southeast Asia, let's be the best in terms of facilities, quality, how our clubs are managed and of course our national team. So I think by working closely with AFC, that will give us a very positive outcome in the future," said Tunku Ismail.
Having spent their formative years in the AFC Cup before success in the competition eventually led to the boost in Malaysia's club rankings that enabled direct progression to the ACL group stage in the 2019 and 2020 season. Grouped together with reigning champions Kashima Antlers in their first foray in the competition, JDT gained plenty of admirers with their performances.
Kashima only narrowly won in the first game, another home draw against Gyeongnam FC was to follow before an away defeat to Shandong Luneng completed the halfway mark of the group stage. Two defeats will follow in the reverse fixtures but an incredible win over Kashima was achieved on home soil at Tan Sri Dato Haji Hassan Yunos Stadium.
Despite their incredible feat in the debut in the group stage, Tunku Ismail brushed aside any indication that JDT might be ready to challenge for the biggest prize any time soon. But he is also aware that if The Southern Tigers continues on the right path, there's no telling what could happen in the future.
"Impossible, in my opinion. I'm a realistic person. Our project are only a few years compared to the Asian giants who have participated in this prestigious tournament for a long time. To win the AFC CL is almost impossible for now. But anything can happen in football. I'm not focus on that.
"I'm very happy when JDT is in the AFC CL because of the more prestigious tournament, high quality tournament and the fact that it gives local players the exposure. JDT are on the right track," added Tunku Ismail.
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