Meet the man behind JDT's remarkable rise to prominence - HRH Tunku Mahkota Ismail

Johor Darul Ta'zim players lifting team owner Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim in the air following their 2016 Super League win 9/9/2016
Nizam Rahman
Johor Darul Ta'zim owe their incredible journey to one man and his insatiable thirst for success is only ever going to continually grow.

In the world of football, club owners often delegate the work to their subordinates and only deal with the big decisions, which usually centers around the financial portion. There are the rare cases of some owners participating heavily in players recruitment, some dabble their hands in the commercial aspect of the business.

But in HRH Mejar General Tunku Ismail Ibni Sultan Ibrahim (TMJ), JDT has got an owner who not only is present in every single home match but also someone who has an active role and contribution down to the very minute details of every single fabric of the club.

TMJ embarked on a grand project for his beloved team back in 2012 when he took over as president of Johor Football Association and made the bold decision of combining the professional teams in the state under one roof and thus created JDT.

Six Super League titles, one AFC Cup, one FA Cup and two Malaysia Cup triumphs later - and the once small club has grown to become a giant of Malaysian football, ready to take on the best in Asia. Having worked incredibly hard to build JDT to this stature, TMJ is nowhere near satisfied to stop any time soon.

TMJ, Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim

"I think it has got bigger and bigger but the intention when I took over at the very start was to go big, to create something that others have never created and to be different in terms of success inside and outside the pitch. I want to leave a legacy, I want us to create history and I'm addicted to success. 

"Whether it's having the best football pitch, parking lot or even small details such as corporate boxes, dressing rooms and anything that involves football facilities or achievement in our youth academy. It's my way of measuring the success of the club. It's not just about signing foreign players and participating every year. 

"It has to be all-encompassing. When I first took over, I always wanted to go big. I never had intentions to be average. Alhamdulillah, we have grown massively through the years," Tunku Ismail told Goal.

Average will never be something that can be aimed at TMJ and what he has done for JDT. A state-of-the-art training facility in Padang Seri Gelam, a magnificent 40,000 seater brand new football only Sultan Ibrahim Stadium, a complete football pyramid from grassroots to senior and countless other big statements he has made over the years.

His passion and knowledge of football is incredible. Anyone who has ever sat down in a conversation with TMJ can attest to the fact that he, like any fan, is just mad for football. The knowledge is an ever expanding one as he’s known to keep abreast of the sport not only within the country but also from around the world. 

Outspoken, TMJ does not hide away from contentious issues and can be often seen speaking his mind on various topics. Sharing his passion for football, he also takes interest in other sports like polo and boxing. Just like the common man, he is also very active on social media platforms.

Tunku Ismail, Johor Darul Ta

That said, the Crown Prince of Johor and son of Sultan of Johor, Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar is humble enough to know that the extraordinary progression of JDT as a football club and all the success that the club has achieved is not down to him alone - there were other protagonists along the way.

"I have to say that His Majesty Sultan of Johor has been very supportive in terms of supporting my vision and providing some input and advice. Mr Peter Lim has been a great help to me in terms of investments at the club and opening doors for JDT to excel in the world football industry. 

"Of course, I have a good team of people such as the Sporting Director Martin Prest, Technical Director Alistair Edwards, Accountant & Advisor Jay Bujang and I have a good team at JDT, including Johor Southern Tigers. I have my policies and principles but it's not just me, everyone has been a great help by contributing and playing a part in making this a successful club. 

"Among the things, I am most proud of is the fact we made all of this possible without a single cent of government money. We worked hard to get this, unlike some other teams who use a Prince to sign documents just to get funding from the State Government," he added.

Success breeds success and that yearning for more is what drives TMJ, JDT fans and football fans in Malaysia in general can certainly look forward to more from him in years to come.


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