Ambitious Kelantan do not intend to just make up the numbers in their AFC Cup debut next season.
Team manager Azman Ibrahim said they would be well-equipped to compete in the second-tier AFC competition as they would be fielding four foreign players.
“We began work last month and have engaged three foreign players so far,” Azman said in Seremban yesterday.
The new signings are strikers Mohd Ghaddar, 27, from Lebanon, Antwi Dennis Agyare, 18, and defensive midfielder Okine Emmanuel Ayaah, 19, both from Ghana.
The Red Warriors have also been strengthened by the return of strikers Indra Putra Mahayuddin, Mohd Norfarhan Mohd and centre-back Azizi Matt Rose, who played key roles in the side’s 2010 Malaysia Cup triumph. The trio played for T-Team last season.
Kelantan’s other notable new local signing is Azlan Ismail from Kedah.
Azman said they are now monitoring a fourth foreign player, defensive midfielder Albert Banning from Cameroon.
Kelantan, however, will only be allowed to register two foreign players in the Malaysian Super League (MSL) next season.
“We don’t want to be the whipping boys in the AFC Cup. That’s why we will be going in with four foreign players. We will have to decide which two will feature in the domestic competition,” said Azman.
Kelantan and Terengganu are Malaysia’s two representatives in the AFC Cup next year. The draw is scheduled for Dec 6.
Kelantan FA President Tan Sri Annuar Musa said they intended to raise the level of Malaysian football.
“We can’t go into the AFC Cup with a handicap by fielding only two foreign players when all the other clubs will have the maximum four. Our aim is to raise the bar and see that our clubs go beyond the quarter-final stage,” said Annuar.
No Malaysian team have got past the quarter-finals in the series. Selangor were the last Malaysian team to make an impact in the then Asian Club Championship – finishing runners-up to Hapoel Tel Aviv of Israel in the inaugural tournament in 1967.
Israel are now part of UEFA and Hapoel featured in the European Champions League this season.