Saturday, 7 January 2012

New era starts for Super League

With Singapore back in the fray and the return of foreign players, football fans can expect an exciting and eventful 2012 Malaysian Super League (MSL).

The new season kicks off tonight with renewed hopes of a more exciting campaign following the return of Singapore after an 18-year hiatus.

The belief is that the foreign players and Singapore will not only add glamour to the MSL but help raise flagging standards.

Perennial rivals Singapore, in the form of ‘Singapore Lions XII’, should spark the interest of fans, which in turn should lead to a rise in attendance at the stadiums.

Singapore were a stalwart in the Malaysian League until 1994 when the FA of Malaysia opted to drop them from the competition. Their return was made possible after the FAs of Malaysia and Singapore signed a four-year deal in July 2011 to promote the game between the two neighbouring countries.

Lions XII, coached by V. Sundaramoorthy, have quality in the squad with several internationals and are determined to re-ignite the passion on both sides of the Causeway.

The re-introduction of foreign players this season is also expected to bring back the crowds and improve the quality of the game.

Several exciting foreigners have been snapped-up by the teams, including former Golden Boot winner Zachariah Simukonda of Zambia, who has joined Terengganu T-Team.

East coast sides Kelantan and Terengganu are again looking to light up both the Super League and the regional AFC Cup competition.

Super League champions Kelantan will be looking to start the ball rolling by winning the Charity Shield today against Negri Sembilan.

The Red Warriors have also set their eyes on doing well in the AFC Cup and have
strengthened their squad considerably in order to compete on both fronts. Kelantan’s abundant depth and quality make them hot favourites to defend the Super League crown.

Last season’s Super League runners-up Terengganu are also eyeing a good debut campaign in the AFC Cup. The Turtles lifted the FA Cup and finished runners-up in the Malaysia Cup last season, but will be without wily coach Irfan Bakti, who has joined Selangor.

The Turtles, now coached by Mat Zan Mat Aris, have maintained the core of the team and added young talents like national centreback Muslim Ahmad from Harimau Muda.

The number of teams in the top flight will be reduced to 12 from the present 14 at the end of the season to further improve the standard of the league.

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