Is the Malaysia Cup, regarded by many as the most prestigious football tournament in the country, being treated with respect?
The answer is no.
It is actually a third-rate tournament in Malaysia, similar to the English Football League’s Carabao Cup, a competition used by most Premier League clubs to field their academy and reserve league players for exposure.
The Malaysia Cup has no value anymore, unlike the amateur days when the tournament, known as the Malaya Cup before 1967, was among the most talked-about football events in Asia.
Despite still being a crowd-puller, the Malaysia Cup has lost much of its glitter in the last few decades.
Players no longer hoist the Malaysia Cup with great pride unlike in the early days when footballers like Ghani Minhat, Mokhtar Dahari, Santokh Singh, R. Arumugam and Soh Chin Aun ruled the local game.
The M-League (Super League and Premier League) and the FA Cup are now the major competitions as they offer places in Asian-level club tournaments, while the Malaysia Cup, despite being the most popular tournament in the country, does not offer enough incentives for some teams to give their 100 per cent.
The Malaysian Football League (MFL), founded in 2015, are tasked with raising the commercial value of local football and rebranding tournaments.
However, the Malaysia Cup failed to get recognition and respect from the concerned parties.
Held at the tail-end of a season, we see mostly tired teams plodding through tedious home-away group stage, followed by two-legged quarter-finals and semi-finals before the final.
But this year, MFL have given the Malaysia Cup a breath of fresh air by awarding the champions with an AFC Cup ticket.
Thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Malaysia Cup will now be taken seriously by the top 11 Super League and top five Premier League teams.
This has come about after MFL called off the FA Cup and Challenge Cup recently. MFL, however, should have thought about this, when they were first formed, not when the world is being ravaged by a pandemic.
Cancelling the FA Cup was a weird move as amateur and semi-pro teams from the M3 League and M4 League had already completed their preliminary and first round matches.
Instead of being a one-off thing due to Covid-19, MFL should continue to offer an AFC Cup spot to the Malaysia Cup champions in future seasons, as this will help raise the prestige of the tournament.
Many would argue that every local footballer’s dream is to hoist the Malaysia Cup at least once in their career, regardless whether it has lost its glitter.
Yes, I will not argue with that, but in modern football, it is not all about passion and dreams.
Teams also look at incentives when they compete for titles. MFL, under president Datuk Hamidin Amin, should seriously look into ways that can help regain the glory days of the Malaysia Cup.
Save the Malaysia Cup before it becomes insignificant in local football. Make it more attractive by increasing the prize money and revising the format.
Its home-and-away format is tiring, even for fans, not to mention the teams. For the participants, it’s becoming a pain.
But sentiments aside, don’t let the Malaysia Cup lose all its shine like the Merdeka Tournament, which has faded away, all but forgotten.