Where do Kedah go from here after 2018 AFC Cup exclusion?

Nicolas Anil Nicolas Anil

Nicolas Anil believes Kedah’s exclusion from the 2018 AFC Cup is another example of the issues hindering the progress of Malaysian football.

Kedah’s failure to make it to the 2018 AFC Cup reaffirms a theme that has been plaguing Malaysian football for some time now: administrative failure.

Despite having a five-month grace period to submit the required documentation after they clinched the FA Cup in May, the Kedah hierarchy bided their time until it was too late, and inexplicably missed out on what would have been their biggest quest next year.

The Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) confirmed that Kedah’s failure to submit their audited accounts on time – which is a mandatory Asian Football Confederation criteria – meant they will miss out on the competition next year.

“We as players are disappointed, but we also understand the Kedah management have tried their best to follow procedures, as they have clarified in a public statement,” Kedah captain Khairul Helmi Johari said in a recent press conference.

“Perhaps it was not meant to be this year. We will try again next year.”

Trying again next year may not be worth the wait for some of the key players in the squad, who are already on other clubs’ radars.

One of Kedah’s main man lamented to FOX Sports Asia, saying: “I would be very upset if we don’t play in the AFC Cup next year. We worked so hard to get there and all the players were expecting to play.”

But despite a heartbreaking exclusion, Khairul Helmi went on to publicly back club president Dato’ Seri Ahmad Bashah to stay on, despite a huge outcry from the Kedah faithful who want him out.

In the same press statement which he read off a piece of paper, Khairul also had to defend his team after they were accused of receiving bribes for the Malaysia Cup final against Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT) on November 4, where they succumbed to a 2-0 defeat.

The situation reeks of a fall from grace for one of the big forces in the country, who were playing scintillating football just earlier this year.

Unbeaten in their first 12 games of the season, Kedah racked up 30 goals with freestyle football that left their opponents dumbfounded at times.

But when FAM came calling for their then head coach Tan Cheng Hoe in March to fill the role of national team assistant, he didn’t hesitate to leave the club.

Who would blame him? The Kedah hierarchy, had after all, waited until the last minute to offer him a one-year deal at the end of 2016, which left him with no other options.

This shows Kedah’s last-minute tendency to iron out important issues was not a one-off.

Cringe and lament as they may, the Red Eagles will not be a part of the continental showcase next year.

Neither will they be replaced, after Pahang also turned down the chance to contest in tournament to focus on domestic honours.

Forever a Kedahan ❤️

A post shared by Ken Ilsø (@kenilso) on

So, where do Kedah go from here?

Will they be able to keep their main assets, put aside the agony of missing out and replicate the high-quality football they displayed last season?

Kedah’s tale certainly serves as a cautionary tale to other clubs, that critical thinking and top brass professionalism is key to a club’s progress.

A team’s priorities should be solely be on football matters and performing their best in a competitive football campaign.

The players should not be fretting if the management are able to sort out administrative problems such as club licensing and salary payments, which could severely affect their performance.

We can only hope that Kedah management heed this lesson and start taking accountability for their respective designations from now on.

If Ahmad Bashah is serious about continuing to helm the club, then he should provide a public blueprint for Kedah for the 2018 season as soon as possible, and follow through with it.

This includes declaring audited financial statements, and breakdown of the club’s proposed expenditure.

Ticket allocations for matches should be also be made known to fans, and the promised amount be delivered to them accordingly.

Whether the president does or wants to, of course, remains a different story.

Photo credit: Kedah FA

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