The Malaysia Cup dawns upon us at the weekend, as 16-teams try to recover from their league excursions to prepare for battle in one of the oldest tournaments in Asia.
While many are touting Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT), Kedah FA and Pahang FA to win it, Felda United FC have been quietly going about their business in the most effective, yet potent manner.
They are housed in Group B of the Malaysia Cup along with PKNS FC, Melaka United FA and PDRM FA.
Nicolas Anil takes a look at what The Fighters can offer in the tournament, and why they are the dark horses to win it.
Felda are kingpins of the Premier League
This settlement side were not even supposed to compete in the second division this year. But after failing to submit their league registration on time, Felda were demoted to the Premier League. It was a bitter blow to them, having finished third in the Malaysia Super League (MSL) in 2017. Instead of letting their heads drop, Felda made it their mission to swiftly make a return to top flight, which they did in remarkable fashion. B. Satiananthan’s men comfortably won the league by a nine-point margin, only losing once in 20-matches. They also finished the campaign as the highest scorers (44), and conceded the least goals (24). While it can be debated that the Premier League is not the same level as the MSL, Felda have enough quality to challenge any of the top guns in the MSL.
B. Satiananthan is a perfectionist
When Felda fell to their only league defeat to MISC-MIFA (3-0) on May 12, a player in the team described how upset their head coach was. “He was really angry that we lost focus and concentration. We were about to be crowned champions, but he wanted us to finish the season without losing,” said the player. That declaration is a testament to Satia’s meticulous and dedicated approach to every game. Besides being a master tactician, the former national coach’s man-management and discipline has earned the admiration of many, his players included. The core of the Felda squad are made up from players from last season. While they could have tried to engineer a move to the MSL, many of them stayed on simply to continue working under Satia. After guiding them to the semifinals last year, Satia will be bent on taking Felda all the way this time.
The Fighters have game changing players
The talent, depth and experience Felda possess in their squad is good enough to win the Malaysia Cup. Players like Shukor Adan, Christie Jayaseelan, Stuart Wark, Wan Zack Haikal and Hadin Azman are all sensational performers this season, and will be fired up to impress again in the Malaysia Cup. In addition, Felda also have quality foreign players who can make a difference. The hulking figure of Thiago Junior has been immense for them in defence, Iain Ramsay has been a midfield marshal and Thiago Fernandes is the usual goalscoring machine he is with 18 goals this season. This squad is a fearsome one on paper and PKNS, Melaka and PDRM have every reason to be cautious of their quality. If Felda qualify from this group as champions, they will be favourites to go far.
Photo Credit: Felda United FC