Klang Valley duo Selangor FA and UiTM FC clinch tickets to the 2020 Malaysia Cup quarterfinals after beating their respective first round opponents on Sunday. Selangor edged out Melaka United 2-1 at the Hang Jebat Stadium, while UiTM endured a 5-goal thriller as they beat TRW Kelantan FC 3-2 at the Manjung Stadium.
Acting as hosts for their first round matches, both Selangor and UiTM were forced to hold their matches outside the Klang Valley area due to the COVID-19 enforced movement restriction order within the region. Selangor decided to host Melaka at the latter’s Hang Jebat Stadium, while UiTM went to the city of Manjung in Perak to host Liga Premier side Kelantan. Nevertheless both teams looked very much at home in foreign soil and booked themselves qualification to the next round, despite their opponents giving them quite the scare in their respective matches.
Nigerian Ifedayo Olusegun once again became Selangor’s talisman as he opened the scoring at the Hang Jebat after 21 minutes, finishing off an excellent Wan Zack Haikal pass with a powerful shot. Selangor then doubled their lead in the 52nd minute, with Olusegun turning from scorer to provider as it was his decisive pass that led to Sandro Da Silva bagging Selangor’s second. Melaka almost mounted a comeback four minutes afterwards after Uche Agba had fired past Khairulazhan Khalid after taking advantage of a Selangor defensive mistake, however the Red Giants did well to retain their lead and book themselves a date with Kedah FA in the quarterfinal.
Meanwhile at the Manjung Stadium, university side UiTM raced into a 2-0 half-time lead after Arif Anwar’s 13th minute header and Rafie Yaacob’s 15th minute finish gave the Lion Troops the advantage, however Kelantan roared back to life in the second half and equalized matters through a quick-fire double from Danial Ashraf. Despite Kelantan’s best efforts to chase the game, it was UiTM who had the final say, and Arif’s 67th minute half-bicycle kick ended all resistance from the 2-time Malaysia Cup winners. Advancing to the quarterfinal for the first time in their history, UiTM will take on reigning Liga Premier champions Penang FA.
However, all quarterfinal ties of this year’s Malaysia Cup were thrown into jeopardy after Malaysia’s National Security Council announced a suspension of the competition on Monday.
Malaysia Cup suspended, but stakeholders implore government to continue
With the Malaysian government establishing a mass movement control order in 11 of Malaysia’s 13 states and all 3 of the country’s federal territories, it was somewhat inevitable that the authorities would call for a suspension of the Malaysia Cup. After all, the escalating amount of COVID-19 cases had costed Sabah FA their place in the tournament as the Borneo-based side had failed to attain permission to leave their state, as well as forcing Klang Valley-based Selangor and UiTM to hold their home games for the competition elsewhere.
However, stakeholders involved in Malaysian football have been trying their best to lobby the government to reverse their decision. They argued that there are no football-related COVID-19 clusters in Malaysia and everyone involved in the sport has been observing stringent health and safety guidelines established by the government. Another reasoning behind their argument to continue the Malaysia Cup is the financial implications that the suspensions could bring to the clubs involved within the competition.
In response to the government’s decision, Selangor wrote a statement on their website on Tuesday asking the authorities to revise their decision on feasibility grounds, as the contracts of many players in Malaysian clubs would end at the end of November – just after the conclusion of the 2020 Malaysia Cup. Selangor argued that should the suspension was upheld, many of these contracts would be deemed invalid and clubs would struggle to prepare themselves for the rest of the competition, as well as upcoming seasons.
Competition operators Malaysia Football League (MFL) also chimed in with their thoughts on Tuesday, asking for an appeal to the government’s decision and suggesting that the remainder of the 2020 Malaysia Cup should be held in a carnival-like format at the states unaffected by the government’s movement control order – Pahang, Kelantan, and Perlis. Pahang FA, FELDA United, Kelantan United, and Kelantan have been eliminated from this year’s competition by Kedah, Penang, Perak FA, and UiTM respectively, while Perlis FA were banned for two years from all Malaysian competitions last year due to financial instability and since Perlis are still serving their ban they are absent from this year’s Malaysia Cup.
The MFL are suggesting that the 2020 Malaysia Cup should continue at either one of Pahang, Kelantan, or Perlis, with the losing team leaving the state once they’ve been eliminated from the competition.