Johor prince quits as Malaysia football boss: ‘I’m a tiger and will not work with sheep’

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KUALA LUMPUR,09/12/2017. Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) president Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim during press conference at Wisma FAM. Malay Mail/Firdaus Latif

Suresh Nair

RARE football-spirited bosses, with the genuine fire in the belly, are ever hard to find, especially with a royal heart to sincerely lift the sport from the dumps.

The decision of Tunku Mahkota Johor Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim to resign as President of the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) is heart-breaking and one of the biggest blows to Malaysian football.

He’s a man of his word. He never pulls punches with his big-hearted responses and he spoke with pride and passion of how he tried his best to raise standards and how there were invincible hands out there appearing to sabotage his efforts during the past one year in office.

Earlier during the media conference, the 34-year-old Tunku Ismail said that “the tiger has been unleashed” in reference with the latest development surrounding his resignation.

“I am like a tiger who should not be working for sheep because tigers and sheep cannot be together. Tigers need to work with tigers,” he said, an allusion to his departure from FAM and new role in the newly-created Malaysian Football League (MFL).

His track record the past one year as FAM boss has been nothing but a thumbs-up. But he was disappointed Malaysia did not rise to a higher FIFA ranking from 178, wherein he received criticism on social media. Harimau Malaya (the national team) has not win in 11 matches, another very sore point with the fans.

BIG SPONSORS

“If we look, I have brought in many sponsors in which for the first time in history, each team competing in the Super League received almost RM3mil, as well as RM1mil for each Premier League team. God willing, it will increase,” he said.

“If seen from the structural aspect and relations with fans, we have improved and we could see the national Under-23, Under-19, and Under-16 squads showing excellent results and qualifying for the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Cup for the first time.”

Tunku Ismail said he was always evaluated by the performance of the national team but he did not blame the supporters as many parties saw him as a competitor.

“Many see me not as FAM president but as the owner of Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT), the strongest team in the country. Many see me as a competitor and was evaluated as not wise, not clever,” he said.

As such, he did not want to waste time serving a small group who are considered “less clever”.

Tunku Ismail recommended Datuk Mohd Yusoff Mahadi to be appointed as acting FAM president until the 64th FAM Congress on July 14 and FAM secretary-general Datuk Hamidin Mohd Amin to lead the association after that.

MOST QUALIFIED CANDIDATE

“In my opinion, the most qualified candidate to lead the FAM afterwards is secretary-general Datuk Hamidin Mohd Amin, who has served Malaysian football for a long time,” he said.

“If we look at (football’s world governing body) FIFA, some of their presidents came from the secretary-general background because they understand football administration.”

He also mentioned that he had a “very good relationship” with Hamidin, and this would facilitate the partnership between the FAM and the Malaysian Football League (MFL), of which Tunku Ismail, the owner of Johor Darul Takzim, has been appointed chairman.

“If Datuk Hamidin is voted as FAM president by affiliates, I will give my full support to him and ensure that the FAM’s income is secure. I hope all affiliate members will support Datuk Hamidin as FAM president,” he said.

Malaysian Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin “accepted Tunku Ismail’s decision to resign”, saying he would continue to contribute his energy and expertise through sponsorship works and efforts to raise the professionalism of the MFL.

Truly a sad day for Malaysian football as, in my view, the Johor Prince remains a tiger-hearted football fan who sincerely wants to lift the sport from the dumps.

Much as it is heart-breaking to see him throw in the towel as FAM President, on matters of principle, he will still continue as the owner of Malaysia Cup champion Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT), the strongest team in the country, and lead the evolution oprofessional football.