M-League putting Malaysian football future in jeopardy with latest move?

KUALA LUMPUR: M-League clubs are sacrificing the future of Malaysian football as they go ahead with the latest move to have more foreign players in their squads.

This has got critic Dr Zulakbal Abdul Karim warning that Malaysian football development could be adversely affected.

The Malaysian Football League (MFL), following a request by clubs, recently announced that the maximum number of foreign players on the field during a M-League match has been increased from five to six.

The Under-23 MFL Cup will also see more imports as teams can now field three imports and two overaged players on the pitch instead of last year's practice of two imports and one overaged player.

Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris Sports Science associate professor Dr. Zulakbal said: "What's the football league's priority in our country? It's good to have quality imports, but the league should help our players develop into better players for the national team."

He said the over-reliance on foreign players could be bad for the national team in the long run.

"There must be long-term planning by M-League clubs. The league must be an important platform for development of local players which will benefit the national team in the long run," said Zulakbal who is also a former Football Coaches Association of Malaysia vice president.

"I'm not sure of the reason behind the clubs asking for an increase in import players. But more imports means that more local youngsters will be sidelined."

And it is mind-boggling that clubs want to add more imports when the M-League is rampant with reports of foreign players and foreign coaches not getting paid their salaries by clubs.

"The cases of unpaid wages for players, including the much more expensive import players, happen every season. We have import players filing complaints with Fifa and we have teams struggling to clear their debts following the world body's fines."

Zulakbal said the new ruling in the Under-23 MFL Cup is a baffling decision as the age group tournament's main purpose is to expose and develop players for the future.

"The introduction of three imports in the MFL Cup is something that I don't agree with. What signal are we sending to the grassroots players and coaches?

"The opportunities of youngsters turning into pro footballers are affected because they won't get the crucial playing time in the MFL Cup to develop and hone their skills.

"Most of them would end up looking for jobs in a different career elsewhere."

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