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PJ City FC owner Datuk Seri Vijay Eswaran with his collectables at his office.
PJ City FC owner Datuk Seri Vijay Eswaran with his collectables at his office.

AS the country celebrated Malaysia Day yesterday, PJ City FC owner Datuk Sri Vijay Eswaran is bent on using football to unite Malaysians of all races and giving opportunities to local players to excel.

For this reason, he intends to reduce the foreign players in his Super League team next season. At present, PJ City have three Brazilians, one Korean and one Timor Leste player.

Question: What is your focus with PJ City FC in the M-League?

Answer: Well, the city of Petaling Jaya is always close to the QI Group’s heart. It’s not just the place the group has been headquartered for over two decades, it’s in many ways a microcosm of modern Malaysia itself. Our focus is to make PJ City FC a truly community-centric team reflecting the proud city of Petaling Jaya. The club will be the beginning of my larger vision for the future of football in Malaysia.

We don’t just want to build great players, but we want to build a community, a successful community, reflecting the thriving city of Petaling Jaya.

Q: What inspired you to get involved in Malaysian football and buy PJ City FC?

A: I see football as a force for good, capable of uniting the country and letting its people forget differences in race, religion, creed and colour to rally behind a symbol of the Malaysian oneness.

Malaysia, back in the 1960s and 1970s, were one of the most feared teams in Asia. We had star players like Mokhtar Dahari, Soh Chin Aun, Santokh Singh, the Bakar brothers of Ali, Isa and Shaharuddin Ali, Wong Choon Wah, R. Arumugam, Shukor Salleh, James Wong and Hassan Sani. They certainly formed a multi-racial national team that put the country in the forefront of Asian football then.

In the 1970s, Malaysia were on par with South Korea, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Iran but over the years, we have failed to maintain our superiority in Asia while our rivals have gone on to play in the World Cup.

I would like to see players from all races play for the country like in the 1970s and bring back the glory days of Malaysian football.

I certainly see sports as the best way to unite all races in this country.

And in the spirit of Merdeka and Malaysia Day, it would be nice to envision a multi-racial football team in the near future.

As for PJ City FC, it is just the beginning of my larger vision for the future of football in Malaysia. I am personally committed to the success of this up-and-coming football club and I hope it can inspire the next generation of fans, business leaders and entrepreneurs in the same way the golden age of Malaysian football in the 1970s had inspired me.

PJ City coach K. Devan (second from left) has a pep talk with his players during training.
PJ City coach K. Devan (second from left) has a pep talk with his players during training.

Q: What is the vision of PJ City FC?

A: PJ City FC are largely made up of young men who have neither the opportunity nor the aptitude for higher education but who possess talent and skill that need to be channeled positively into football.

Being able to take these young men, who would otherwise have no other opportunities to improve their lives, and turn them into champions with a passion for excellence, means being able to create role models for the 13 million football fans in Malaysia.

I don’t want to build up just the players. For the fans, my aim is to create a new, exciting and immersive fan experience, and to build and engage the online community as well as passionate match-going fans. The public will be able to buy memberships and participate in road-shows and other activities built around the team.

PJ City FC will essentially be a club that inspire the modern supporters to get involved in a unique and ambitious project.

Q: What are your plans for the team next season?

A: I believe in local players. I am seriously considering using just a minimum number of foreign players and prove that PJ City can still do well without the maximum five foreign players (as allowed in the Super League).

With all teams utilising the maximum number of foreigners, about 60 local players will be deprived of the opportunity for exposure and playing in key positions in the team.

It is no surprise the national team coaching staff complain that they do not have calibre players in positions like strikers and midfielders because in the M-League, it is the foreigners who are playing in all these positions. Next season PJ City will probably hire only one, or a maximum of two foreigners of calibre.

Q: Many clubs have come into the M-League but did not last. How about PJ City FC?

A: Generally, revenue shortfall will make the teams’ existence in both the Super League and Premier League untenable.

It is a fact that many teams do not have sustainable revenue channels, they fail to transform into commercially viable entities and continue to rely heavily on state funding.

As a keen follower of the football scene in the country, I see some of the teams operating in a very old school manner where they feel that state funding is their only source of income, and this undoubtedly does not allow the teams to have a future.

Though attendance for the Super League and Premier League is strong, many clubs have failed to secure lucrative advertising contracts or commercial deals with the private sector or sponsors.

There is a need for more companies, sports marketing agencies, merchandising agencies, sports lawyers and insurance companies to enable the industry to be more vibrant and exciting.

Thanks to the FA of Malaysia, I see that the commercial value of Malaysian football is higher now based on games played and live broadcast.

As for PJ City, we are here to stay. With strong performance, good fan support and the QI Group behind the team, we are certainly looking at a long term stay.

We did reasonably well in terms of overall performance although we finished eighth out of twelve teams in our debut season in the Super League (this year). The team have confirmed their stay for the 2020 Super League. We are getting better, as you can see their performance in the on-going Malaysia Cup. Certainly, the team have a bright future.

Q: What kind of development programme does PJ City FC have?

A: The PJ City FC Player Development Programme is part of the development pathway for the team as it provides training and games for our teams of Under-17, Under-19, as well as for the Super League.

The youth team were selected from all over the country from the development programme initiated by MIFA (Malaysian Indians Football Association) at schools’ level, and the players are housed and trained in Nilai year round.

Our approach is youth centred, where we coach from the head down, rather than the feet up. As well as developing players technically and physically, we want to support every player with building their confidence, creativity, decision-making and love for the game.

Our training is fuelled by passion and a thirst for victory. We want every player to feel empowered, take responsibility for their own learning and fulfil their potential on and off the football pitch.

Our coaching team are experienced in delivering coaching sessions that allow high levels of decision-making and engage each player from start to finish.

Q: What are PJ City FC’s plans, in terms of having their own facilities and becoming a full-fledged pro club?

A: Our plan is to have an academy that provides young players with an opportunity to develop, learn new techniques and skills, all under the guidance of our coaching staff.

I want the club to offer something different and something unique by developing players both on and off the pitch, educating them through experience that will shape their progression into young adults and giving them skills that can be used throughout their lives.

Our overall aim is to bring PJ City FC to our young fans around the city of Petaling Jaya and to demonstrate just how special our football club are.

As for our own stadium, we will continue to utilise the facilities at our home venue, which is the MBPJ stadium in Kelana Jaya. We will look into the possibility of owning our own stadium soon – maybe to acquire and manage MBPJ, if that is possible.

PJ City FC, currently, are one of the two only privately-owned club in the Super League and are truly a community-centric team reflecting the proud city of Petaling Jaya.

As one big PJ City FC family, we have a responsibility to provide young players with access to the best environment and coaching possible — that’s what we aim to achieve as a full-fledged pro club.

Q: How much is spent on PJ City FC annually and can it be sustained with the increasing costs yearly?

A: Comparatively, our budget is relatively small. The club, originally, were operating on a shoestring budget with players predominantly from low income families and they had no money for a proper football kit.

When the club made it to the Super League, I came in to support them full-time. We are more of a community club run on a small budget without any of the big sponsors compared to our rivals in the Super League.

We may not be a big club but the team spirit of everyone who put on the club jersey is incredible. We have big visions, and we manage the team prudently and professionally to attain our desired goals. We certainly welcome sponsors, especially to sustain the increasing costs annually.

Q: Your comments on PJ City’s debut season in the Super League?

A: We targeted a top-six finish but ended up eighth out of 12 teams. Some predicted this season that we would be relegated to the Premier League but I understand that totally.

I think our team did well, compared to other seasoned campaigners in the Super League.

Comprising a blend of young and experienced players, our team managed to pull off a surprise away win over top club JDT in their campaign this season.

Part of our DNA is to try and have passion and desire. It doesn’t matter how big you are; you have to try everything. Togetherness is a big part.

Q: Besides PJ City, you are also a partner with Manchester City in the English Premier League. Will there be any collaboration?

A: Yes, we have been in partnership with Manchester City since 2014 and we recently extended this partnership that will take the relationship to 10 years. The long-standing partnership will see QNET continue as Official Direct Selling Partner for Man City men’s and women’s teams.

This partnership marked a significant milestone in May, 2018 when City welcomed QNET as the first sleeve partner in the Women’s Super League. Throughout the next phase of this partnership, QNET will continue to provide City-led football clinics to communities around the world, as well as engaging with consumers and distributors through this relationship with City.

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