Voice Of Pahang
The Malaysia Cup, which has a history that dates back to 1921 (when it was known as the Malaya Cup), has never failed to produce a special kind of magic, with the final more often than not bringing the nation to a standstill.
Tomorrow’s final is not going to be any different, but it could well be the ‘mother of all finals’ in the history of the competition.
If previously a final between Selangor and Singapore created a sort of mania (Selangor have emerged champions 32 times and runner-up 15 times, while Singapore have been crowned 24 times and lost 19 times), this time around, Pahang and Johor Darul Takzim could give new meaning to the match.
For starters, it is a royal battle as the Pahang president is Tengku Abdul Rahman Sultan Ahmad Shah, the Tengku Muda of Pahang, while Johor FA president is Tunku Mahkota Johor, Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim.
Tengku Abdul Rahman has been at the helm of Pahang FA for eleven years now, while Tunku Ismail is into his second year at Johor FA.
Both men are very passionate about the game and have done immensely to uplift it in their respective states.
While Tengku Abdul Rahman took the long development route and worked with a small budget, Tunku Ismail went professional, buying calibre players, but not overlooking development for the future.
Tengku Abdul Rahman saw his dream come true when Pahang won the Malaysia Cup last year after a 21-year drought.
It had been an arduous road for Tengku Abdul Rahman with many ups and downs. Pahang had a good team in the 1990s, but from 2000 onwards, they went through a difficult patch. That was when Tengku Abdul Rahman took the helm of Pahang FA and decided that he should focus more on local players. The Shahzan Muda Football Club was formed (14 years ago) to develop young talent and give them exposure through the FAM Cup.
And Pahang have reaped the fruits of their labours. Today, the majority of the players from Shahzan have graduated to the senior team, although the youth team are still in existence and continue to produce players.
Pahang are a low-budget team — they spend about a quarter of the highest spenders in the league.
Tengku Abdul Rahman had said he does not want to wait another 21 years to win the Malaysia Cup and having qualified for their second Cup final is already an achievement. Pahang also have won the Charity Shield and FA Cup besides finishing fourth in the League this season.
They won the Super League title in 2004 and the FA Cup in 2006 too.
But retaining the Malaysia Cup will mean a great deal to Pahang and Tengku Abdul Rahman, as everyone knows that winning a trophy is easier than defending it.
It has certainly not been an easy ride for Pahang with Zainal Abidin Hassan having to take over as chief coach from Dollah Salleh.
In contrast, Johor DT over the two years have been going on a spending spree and through trial and error finally have a team that is firing on all cylinders.
Johor last won the Malaysia Cup in 1991, beating Selangor 3-1, and are in a similar position as Pahang last year. They will definitely be hungry for success and to make all that money spent worth its while.
Johor also won the Cup in 1985 when they beat Kuala Lumpur 2-0.
Johor is also the Super League champion this year and a second trophy will surely be sweet.
What better final can we ask for with the defending Malaysia Cup and 2014 FA Cup champion up against the 2014 Super League champion?
The final will definitely be a clear case of a team development versus a team built in two years with millions of ringgit spent.
Both teams have a huge fan base and that will certainly heighten the electrifying atmosphere of the final, while on the pitch some of the best players, local and foreign, will be on parade.
But while the fans have been ever loyal to their teams, they have to keep their emotions in check and accept the end-result sportingly. The last thing we need is hooliganism spoiling a grand night.
Both teams have a list of reasons why they should win the coveted Cup, but at the end of the day, the team who want it more will triumph.
The other night on television, I saw Pahang’s Dickson Nwakaeme singing our national anthem with his teammates before the start of the game. Now that is something which will spur the local players in his team.
It is not going to be an easy battle as both teams will come out with guns blazing and the match officials for the night will play a crucial part in ensuring an entertaining and fair final.
All in all, I am expecting the final to be nothing short of sizzling that could well be decided by penalty kicks and end the next day (past midnight). As I am all for long-term planning and development, I see Pahang winning but very narrowly.
Good luck both teams. Hope you rock the Bukit Jalil Stadium!
Footnote: The tournament began in 1921, when it was called the Malaya Cup. The original trophy was presented by the officers and men of a British battleship, the HMS Malaya. In honour of this, the competition was renamed the HMS Malaya Cup in 1933. A new trophy was inaugurated in 1967, and since then the competition has been known as the Malaysia Cup.