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 By John Duerden

Pahang want to make AFC Cup on merit not by default - Dollah Salleh

Ex-Malaysia national coach Dollah Salleh wants Pahang to qualify for the AFC Cup off their own backs and not as a handout.

Last month, Pahang were given a chance to enter the competition after FA Cup winners Kedah failed to secure the necessary AFC club licence.

As Malaysia Super League runners-up Pahang were next in line, but Dollah's Pahang refused to accept the spot, insisting that they preferred to focus on domestic commitments.

The club could face sanctions from Football Association of Malaysia (FAM), especially as the place is not transferable to another Malaysian club.

That means that champions Johor Darul Ta'zim (JDT) will be the country's sole representatives in Asia next year.

Dollah, who returned to Pahang for a second spell as head coach at the end of 2016, is hoping, however, that the team can earn their place in the 2019 tournament.

"It would not look quite right to take someone else's place,"Dollah told ESPN FC. "It is better if we can do it ourselves and can qualify through our own effort and ability.

"We are going to try and have the best season we can in 2018."

Pahang start training for the new campaign on Dec. 11, with the 54-year-old refusing to set any targets for the next campaign.

One thing is for sure, however, Dollah will be back in charge of the team after suspension.

In July, he was hit with an 18-month ban by FAM after being found guilty of insulting match officials. The punishment was reduced to five months on appeal.

"It ends at the end of December," he said. "I will be back in January and am looking forward to the challenge very much. It should be an exciting season."

Asian expert John Duerden is the author of Lions and Tigers: Story of Football in Singapore and Malaysia.Twitter: @JohnnyDuerden.

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