TMJ 'may quit' as FAM president in 2018, hopes for more JDT trophies
Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) president Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim (TMJ) has stunned the country's football fans by announcing that he may quit his post in 2018, despite having a mandate to serve until 2021.
In an interview with the Johor Darul Ta'zim (JDT) TV channel, TMJ casually suggested that did not want to be FAM president for much longer and regarding his departure, he claimed, "the sooner it is, the better".
TMJ was appointed to the role last March, and one of his early moves was to appoint Nelo Vingada as Malaysia's head coach.
Vingada lasted just seven months after failing to win any of his seven games in charge as the Harimau Malaya fell out of contention for 2019 AFC Asian Cup qualification.
When asked about his hopes as FAM president for the year ahead, TMJ responded by saying that he wanted someone to replace him as soon as possible, sarcastically suggesting that it should be a 'superman'.
"This FAM President has no desires," TMJ said. "I am a president who will help other teams earn money so that they compete without much burden, fix the structure and try his best to help the national team.
"After that, let's hope there's a new president, a superman who can be the FAM president. I won't stick around for long and I plan to vacate my seat as the FAM president in 2018 or 2019. It depends. The sooner it is, the better."
TMJ's unexpected announcement comes as Malaysian football lurches from one problem to another. In the last two months, Vingada departed after the failure of his short reign and the national team fell to a worst-ever FIFA ranking of 174th in the world.
Felda United, who finished third in the 2017 Malaysia Super League (MSL), were relegated for failing to obtain a licence for domestic competition.
In addition, FA Cup winners Kedah could not acquire a licence for the 2018 AFC Cup, leading FAM to invite MSL runners-up Pahang to represent the country in the tournament.
But Pahang turned down the invitation, resulting in a two-year ban from AFC competition. When TMJ suggested they appear the decision, Pahang refused, insisting they had done nothing wrong.
Earlier last year, four MSL clubs were handed points' deductions for failing to pay their players on time, but just this week former Penang FA defender Reinaldo Lobo confirmed he had made a complaint to FIFA, alleging the club had not paid him for six months.
With such a storm of issues since he became FAM president, it seems that TMJ would like to step aside and let someone else have a go at resolving them.
TMJ is also consumed by his role as owner of MSL champions JDT, and in the same interview, he expressed his hopes that they would dominate Malaysian football once again in 2018, before stepping up a level in 2019.
The MSL champions will gain automatic entry for the AFC Champions League (ACL) group stage next year, and TMJ clearly has one eye on this already.
"I want JDT to become league champions for the fifth consecutive year," TMJ said. "I want the team to make more money in terms of commercial and business aspects.
"I am also excited for 2019 because I know JDT will be even stronger as the quality and level will be different from the current players in the team.
"I want Johor to win a lot of cups and I won't stop here. I want people to recognise Johor's success, on and off the pitch."
He added that his favourite Malaysian team, apart from JDT, was Selangor, and reaffirmed his support for Manchester United in the Premier League.
After watching the interview, many Malaysian fans will surely conclude that while TMJ's heart may no longer be in the job as FAM president, he remains as committed as ever to the success of JDT.
Bangkok-based Paul Murphy has lived in Asia for a decade, writing for ESPN FC since 2014. He is a former Daily Express sub-editor. @PaulMurphyBKK