Football: Teams face foreign fix in Malaysian Super League

MALAYSIA - All teams in the Super League, with the exception of champions LionsXII, face the conundrum of who among their quartet of foreign players to leave out in the opening round of fixtures.

Only three can be on the pitch at a time but with most teams having signed two foreign strikers, it is safe to say that one will be sitting on the bench.

That will be the case with Kelantan today when newly-promoted Sime Darby visit the Sultan Mohamed IV Stadium in Kota Baru with coach Steve Darby having to decide whether to field Liberia hot-shot Francis Doe or Lebanon forward Mohammed Ghaddar upfront.

Nigerian defender Obinna Nwaneri and Egyptian winger Mohamad Shawky are guaranteed to start, which leaves either Doe or Ghaddar to partner either Ahmad Fakri Saarani or Ahmad Shakir Ali in attack.

Darby has rubbished reports saying that Doe and Ghaddar have failed to strike up an understanding on the pitch while adding that his selection will be based on tactics.

"It's absolute rubbish," said Darby when reached in Kota Baru yesterday. "Obviously I can't start all four foreign players.

"I can't do without Obinna and Shawky which means I will have to rotate the two strikers. We have something like 14 games over the next 42 days and nobody can play all the games in that period.

"We have a long season ahead and I have to be flexible with the squad. Either Doe or Ghaddar will start but both will definitely be involved in the game with one coming on as a substitute."

Following the departure of 10 key players in the off-season, including Indra Putra Mahayuddin and Shakir Shaari, FA Cup winners Kelantan will effectively be fielding a new-look team built around captain Badhri Radzi.

Amar Rohidan was brought in to replace Shakir in midfield and his partnership with Badhri will be key to a sustained league challenge for Kelantan.

"I would have loved to have kept them," said Darby of Shakir, who joined Darul Ta'zim, and Indra, who went to Premier League side Felda United.

"But I understand why they left and if you're going to be offered four times your current salary, we'd all want to go."

"We've recruited Amar who is a very good player. He's looking good and fit and I think he can bounce back."

Amar, a fixture of the national team in K. Rajagobal's first three years in charge, struggled with Felda last season and will be hoping to impress with Kelantan and add to his 34 international caps.