Malaysian Super League: Bai lauds JDT move

SINGAPORE - Baihakki Khaizan is all for the idea of Malaysian side Johor Darul Ta'zim (JDT) sending their second-tier team to play in the Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League next year.

While some in the football fraternity are wary of a dilution of local flavour, the 30-year-old believes the participation of JDT II - who ply their trade in the Malaysian Premier League (MPL) - could breathe life into the S.League.

If JDT II's move to the S.League materialises, Baihakki is expected to be an integral member of the team.

The central defender was recently released by JDT's Malaysian Super League (MSL) side and signed with Singapore's MSL representatives, the LionsXII.

But he will return to JDT II at the end of the year.

"Honestly, I think it will have a big impact on the S.League," said Baihakki, pointing to the likelihood of Johor FA president Ismail Ibrahim signing a big-name player for the second-tier team.

"JDT fans have been massive and I believe they will attract crowds to the stadiums in Singapore with their presence, while JDT's younger players will get exposure and experience. I'd love to be part of it."

The 12-team S.League includes three foreign sides - Brunei's DPMM FC, Albirex Niigata of Japan and Malaysian side Harimau Muda B. Tampines Rovers chairman Teo Hock Seng and Gombak United chief John Yap also welcome the idea of the Malaysian side in the S.League.

Gombak are sitting out the S.League as they fix their financial situation, and Yap believes Johor could inject some much needed rivalry and excitement.

"(JDT II's participation) could be a step in the right direction. It may re-ignite the old rivalry against Malaysian state teams," said Yap.

"And if they bring in quality players, then the league will receive an adrenalin boost and it could perhaps raise the profile of the S.League."

Teo said: "Any team are welcome, I think it's good to have a foreign team that are (based) closer to us."

However, Balestier Khalsa chairman S Thavaneson did not share their optimism.

"For me, it's a non-starter. We shouldn't dilute the league to an extent that it is dominated by foreign teams," Thavaneson said.

Although he acknowledged the three foreign sides have added excitement, he added: "Where does it all end? We'll have Felda United wanting to come in next."

Singapore will host the South-east Asia (SEA) Games in June next year.

The New Paper understands that plans are being drawn up for the Courts Young Lions - effectively the SEA Games squad - to sit out the S.League in 2015 and go for overseas stints to beef up their gold-medal bid.

If that happens, it will perhaps open up a slot for JDT II.

Speaking to Malaysian media on Tuesday when he revealed the interest in the S.League, Ismail, who is also Johor FA president, said he was willing to pay RM300,000 ($115,000) in fines to the Football Association of Malaysia for withdrawing his team from the MPL.

Nenad Bacina, a coach in the JDT set-up, and possibly JDT II coach next year, is looking forward to the challenge.

"I like the idea, I think both Singapore and Johor can benefit from this," he said.

The Football Association of Singapore said in a statement that it has not received "any official requests" but sources revealed that both parties are planning to meet soon.

I believe they will attract crowds to the stadiums in Singapore with their presence... I'd love to be part of it.

- Baihakki Khaizan on JDT II's plan to play in the S.League

This article was published on MAY 9 in The New Paper.

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