Packed Malaysian fixtures will help build stronger national team - FMLLP

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The organisers of the Malaysia Super League (MSL) have defended heavy criticism of their congested fixture list, saying that the format is aimed at creating a more competitive season and helping improve the national team.

In 2016, the MSL and Malaysia Cup are running concurrently, in contrast to previous years in which one followed the other. It means two games every week for 16 of 24 teams in the top two divisions.

But Football Malaysia Limited Liability Partnership (FMLLP) chief executive officer Kevin Ramalingam said the format shake-up would help domestic football get stronger by building a bigger pool of players.

"We want to have a league of substance," Ramalingam said. "If we can have 800 to 1000 active players in the domestic campaign, we would surely garner enough talents to put Malaysia higher on the Asian, and world map."

Malaysia currently have 303 MSL professionals, down 10 percent on the total for 2015.

"With this new format, teams will play a maximum of 40 games. A team plays an average of 30 to 32 games a season. This is done to ensure that the players are competitive throughout the season," Ramalingam said.

"Our long term goal is to produce a bigger pool of players to help the national team. The games cannot be reduced, as it will not increase the quality of football."

The changes were also put in place to ensure that competing teams were given a more solid commercial platform to work from. It is hoped that the issue of salary non-payments to players from clubs is less likely if the MSL season ends in late October instead of August.

Ramalingam also pointed to the fixtures overload in Europe, and cited Liverpool and Europa League champions Sevilla, who were not spared from a punishing calendar.

He said: "Last season, Liverpool played 30 games within a two day gap. That is one match every 3.23 days. Sevilla had also competed in 27 games in that same period, which equates to one match every 3.21 days.

"In comparison, Kelantan only played 13 games in the span of 44 days."

Southeast Asia's top championship, the Premier League of Thailand, sees 34 matches from March to October. This is in addition to the Thai FA Cup, the AFC Cup and AFC Champions League.

FMLLP's ultimate target, Ramalingam added, is seeing Malaysian clubs regularly in the AFC Champions League. Presently, MSL sides face several gruelling qualifying matches, which presents an almost impossible road to the elite Asian competition.