Johor Darul Ta'zim forced out of Asian Champions League after Malaysia refuses to lift travel restrictions

HONG KONG -- Malaysian champions Johor Darul Ta'zim (JDT) will not travel to Qatar for the resumption of the Asian Champions League after the team was refused permission to leave the country by government officials.

Border closures implemented by Malaysia in March to limit the spread of the coronavirus will not be lifted to permit the club to complete their commitments in the continental championship, which restarts next week in Doha.

"Our policy remains the same. The borders are still closed," Malaysia's defence minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob was quoted as saying by local media when asked about JDT's hopes of travelling to Qatar.

Teams from across the east of the continent are due to travel to the Gulf state to play in a centralised tournament after the competition was paused in March when international travel came to a halt.

JDT, who were set to feature alongside Japan's Vissel Kobe as well as two-times champions Guangzhou Evergrande and Suwon Bluewings in the group phase of the competition, confirmed they would not challenge the government's stance, which will also affect the domestic Malaysia Cup tournament.

"While JDT are extremely disappointed in not being able to participate in Asia's highest club competition and the Malaysia Cup, we respect the decision by the Malaysian Government and understand that such safety measures need to be enforced due to the rising cases of the Covid-19 pandemic," Alistair Edwards, the club's technical director, said in a statement issued on social media.