NOT many expected that LionsXII would end up as the 2013 Malaysian Super League champions.
The Singapore developmental Under-23 side, with the help of four seniors, wrestled the title in style at the Jalan Besar Stadium on Tuesday by smashing Felda United 4-0, with a game left to be played.
The seniors in the squad are skipper Shahril Ishak, Isa Salim, Fazrul Nawas and Baihakki Khaizan.
It was a night to remember for LionsXII and their delighted fans including Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
There was massive celebration soon after Shahril proudly lifted the trophy. It was a special occasion, indeed.
LionsXII deserved the title and credit must be given to the players and their coach V. Sundramoorthy, whose initial task was just to finish among the top five.
Millions of Malaysian fans just watched the celebrations feeling disappointed or even disgusted.
It’s embarrassing for Malaysia, actually.
LionsXII do not have foreign imports like the Malaysian teams in this 12-team league.
They also don’t earn as much as the Malaysian outfits.
And picture this.
Top Malaysian teams were reportedly to be paying foreign players with package deals of RM1million per season, with most of them earning between RM30,000 and RM45,000 per month, excluding other perks.
And according to a report in The Malay Mail, one top local player is believed to earn about RM100,000 a month, while several big-name players earn between RM40,000 and RM50,000.
The average wage for a local player is between RM20,000 and RM25,000.
Sorry to say, local players can’t be earning amounts like RM100,000 or even between RM 40,000 to RM50,000, considering the standard and quality they possess.
LionsXII ended the league with 43 points from 22 matches after losing 2-0 to FA Cup champions Kelantan in their last match in Kota Bharu on Saturday.
Losing to Kelantan was not a big deal as the Singaporeans had already won the title. ; ; ;
One of the players who was key for LionsXII in their success was none other than skipper and attacking midfielder Shahril.
Call him Captain Marvel or whatever but Shahril is in a class of his own.
The 29-year-old scored goals, made assists and executed superb offensive passes to make him one of the best in the Super League.
LionsXII would not have emerged champions if not for Shahril, who was named Asean Football Federation (AFF) ‘Footballer of the Year’ for 2012.
Another player who starred for LionsXII was the solid and no-nonsense 29-year-old centreback Baihakki, who stands at 1.90m.
Big spenders Johor Darul Takzim, meanwhile, may have finished third behind Selangor on goal difference after both finished with 40 points, but the Southern Tigers have made the league more exciting.
Credit must be given to Johor FA president Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim for his efforts and investments on quality foreign and local players to make the local scene livelier.
It was always full house whenever Fandi Ahmad’s men played at the Larkin Stadium. Darul Takzim also attracted the attention of the neutrals with the kind of players being signed up.
One of the signings was former Spain international striker Daniel Guiza, who was later replaced by Argentine Leonel Nunez.
Guiza did a good job before leaving Johor Bahru as he scored, besides making assists.
Nunez, or ‘Super Boroi’ to some fans, turned up to be an instant hero to Darul Takzim fans.
He may be overweight but he managed to score some spectacular goals to help the team finish runners-up in the FA Cup and third in the Super League.
Nunez is always a delight to watch, overweight or not. Can’t wait to see him in action in the Malaysia Cup.
Selangor, ATM and Pahang also proved to be exciting in the league with their delightful performances.
By being second, Selangor joined Kelantan as Malaysian representatives for the AFC Cup.
It’s sad to see that Negeri Sembilan, a force to be reckoned with in recent seasons, were relegated to Premier League together with Felda United.
Well… LionsXII are now eyeing the Malaysia Cup as well after their Super League success. Nothing wrong with that.
They reached the semi-finals last season, after all.
But it is not going to be easy as the Malaysian teams are out to take revenge on the Singaporeans after their stunner in the Super League.
Teams like Kelantan, Darul Takzim, Selangor and ATM are more than capable of stopping LionsXII.
Watch out for the rather young Perak side too.
The Seladangs can surprise in this competition simply because they have the services of two of the best foreign imports in striker Paulo Rangel and defender Rafael – both of whom are Brazilians.
Prolific Rangel, also known as ‘Power Ranger’ to Perak fans, is on loan from Thai club Muangthong United.
It promises to be yet another exciting contest among the teams.
Photo taken by: Mustapha “El Loco” Kamaruddin