Report: Football coaches fear strict regulations for Malaysia Cup may lead to Covid-19 cover-up and clusters

Several M-League matches this year had to be rescheduled due to positive cases as teams involved were required to be in quarantine for 14 days. — AFP pic
Several M-League matches this year had to be rescheduled due to positive cases as teams involved were required to be in quarantine for 14 days. — AFP pic

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KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 17 ― The Malaysian Football League's (MFL) insistence that teams with Covid-19 cases should forfeit Malaysia Cup matches could lead to attempts by some teams to cover up infections, some coaches claim.

Citing some coaches, the New Straits Times (NST) reported today that some teams could resort to falsifying the coronavirus test results of players just to continue playing in the tournament, which starts on September 25.

Several M-League matches this year had to be rescheduled due to positive cases as teams involved were required to be in quarantine for 14 days.

Currently, sports clubs are required to train players in isolation ― terms a “bubble” and most try to work around it due to budget constraints, the coaches who spoke on condition of anonymity told NST.

“It is not cheap to hold quarantine-based sports bubble training. Furthermore, it does not guarantee anything as our players can still get infected,” a Super League coach was quoted saying.

“It is unfair for the MFL to forfeit matches as clubs have invested a lot to play this season.

“However, we do understand that any extension of the season would lead to contractual issues of players as their contracts expire on November 30.

“But I disagree with the 14-day quarantine ruling. Why should a team quarantine for 14 days when there are only a few players down with Covid-19?

“It is something the authorities need to review as this ruling is harming the football industry,” he added.

Another coach described the current Malaysian guidelines as outdated and contrasted them to most leagues in Europe that have opened up venues for fans and adapted to Covid-19.

“We are still stuck with outdated guidelines. In Europe, only players have to quarantine if they are down with Covid-19. Their clubs, however, can still play competitive matches.

“It is funny that in Malaysia, clubs have to quarantine regardless of the number of Covid cases among their players.

“Professional footballers in the M-League have been vaccinated, and they are in a sports bubble, so I do not see why there is a need for the 14-day quarantine.

“I fear some teams could become dishonest by not declaring Covid-19 cases. They might find a way to tamper with results just to play in the Malaysia Cup, and this could result in clusters mushrooming during the tournament,” the second coach was quoted as saying.

NST also reported MFL chief executive officer Stuart Ramalingam saying the strict measure to forfeit matches is necessary to ensure the Malaysia Cup ends on November 30.

He said the MFL does not want to extend the season as the contract of players expires on Nov 30. Furthermore, the Malaysia Cup has to take a break from October 4-12 for the national team to play international matches against Jordan and Uzbekistan.

“If clubs record Covid-19 cases, they will have to quarantined for 14 days, which we cannot afford for the Malaysia Cup.

“Furthermore, the contract of players for this season ends on November 30. If we extend the Malaysia Cup, clubs will face contractual issues,” Stuart was reported as saying.

Last year, the Malaysia Cup was cancelled after the first round due to Covid-19.

This year's Malaysia Cup champions will qualify for next season's Asian Football Federation Cup.

Earlier this week, MFL also announced the cancellation of both 2021 Challenge Cup, hours after Amateur Football League chairman Datuk Mohd Yusoff Mahadi announced the cancellation of the 2021 M3 League following the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Football Association of Malaysia had previously cancelled the Youth Cup, President’s Cup and Malaysian Premier Futsal League for the second time in a row due to the pandemic.

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