The AFC Cup, which is Asia’s equivalent of the Europa League, starts next week with India being represented by East Bengal and Churchill Brothers. Both clubs have been drawn with teams from South-East Asia, with East Bengal in Group H (Tampines Rovers, Selangor and Saigon Xuan Thanh) and Churchill Brothers in Group E (Kitchee SC, Semen Padang and Warriors FC).
Sportskeeda will be profiling all the opponents of both the I-League clubs. Today, we profile Malaysia’s Selangor FA, who will be East Bengal’s opponents in matchday one on February 27.
The Football Association of Selangor are the most successful team in Malaysian football history with 32 Malaysian Cups, five Malaysian FA Cup crowns and six domestic league titles. Founded in 1936, Selangor, which is based in Shah Alam City, have history in continental level as well having finished runners-up in the Asian Club Championship in 1967. Interestingly, their home jersey is similar to that of East Bengal and are thus nicknamed the ‘Red-yellows’.
This will be Selangor’s third appearance in the AFC Cup with their best performance coming in the 2006 edition when they reached the quarter-finals. Selangor has a huge fan base and that is evident on the social media as well – their official Facebook page has over 96,000 likes. Their home stadium (Shah Alam Stadium) has a capacity of more than 80,000 and has hosted several pre-season friendly matches against top European clubs like Chelsea and Arsenal. Some well-known World Cuppers have played for Selangor with the most recent one being former Croatian international and Aston Villa player Bosko Balaban.
Selangor finished third last season in the Malaysian Super League but qualified for the AFC Cup as the runners-up were Singapore’s LionsXII, who are a team managed by the Singapore Football Association and thus ineligible to represent Malaysia in the continent. The Malaysian Super League only allows two foreigners for each club but AFC Cup representatives are allowed two additional foreign players. Selangor have added Liberian striker Francis Doe to their team besides recruiting a couple of Slovakians in Michael Kubala and Peter Chrappan, following the departure of Balaban.
They have retained Lebanese versatile player Ramez Dayoub, whom East Bengal fans will remember very well as he nearly joined them in 2009. Lebanese club Safa’s reluctance to give Dayoub’s ITC (International Transfer Certificate) prevented the move and the 28-year-old is now set to face the red-and-gold brigade for the first time in his career. Malaysian Irfan Bakti Abu Salem is their head coach and the team has a good group of local players with four of them part of the current national setup. The Malaysian Super League started in January and Selangor are currently third in the 12-team table after seven matches.
Dayoub can operate both as a central defender and defensive midfielder and his versatility will be vital for Selangor. The Lebanese international, who even had a pre-season with East Bengal four years ago, is in his second season at Selangor and will be determined to take them to the knockout stages.
The 26-year-old is another versatile player as he can play both in defence and midfield. But he is more comfortable as a midfielder and has won 40 caps for Malaysia. Kunanlan’s experience will be important for Selangor and he too has to perform to win back his place in the national team.
This 27-year-old striker has played for Liberia at international level and has had spells in the MLS at New York Red Bulls and DC United. Doe has had a good strike rate wherever he has played and was joint top scorer last season in the Malaysian league while playing for Terengganu FA.Published 20 Feb 2013, 19:36 IST