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Participation in ACL vital for players' development, says Malaysia's Tan

Kuala Lumpur: Malaysia are right up there challenging for a place in the next round of the Asian Qualifiers and head coach Tan Cheng Hoe knows the reason why - Johor Darul Ta'zim's participation in the AFC Champions League.

The Malaysian champions made their group stage bow in the 2019 AFC Champions League and, despite not advancing, turned heads with fighting performances which included defeating 2018 winners Kashima Antlers.

With Johor Darul Ta'zim providing the core of the players for the Malaysia national team fighting for a place in the next round of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 and a confirmed slot in the AFC Asian Cup China 2023, Tan said the experience of playing against Asia's top clubs have benefitted Harimau Malaya.

Tan shares his thoughts with

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Q: The Johor Darul Ta'zim players experienced group stage action in the AFC Champions League this season, even defeating 2018 champions Kashima Antlers. How important is this exposure for the development of the players?

A: It is absolutely vital that players get such exposure at Asia's highest club level competition.

Playing against some great teams with world class players certainly has further developed and nurtured their experience and self confidence into greater heights.

Has their experience of playing against some of Asia's top club sides benefitted the Malaysia national team, who have been extremely competitive in the Asian Qualifiers for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 and AFC Asian Cup China 2023?

I would certainly say so. As mentioned, playing against top teams in Asia, competing against top players who have great intensity and pace certainly benefited the national team tremendously.

I hope there will be many more local clubs competing in the AFC Champions League.

As you can see, it brings the players confidence to a higher level and they are prepared mentally and physically when reporting for national team assignments as they know what to expect.

I'd say the national team has benefited tremendously from the experience and exposure.

The AFC will increase the number of teams in the AFC Champions League to 40 from 2021 onwards. What are your thoughts on this?

I think it is a good chance for clubs to be able to compete at Asia's highest club level competition.

It would not only give the national team that extra edge compared to others but would benefit the local leagues in terms of intensity, competitiveness, marketing value and so on.

Imagine being able to call upon players who already have the experience of playing in Asia's top level club competition, who are used to the international pace and competitiveness.

What would you like to see in terms of Malaysia's participation in the AFC Champions League?

Personally, I'd like to see more local clubs and players being a part of the tournament.

As I have mentioned time and time again, the level of competitiveness and intensity is truly amazing and that's what modern football is all about.

It would make preparation for national assignments easier when having a pool of players with that kind of exposure and experience.

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