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The most popular football clubs: Malaysia


Kuala Lumpur: As is the case across most of Southeast Asia, the passion for football in Malaysia is intense and matches between the top sides can sell out venues the country over as decades-old rivalries continue to excite. 

With the Malaysia Super League set to resume on August 22, we continue our 'most popular' series by focusing on the nation's biggest clubs and ask you to vote for your favourite.

Below we've selected six sides based on their success over the years. Review the candidates and tell us which team you like best at the bottom of the article.

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Johor Darul Ta'zim

While the club was originally founded in 1972, Johor Darul Ta'zim as we know them today came into being in 2013 and ever since have enjoyed unrivaled success as they have picked up title after title. Indeed, the side's 2019 league crown marked an unprecedented sixth in a row and should they make it a seventh in 2020, they will have won more championships than any team in their country.

Current coach Luciano Figueroa was among the stars when JDT rose to prominence in 2014 by winning their first Malaysia Super League crown and the southern side have since developed into the domestic powerhouse. Number six last year was completed having lost just one game – after the title was already wrapped up – as they continue to move from strength to strength.

Equally impressive is JDT's emergence on the Continent, becoming the first club side from Malaysia to taste Asian glory when they defeated Tajikistan's FC Istiklol 1-0 in the final of the 2015 AFC Cup. In 2019, the Southern Tigers made their AFC Champions League debut and, while they failed to make it beyond the group stage, they performed admirably with a victory over defending champions Kashima Antlers the highlight.

Plenty of stars have turned out for JDT over the years with Safiq Rahim, Safee Sali and more recently Safawi Rasid among the big-name Malaysians to represent the club, while Singaporean Hariss Harun has also played a huge role in their success. A strong South American contingent including Mauricio, Marcos Antonio and Diogo have also developed into firm favourites with the fans.


Selangor

Founded in 1936, Selangor are one of the most storied sides in Malaysian football and, indeed, they are the only club that rival JDT's six titles since league football was introduced in 1982. They also boast 33 Malaysia Cups and five FA Cups to their name – both records – making them the most decorated club in the Southeast Asian nation.

It's now a decade since Selangor last won the league title, however, when they went back-to-back in 2009 and 2010 with the former year seeing them achieve the league–cup double. Their 33rd Malaysia Cup, claimed in 2015, was their most recent piece of silverware while they also won the tournament an astonishing seven times in nine years in the 1970s.

On the Continent, Selangor reached the first-ever Asian Club Championship final back in 1967, losing out to Israel's Hapoel Tel Aviv as club football in Asia moved into an exciting new era. More recently, the side reached the 2006 AFC Cup quarter-finals and the Round of 16 in 2013, while the last time they appeared in the competition was in 2016.

Malaysian legend and local hero Mokhtar Dahari spent nearly his entire career with Selangor, won numerous titles in the 70s and 80s, and is the all-time top scorer, while goalkeeper R. Arumugam was another loyal and long-serving player at the club. More recently. Amri Yahyah is the record appearance maker having turned out more than 400 times for the side during two spells since the turn of the Millennium.


Kedah

Another team with a rich history, Kedah were founded way back in 1924 although their most successful period has undoubtedly come from the mid-2000s onwards. Two of the club's three league titles came in 2007 and 2008, campaigns which also saw them win both the Malaysia Cup and the FA Cup as they produced remarkable back-to-back trebles.

Kedah have become knockout tournament specialists of late as, while JDT have swept all before them in the league, the side from northwest Malaysia have enjoyed Malaysia Cup success in 2016 and then won the Malaysia FA Cup in 2017 and 2019, making them one of just two sides from the country to be picking up regular silverware in recent years.

On the back of their treble-winning campaigns, Kedah twice appeared in the AFC Cup and made it past the group stage on both occasions. In 2008, they reached the quarter-finals before defeat to eventual champions Al Muharraq of Bahrain while a year later they advanced to the Round of 16 where they were eliminated by Vietnam's Binh Duong.

Club captain Baddrol Bakhtiar has spent his entire career with Kedah and the midfielder was an integral part of the aforementioned trebles as well as the Cup successes of recent times. Muhammad Radhi Mat Din skippered the successful team of the 90s while prolific striker Marlon James boasts an incredible scoring record from a two-year spell that saw him win six trophies between 2006 and 2008.


Pahang

Inaugural Malaysia Super League winners in 2004, Pahang sit third behind JDT and Selangor with five league titles to their name. While they have not tasted league glory success since, second-place finishes in 2017 and 2019 and the 2018 FA Cup serve as a strong indication that things are moving in the right direction.

The 1990s was Pahang's most successful period as they picked up three league titles in eight seasons and finished runners-up on a further two occasions. Cup success has tended to come since the turn of the Millennium, from when they have claimed three FA Cups and a pair of Malaysia Cups - including a double in 2014.

Pahang participated in the 2005 AFC Cup but fell at the first hurdle and they returned to suffer the same fate in 2007. Their best performance on the Continent came more recently when in 2015 it was third time lucky as they progressed from the group stage before exiting to eventual runners-up FC Istiklol of Tajikistan. Previously, they made three appearances in the Asian Club Championship.

Zainal Abidin Hassan enjoyed success with Pahang as a player before steering the club to more trophies during various spells in the head coach role. Jamal Nasir did likewise and will go down in history as the man who guided them to their first piece of silverware – the 1983 Malaysia Cup – as head coach. Part of that 1983 team, Abdah Alif spent 12 years with Pahang as a player and also won trophies in the hot seat.


Perak

Founded almost 100 years ago in 1921, Perak were the first side from their country to win the Malaysia Cup when they ended Singapore's five-year winning spell to claim the 1926 title in Kuala Lumpur. In total they have now won the competition eight times, with the most recent coming in 2018 after they defeated Terengganu on penalties.

When it comes to league success, Perak have been crowned champions of their country twice, going back-to-back in 2002 and 2003 before they claimed their second FA Cup in 2004 in what was the finest trophy-laden spell in their history. Since the 2003 title, however, second-place finishes in 2007 and 2018 is the closest they've come to replicating the feat.

Like Selangor, Perak were also part of the early years of the Asian Club Championship, appearing in the group stage in 1969 and 1971. They also reached the quarter-finals of the inaugural AFC Cup in 2004 but were then eliminated by Singapore's Geylang United before returning a year later only to fall at the group stage.

Former Malaysia international Khalid Jamlus was the side's top scorer during both league-winning campaigns and enjoyed success in the two cup competitions, while Perak native K. Nanthakumar was also part of the golden era and remains on the coaching staff to this day. Current Harimau Malaya star Shahrul Saad, meanwhile, is among the modern-day crop of players.


Kelantan

Another of Malaysian football's storied clubs, although one that has moved between divisions, Kelantan are currently stuck in the second tier after being relegated in 2018 although it wasn't too long ago that they were enjoying considerable success. Indeed, the years between 2010 and 2013 saw them dominate during a period in which they claimed all of their major trophies.

A first Malaysia Cup arrived in 2010 and was followed by their maiden top-tier title a year later. But it was in 2012 that they swept all comers aside as they won the Malaysia Super League, the Malaysia Cup and the FA Cup to write their name into the history books in stunning fashion before retaining the FA Cup a year later.

There were also some strong performances on the Continent, most notably in 2012 when they advanced on top of their AFC Cup group before defeating domestic rivals Terengganu in the last 16, but they then exited to Iraq's Arbil in the quarter-finals. The side returned to the knockout rounds a year later and were eliminated at the group stage in 2014 in what remains their last appearance in the competition.

Malaysia international Norshahrul Idlan was part of the glory years between 2010 and 2012, finishing as top scorer in two out of the three seasons he was at the club, while Indra Putra also won multiple trophies with Kelantan and enjoyed several stints with them over the years. Local player Badhri Radzi, meanwhile, made well over 200 appearances and scored the winning goal to secure their first piece of silverware, the 2010 Malaysia Cup.

The poll has ended. Thank you for voting.

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