Pahang FA, nicknamed “The Elephants”, have rejected an offer to play in the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Cup. Malaysia FA Cup winners, Kedah FA, were ineligible for the continental competition, as they failed to submit the necessary documentation, meaning Pahang, runners-up of both Malaysia Super League (MSL) and FA Cup, were expected to take Kedah’s place.
However, in an unexpected decision, the Elephants rejected the opportunity, as they would prefer to focus on domestic matters.
In a statement released on Tuesday, Pahang relinquished their right to participate in continental football in 2018, in order to direct their full attention to domestic competitions.
'Pahang FA were offered a place in the AFC Cup on November 9 but we turned it down in a letter dated November 14. This is so we can give our full attention to the domestic competitions,' reads the statement by Pahang FA.
According to Goal.com, despite Pahang’s response to the invitation, there may be a financial element to the decision, as they may be lacking sufficient resources to compete in the AFC Cup.
Malaysia spot to be annulled
There were speculations that Felda United, the third-placed team in MSL, could compete in the continental competition alongside champions Johor Darul Ta’zim, however this option has been proscribed, since Felda does not have an AFC license.
And since Pahang rejected the invitation, it may not be possible for another team to participate, under AFC regulations.
Article 12.12 of the AFC Entry Manual stipulates that “if an eligible club refuses to enter an AFC Competition, despite being licensed and meeting the sporting criteria, the slot allocated to its MA [Member Association] shall be annulled, regardless of whether it is a direct slot or playoff slot.'
However the AFC may still grant Malaysia their second slot in the competition, in which case Selangor FA, the MSL sixth-placed team, would compete, as it is the highest placed team with an AFC license.