KUALA LUMPUR (AFP) — Malaysia will not allow any foreigners to ply their trade in the domestic league from next season in a drastic attempt to improve the quality of young homegrown players, a news report said Sunday.
"The council felt that with the presence of foreign players, local players have not been given the opportunity," said Khairy Jamaluddin, deputy president of the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM).
"We are back to the drawing board, our focus now will be development," he said, according to the New Straits Times daily.
FAM, which wrapped up its council meeting over the weekend, reached a unanimous decision to keep out foreign talent indefinitely from the Malaysian Super League, the report said.
"We are not at the status of the English Premier League. Our league is not matured yet, therefore some drastic measures must be taken to improve it," Khairy reportedly said.
But the report also cited unnamed FAM officials as saying that the main reason for giving foreign players the boot was the poor financial state the teams were in.
"Many are having problems paying salaries and they can't cope, so it is best that we do away with foreign players until the problems are solved," a FAM council member was quoted as saying by the newspaper.
Foreign players are often the best-paid players at clubs in Malaysia, where football remains the most popular sport despite the national team's poor performances.
Malaysian football has fallen a long way since the heady days of the 1970s and 1980s, when the national side regularly beat local rivals Japan and South Korea, and reached the 1972 and 1980 Olympics.
The national side has not won a major international tournament since the 1989 Southeast Asian Games.
The national team's demise has been blamed on poor management, cronyism, corruption, a lack of government support and the absence of any grassroots nurturing of talent.
Khairy, producer of reality TV show "MyTeam" and son-in-law of the prime minister, has set ambitious goals for the national team but has admitted that he faces an uphill battle to bring the national game back to its glory days.
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