KOTA KINABALU: Football in Sabah is expected to be alive and kicking soon, and it is not because of the upcoming 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa!
But come July, a total of 132 teams or clubs from throughout the State are expected to be in the fray in the Sabah Football Association (Sabah FA) newly introduced football tournament – the Sabah Football League 2010.
This new league is to replace the annual tournament – the Inter-Zone.
Interestingly, this Sabah Football League 2010 is an open affair with no age limit with the exception that all banned players will still be restricted from participating.
Announcing this at a press conference here yesterday, the FA Deputy President Datuk Lawrence Gimbang said one of the reasons for the change is that they want to see more players being involved in the sport whether it is at district, zone or state level.
“We have decided to introduce the new league in order to get more players involved in the game with the hope of unearthing new talents.
“Sabah is a big State and this is one way where we can unearth hidden talent,” said Gimbang after chairing the first meeting at the FA’s office in Likas here.
He also said that the format of the league will be different from that of the Inter-Zone.
“Unlike the Inter-Zone, this will be different because the Sabah Football League 2010 is an open tournament and it is for club outfits.
Furthermore, he added that these clubsides will be representing the zones at the State level tournament.
“For the Sabah Football League 2010, it will start from the Zone level where all our respective zones will be organising Inter-Club tournaments.
“Apart from the League, the participating teams will also be competing in the FA Cup, which will be played on a knockout system, just like in the M-League.
“And on top of that, the top four teams from each of the zones will make it into the Sabah Cup, which is a State level affair and something like the Malaysia Cup.
“For a change or rather our aim to see more people playing the game week in week out, we have decided to make the Sabah Football League 2010 to be played on a home and away basis.
For a start, he pointed out, they are limiting the number of participants to 22 teams in each of their six respective zones namely West Coast South (KK area), North Zone (Kudat area), Sandakan Zone, Tawau Zone, Interior Upper (Keningau area) and Interior Lower (Beaufort area).
“The 24 teams that make it into the Sabah Cup will be drawn into six groups. The top six teams will make the quarter-finals together with the best two runners-up,” Gimbang said, adding that the Sabah Cup would also be played on a home and away format with the final taking centre stage in the State Capital.
He also hinted that attractive prizes await the winners.
“We have yet to decide on the prizes, but what I can say now is that it will be attractive,” Gimbang said.
He went on to say that if they receive good response, they might even consider creating two divisions.
“All these teams will be eligible for the FA Cup.
He said that the rules and regulations of the tournament will be the same as that of the Malaysian League.
At the same time, he also urged teams to register with their respective zones to make them eligible to take part in the tournament.
“We advise teams of clubs to register themselves with their respective zones. It would be better if they also register themselves together with their players,” said Gimbang.
At the meeting, all the zones were represented except for Tawau.