Paulo Josue has urged his teammates to use the opportunity of playing in the AFC Cup to make Kuala Lumpur City a force to be reckoned with on the continental stage, harking back to a time when the City Boys were a feared team in Asia.


While the AFC Cup may not command the glamour and prestige of the AFC Champions League, the captain feels that Kuala Lumpur should make full use of returning to continental competition for the time in 28 years and treat the competition as if the players are playing at the World Cup.


Kuala Lumpur faces Indonesia’s PSM Makassar in Cheras on Friday in Group H’s opening match before playing Tampines Rovers of Singapore on June 30 with the top-placed team in the group guaranteed a spot in the ASEAN zone semi-finals.


“I’m very proud to be a part of this. Maybe the media don’t give the AFC Cup that much importance but for us, as players, we need to treat it as a World Cup,” said Josue, who has racked up 43 goals in 129 appearances for Kuala Lumpur since 2017.


“It is a chance to show Asia we are here, KL is the capital team of the country. We may not be the best team in the country but we are representing Malaysia so we need to show that we are here.”


Josue wants his teammates to put the disappointment of the 2-0 defeat to Terengganu in the Super League last Saturday behind them and focus on the task ahead.


“We have been working this last month to prepare for Terengganu and the AFC Cup. It has been a long time since KL played in Asia,” said Josue, referring to Kuala Lumpur’s last foray to the continent in 1994 when reaching the quarter-finals of the Asian Cup Winners’ Cup.


“As players, we have a desire to play international matches and prove we are good players. This kind of competition is good for our CVs. We are playing at home and we are a tough team to beat here.”


Kuala Lumpur twice featured in the Asian Club Championship – the forerunner of the AFC Champions League – in 1987 and 1989, reaching the semi-final group stage each time. In 13 home matches played in Asian club competitions, whether at the Merdeka Stadium or in Cheras, Kuala Lumpur won nine, drew two and lost two matches.


The Malaysia Cup champions will be strengthened by the return of Romel Morales, J. Partiban and Kenny Pallraj, whose absence through injury was sorely felt against Terengganu, leaving Josue to fill in as a centre-forward.


“We struggled a lot without strikers, the plan didn’t quite work,” said Josue, Kuala Lumpur’s top scorer in 2022 with five goals in all competitions. “We were without Romel so we had to change it but it didn’t work for me in the game.


“Defensively we did very well, especially in the first half when we absorbed a lot of pressure from them. But in the second half, we did not have enough power to hurt them upfront, especially in the attacking third. We had some chances but not enough to score a goal.


“Terengganu took their chances from long shots to score two goals from outside the box. We learned a lot as Terengganu are a good team, their four attacking players and two midfielders are quite good. It was a tough away game, we need to understand and be ready for the next match.”