The hunger for success has not been diminished by last year’s Malaysia Cup triumph as Kuala Lumpur City prepares to write a new chapter in the club’s history when the AFC Cup gets underway on Friday.


Head coach Bojan Hodak noticed a desire in the team which is reminiscent of Kuala Lumpur’s incredible run to the club’s fourth Malaysia Cup title in 2021, culminating with a 2-0 win over Johor Darul Ta’zim in the final.


The players have been barely able to contain their eagerness ahead of kick-off against Indonesia’s PSM Makassar in the opening Group H match with the Super League defeat to Terengganu last Saturday having no bearing on the AFC Cup.


“This is a different competition, a different game,” said Hodak. “It feels like the NBA with a game every few days in the AFC Cup, FA Cup and Super League. You cannot think too much about the past game, just need to focus on the next one.


“I have a feeling our players are waiting for this AFC Cup because most of them have not experienced it. So I think they want to achieve something and they are focused on this game.”



Hodak has a nearly full team to choose from with only J. Partiban unavailable due to a groin injury. Romel Morales and Kenny Pallraj are available after missing the Terengganu match but the loan signing of Jordan Mintah has come too late for the striker to feature in the AFC Cup group stage.


However, with only four imports permitted to play at a time, Hodak must decide who among Kevin Mendoza, Giancarlo Gallifuoco, Kevin Koubemba, Paulo Josue and Morales to leave out.


“Partiban will play the second game against Tampines but for this game, he is not ready,” said Hodak. “The only issue I face is that I have five foreigners and I can only field four. I need to take one out and it’s a headache to think about what to do. We will have to rotate depending on the game and the opponent.”



Hodak rates all three teams equally although Makassar and Tampines Rovers have played more often in the AFC Cup. The new season of the Indonesian Liga 1 has not started but Hodak does not believe that will be a problem for Makassar.


“All three teams in the group are equal. The advantage for Makassar and Tampines is that they play in the AFC Cup almost every while KL has not played in Asian competitions for many years. Our only advantage is we’re playing at home,” said Hodak.


“When you play regularly in competitive league matches then you are in form, so this is an advantage for us. Makassar played three games in the President’s Cup so they are also prepared.”


Safee Sali, who achieved success in this competition with Johor Darul Ta’zim in 2015, warned his teammates that this competition is more intense than the Super League.


“The level of intensity in the AFC Cup is different,” said Safee, who has scored 10 goals in 22 games in Asian club competitions. “You must be mentally and physically prepared. It’s not like in the Super League where you can read the opposition 100 percent.


“We must take full advantage of playing at home to win our matches and advance to the next stage.”



Makassar has a new coach in Bernardo Tavares after finishing 14th in the 2021-22 Liga 1 while their new season has yet to start. Tavares has signed 14 new players, including three foreigners, while Makassar has also promoted several young players from their academy.


Hodak, who coached Makassar in the 2020 AFC Cup, knows several of their players including Rasyid Bakri, Rizky Eka Pratama, Yance Sayuri and Yakob Sayuri. He identified their new foreign signings – striker Everton Nascimento, midfielder Kenzo Nambu and defender Yuran Fernandes – as players to watch, in addition to their captain Wiljan Pluim.


“Wiljan is dangerous, if you give him space he can create most of the damage,” said Hodak. “They are dangerous on the flanks. Rizky and the Sayuri brothers run up and down non-stop, so we need to do something to stop them. The Japanese player (Nambu) is quite good, I checked his matches in Thailand before. We need to take over the midfield because Muhammad Arfan and Wiljan are two key players who are the heart of the team.”



Makassar coach Bernardo Tavares expressed his unhappiness at having to play two games in four days but also expects the match against Kuala Lumpur to be more demanding on his team after having just three matches in the pre-season President’s Cup to prepare for this competition.


“This is a good competition and we hope to make a good image for the players and team,” said Tavares. “It’s good for us to be here to make a good performance, very important to represent Indonesia and to give our best.


“Our opponent is a strong team with good local and foreign players. They lost in their last match but the two goals were both from outside the box. We are building a team with many young players but tomorrow on the pitch it is 11 against 11 and we will try to make a surprise.


“We played in the President’s Cup on Sunday and then flew here at night with no time to train. If we have more time to work then we can make a better performance tomorrow. My concern is that after this match we only have two days to rest.”



1. Kuala Lumpur won five and lost just once against Indonesian opposition in club competitions.
2. The last meeting with an Indonesian club happened to be a 2-0 defeat to Glora Dewata in Denpasar in the 1994 Asian Cup Winners’ Cup second round, second leg. But the result was overturned after Dewata fielded two ineligible players.
3. Kuala Lumpur won the Asean Club Championship twice in 1987 and 1989 and will be seeking to win the Asean Zone of the AFC Cup although there is no trophy for the winner this time
4. Kuala Lumpur has scored 48 goals in Asian club competitions and needs two more to reach 50
5. L. Suresh was the last player to score for Kuala Lumpur in Asian club football, against Telephone Organisation of Thailand on 26 November 1994. Kuala Lumpur lost 3-2 in the quarter-final, second leg after extra-time in Cheras.