Malaysia Super League champions Johor Darul Ta’zim have won the Asian Football Confederation Cup Club of the Decade award.
JDT came top of an online public poll by the AFC, receiving 80 per cent of the 80,989 votes. It was followed by Iraq’s Air Force Club with 12 per cent, Qadsia SC of Kuwait with 6 per cent, Kuwait SC with 2 percent, and Lebanese club Al Ahed FC with 1 per cent.
The AFC ran the poll to mark 10 years of “unprecedented growth and evolution” in the AFC Cup, its second-tier continental club tournament, and to identify the team that fans felt had performed the best. Since 2010, the tournament has grown from 31 teams to 43, and in 2017 introduced a ‘zonal’ format, with each group in its first-round group stage containing teams from a particular region.
JDT was the first team from Southeast Asia to win the AFC Cup, in 2015, beating Tajikistan’s FC Istiklol in the final at Pamir Stadium in Dushanbe.
The AFC said: “In a tournament that has been dominated by teams from the West (Asia), Malaysia’s JDT stand as the sole team from the eastern region of the continent to taste AFC Cup glory.
“The side had endured a dismal showing in their debut as Johor FC in 2009, where they exited the group stage with just a point to show for their efforts. But it was a different team altogether who returned to the competition in 2015.”
Club owner Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim, the crown prince of Johor, told local media late last year that it aims to be the first Malaysian club to be worth RM1bn ($241.2m/€220.2m).
“We hope to be recognised as a club with an estimated value of RM1 billion or more,” he said.
“That’s my big plan to ensure JDT remain a class above the rest. We are also in talks with potential shareholders including former Italian international Marco Materazzi.
“Other former internationals are also keen to become JDT’s shareholders.”
Tunku Ismail bankrolled JDT to its sixth consecutive Malaysia Super League title last season, which helped book its spot in the group stages of this season’s AFC Champions League. It is the club’s second appearance in the continental showpiece after making its debut last season.
JDT moved to a new stadium in January – the Sultan Ibrahim Larkin Stadium. Tunku Ismail has also spent RM75m to build a training centre next to the stadium, which includes a 8,000-capacity mini-stadium and two indoor fields.