It was worth the trip down south to Pasir Gudang, Johor for Negri Sembilan outfit SMK Dato Abdullah of Seremban to compete in the south zone Manchester United Premier Cup (MUPC) qualifier over the weekend.
It came out tops – beating Johor Bahru’s Khaizar Sports 1-0 in the zone final played at Padang Mawar in Pasir Gudang on Sunday to book its place in the National Finals which will be played in Bukit Jalil on May 28. Khaizar also made it to the national finals.
Negri had two other teams in the qualifier but SMK Zaaba of Kuala Pilah were knocked out in the second round while SMK Tunku Ampuan Duha, Seremban in the quarter-finals.
With the completion of the south zone qualifier, eight teams have qualified for the national finals. They are SMK Putera, Kota Bahru and SMK Sultan Sulaiman, Kuala Terengganu from the East Zone, SMK Pusat Bandar Puchong and SMK Meru, Klang (Central Zone). Penang Schools Sports Council and SMK Anderson, Ipoh, qualified from the North Zone.
For the first time there will be two teams from the East Malaysia and this qualifier will be held at Stadium Sarawak in Kuching on May 21-22.
The national champions will represent Malaysia at the South East Asia regional finalsto be held in Si Racha, Thailand from June 7-9. The regional champions will then compete in the World Finals in Carrington, Manchester in August. The final will be played at Old Trafford.
In the south zone final, a ninth minute goal by Sheikhful Bahari Yaacob turned out to be the winner for SMK Dato Abdullah.
“We trained hard for this year’s MUPC. A lot of efforts were put in during training. Winning the south zone is a morale booster for the team to do well in the national finals. We aim to go far this year,” said Negri Sembilan Schools Sports Council coordinator Husai Nizam.
There was some consolation for Khaizar Sports when Mohd Shambr haizam Sulaiman was named the Most Valuable Player (MVP) and Mohd Ruzaini Juli won the best goalkeeper award. The top scorer was Mohamed Ashraf Roslan of SMK Dato Abdullah with three goals. The Fairplay award went to SMK Tenggaroh ‘A’.
A total of 32 teams competed in Pasir Gudang. In the semi-finals, SMK Dato Abdullah gunned down SMK Tenggaroh ‘A’ 2-0 with goals by Muhd Farid Syakir (6thmin) and Sheikhful Bahari (8th). In the other semi-final Khaizar edged Tunas Cemerlang Johor FC 5-4 on penalties after a scoreless draw.