PETALING JAYA: Johor crown prince Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim has denied paying for a message congratulating the state’s football team, broadcasted on the LED screen during a match between Chelsea and Nottingham Forest at the Stamford Bridge Stadium.
This was after the Johor team won their fourth consecutive victory at the Malaysia Super League last night.
In a statement on Facebook, Tunku Ismail, better known as TMJ, said the congratulatory message was due to friendships, not money.
“I did not fork out a single cent for Johor Darul Ta’zim FC’s name to be shown at Stamford Bridge,” he said.
“But how could it have happened? It was because they are my friends,” he said, referring to the Chelsea team.
Tunku Ismail, who is JDT owner and president of the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM), said many things could be achieved without money.
He said during the years immediately after he took over JDT, one of the players, Gary Steven Robat, was suspended by FAM, so he sent him to train at Borussia Dortmund without any payment made.
This was possible because he was friends with Borussia Dortmund’s chief executive officer Edwin Boekamp, he said.
Likewise, he said he had not paid anything when JDT sent a youth squad to Valencia as the club owner, Peter Lim, was his good friend.
And when JDT had 2017 pre-season friendly matches in Thailand, he said, he had not spent any money apart from flight costs as his friend, Buriram United owner Newin Chidchob, had taken care of everything.
Tunku Ismail said the message on the LED board at Stamford Bridge was because his “new friend”, Pairoj Piempongsant from Carabao Co Ltd, wanted to congratulate him and the team.
On Sept 23, he added, his friend from King Power wanted to congratulate JDT on the LED board at Leicester City’s stadium when they play Liverpool.
“Indirectly, I have not only built my networking empire in the football world, but also with overseas delegates.
“It has not only improved JDT FC but also developed the Johor state by bringing in more investors and giving opportunities to help Johor become an economic powerhouse in the country,” he said.
He also took a dig at those who said the team’s title celebration was like celebrating winning the World Cup.
“I was also taught that if you are successful at something, you should celebrate it. It is because not many in this world can be successful,” he said.
“I do these big celebrations not only because we have created history but because it is also symbolic of what JDT have done such as jerseys being sponsored by big brands, great transportation, advanced training facilities and amenities.
“It is also to show the world that Johor is not only developing, but also becoming exemplary in government administration, state economic power and portrays this state’s success. It indirectly symbolises the progress of the Johor Darul Ta’zim state.”