Universiti Teknologi MARA Football Club (UiTM FC) has reached another major milestone in the national football scene, as it becomes the first football club under the jurisdiction of a public higher education institution (HEI) to be promoted to the top-tier professional football league in Malaysia.
This feat has landed UiTM FC in the Malaysia Book of Records as the first university to play in all Malaysia football leagues (FAM Cup; Malaysia Premier League, MPL; and Malaysia Super League, MSL). Also known as “The Lion Troops”, the name embodies the ambitious, steadfast and competitive spirit of the club that was founded back in 2008. Presently, UiTM FC is the defending champion of the HEI Football League.
UiTM FC comprises undergraduate students who have to juggle their academic and athletic aspirations but years of passion and perseverance became the driving force that finally propelled UiTM FC from the second-tier MPL into the top-tier MSL in 2020. The MSL kicked off on February 2020 and as the only HEI-based club in the league, UiTM FC faced stiff competition and an uphill battle against 11 other clubs with greater resources and experiences. The inherently difficult journey in the MSL was further compounded when COVID-19 pandemic struck, resulting in the league being suspended in March before resuming in August 2020.
Amidst the restrictions brought by COVID-19, UiTM FC players continued to train at their respective homes under the guidance of head coach Frank Bernhardt and assistant coaches who are mainly former sports science graduates of the Faculty of Sports Science and Recreation, UiTM.
The UiTM FC Sport Science and Performance Unit also took proactive and innovative measures to design home-based conditioning activities to maintain the players’ fitness and skill levels while using a virtual meeting platform to monitor the players’ physical and technical competencies.
When close-contact training restarted, standard operating procedures in UiTM training grounds were well in place to avoid transmission of the virus including COVID-19 screening tests, temperature scans, frequent disinfection of training instruments, and limiting the number of players that are in close-contact training at any given point in time. All players underwent fitness assessment and their training loads were closely monitored to ensure that no players were at risk of injury after months of home-based training.
Following the resumption of the league behind closed doors, millions of football fans watched the free broadcast of the 2020 MSL through various platforms with matches involving UiTM FC drawing more than 1.4 million views in the YouTube platform alone. Overall, a total of 60 matches took placed between February to October 2020, and against all odds, UiTM FC has succeeded in defending its placement and clinched the 6th position in the league standing.
As one of the best teams in the MSL, UiTM FC not only qualified but also reached the quarterfinal of the annual 2020 Malaysia Cup before the tournament was officially canceled in response to COVID-19. It is hoped that the historical debut of UiTM FC in all Malaysia football leagues will continue to enliven the national football scene and become an impetus for the club to scale greater heights, mirroring the aspiration of UiTM to become a globally renowned university.