KUALA LUMPUR: The wait is almost over for football and hockey fans in Malaysia now that the Malaysia League (M-League) and Malaysia Hockey League (MHL) are set to be held next month.

This comes after Senior Minister (Security) Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob announced that the government had agreed to allow teams in the M-League, MHL and Sepak Takraw League (STL) to resume training through the sports bubble concept and in accordance with strict standard operating procedures (SOP) from Feb 15.

Malaysian Football League (MFL) chief executive officer Datuk Ab Ghani Hassan, in thanking the government, said the M-League would start on March 5 as scheduled.

He said that apart from the two rounds each for the Super League, Premier League and Malaysia Cup competitions, they would also have to make space for the Asian Champions League, involving Johor Darul Ta'zim (JDT) as well as the AFC Cup, which will see the involvement of Kedah Darul Aman FC and Terengganu FC.

On top of that, the World Cup 2022/Asian Cup 2023 qualifiers, involving Harimau Malaya, are expected to be postponed from next month to June while the FA Cup competition has been cancelled.

"We will hold a virtual meeting tomorrow with all the teams' CEOs to discuss the matter in detail," he said today.

Meanwhile, Malaysian Hockey Confederation (MHC) president Datuk Seri Subahan Kamal said the MHL would be held from March 11 to April 10 now that the Asian Champions Trophy (ACT), which was supposed to be held in Bangladesh next month, has been postponed.

"The men's league will begin on March 11 and the women's on March 17. We will also form a special task force committee with the National Sports Council (NSC), National Sports Institute (NSI) and Sports Commissioner's Office next week to discuss the SOP involved in more depth," he said.

Sepak Takraw Association of Malaysia (PSM) president Datuk Seri Ahmad Ismail, meanwhile, said a decision on the STL would be announced tomorrow after discussions with the committee members.

Meanwhile, Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Seri Reezal Merican Naina Merican, through his Facebook posting, explained that the reopening of the sports sector required training venues and athlete movements to be controlled according to the sports bubble model, while the athletes' accommodation would have to follow the 'Camp Quarantine' and 'Home Quarantine' SOP that had been set.

"I still hope that further consideration can be given to enable the mass sports industry, such as operators of sports facilities and fitness centres, to be given permission to operate. We are carrying out the final studies and, hopefully, we will announce them before the Chinese New Year celebration this week," he said. - New Straits Times