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Efforts to modernize Southeast Asian soccer collide with COVID

Malaysia hopes to follow Thailand's lead in weening teams off of state support

LONDON -- After years of discussion, efforts to privatize Malaysia's soccer teams finally appeared set to make meaningful strides in 2020. Then came a global pandemic that has made the process much more difficult in the short term -- but also, many argue, more necessary in the long term.

State-backed or company-owned sports teams are far from a rarity in Asia -- Japanese and South Korean pro baseball teams are a classic example of the corporate ownership model. But in soccer-loving Malaysia, where all but one team belongs to a state government, detaching clubs from political influence is seen as a perquisite for creating professional, commercially minded outfits similar to those in the West.

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