Monday, April 11, 2011

For many supporters, one of the greatest attractions of football is that it gives you the chance to travel away from home, visit other grounds and meet (and fight) the local fans. For the real fans, this is a wonderful opportunity to broaden their horizon and observe how football is run in other places (and fight the locals). What an exciting feeling it is to experience your team winning an away match, and afterwards mocking and jeering the home team, the home fans, their mothers, their wife-goats and their (insert negative adjective) town/country.
The bunch of morons who make up the administration of FAM  found it apt to confirm an opponent for the March 2011 monthly friendly at the very last minute. Again. And this time, instead of a national team, the opponent is Etoile FC, a group of off-brand French footballers plying their trade in the Singaporean League and the 2010 champions of the same league. What the fuck, FAM?! What happened to your promise of monthly international friendlies? We are the 2010 AFF Cup winner, and Etoile FC is the best that you can come up with? We’re not asking for the Netherlands or the Brazillians here. What, Sri Lanka couldnt be arsed? The Palestinians cant find a plane to get here? You’re killing us here, you know?! And FOUR days before the day of the match?
Enough of the grumbling. Loathful as we are of the FAM, we the Ultras Malaya love the team and those individuals that do battle on the pitch for the glory of the country. So we put our grievances aside and went about making some hasty arrangements to go attend the match and upend the island of Temasek. It’s not that far after all, and we were simply aching for some terrace action since the Malaysian domestic football was in the middle of a break. The magic bus of Kannan; the unofficial designated driver was again enlisted to carry into Singapore the 43 of us who were drunk on all the excitement that was going to ensue.

However it was not to be that easy. Many of us were without a valid Malaysian passport, being students and at the working class spectrum of the Malaysian society and unaccustomed to the EPL club-supporting, carefree, jet-setting lifestyle of the more affluent middle and upper-class Malaysia. We resorted to fishing from under our couches for loose change, collecting old debts from ‘absent-minded’ friends and relations while borrowing from the others; and selling our most dearest valuables. Financial sacrifices had to be made, with Freddie himself loaning almost 1K to some of us for the purpose of acquiring a valid passport. What’s a thousand Ringgits as compared to having enough force in the stands cheering the team on and themselves hoarse especially on our away game debut? All in all, the RM100 passport money, although a little hard to come by, was acquired.
But another setback reared its ugly head, as if the gods themselves were stopping us from travelling. The boon of a great many Malaysian university and college students; the PTPTN student loan was threatening to bite us back in our collective arses. The arrangement regarding this loan is that upon graduation, a student must start paying back their loan within a certain amount of time or they would not allowed to leave the country by the glorious immigration. As it so happened to the most of us who are in our youth and have only started working, the failure to start paying were threatening to stop some of us crossing the Causeway into Temasek. Fuck you, PTPTN loansharks, we’ll pay you when and IF we have money, so stop hassling us for, like, one lousy weekend, will yer?!
The Ultras Malaya would not be impeded however. The gods would have to come down from the high heavens themselves and get shown our middle fingers and mooned by us for them to keep Stadium Jalan Besar as silent as a morgue. We mustered enough people with a passport and without unpaid PTPTN loan in the bus, and off we went after amassing at the Shah Alam Hakim for departure, and after waiting for one or two more brothers who left their passport arrangement to the very last minute (you procrastinator, Benz Azlan!), off we went Saturday morning. In-flight entertainment included the highly quotable Hantu Kak Limah Balik Rumah, two episodes of The Real Football Factories, and some adult beverage for the more ‘adventurous’ among us. Lunch was generously donated by our very own chef, Cabron del Mundo and we graciously thanked him for the macaroni and cream buns.
The Causeway soon appeared in the windshield of the bus, and we all got a little bit more excited at the sight of the land mass situated across the bridge. However, there was still the immigration of both countries to be cleared. The Malaysian immigration was relatively hassle-free. The people running the Singaporean one might have confused the word ‘effeciency’. It was semi-automatic, with ample number of counters, but we were still made to queue up for more than half an hour. And we even had to chuck our chewing gums away, and open our cigarette boxes to make sure we were not carrying full packs of cigarette across the border. We know of the old cliché that Singapore is a fine country, but seriously, Singapore?! But we eventually we cleared the immigration and customs and off we were on our way.

The funny thing is about Singapore, although it is geographically smaller than most of the states in Malaysia, it took quite awhile for us to reach the stadium after crossing the border. But it might have been due to the many traffic lights and one way streets. And around 5pm and after much manuevring by Kannan while trying to park our bus at the stadium, we finally reached where the action was supposed to be; the Jalan Besar Stadium, Singapore. Almost immediately we let loose with our chanting and singing and the line-toeing and law-abiding citizens of Singapore was literally stunned. People in the nearby buildings and apartment poked their heads out the window to see what it was all about and record it on their handphones. Get a load of us, Singapore!

The match was only starting at 8pm so we had sometime to kill. Time to tune the drums, stock up on adult beverage, stop the traffic with our antics and enjoy the scenery of Jalan Besar (not much really. Looks like Sentul even, but cleaner).  Singaporean Dollar is a little too expensive for us, so we made do by sharing meals and sandwiches , and afterwards, cigarettes. In the act of sharing such as this that we learn to bond together as brothers and to put aside all of our man-made differences in supporting the one entity that binds all Malaysians regardless of race, religion and social classes

As the clock struck 7, we made a move inside. However, the sterile and prescribed life in Singapore threatened to impose its will on us. A match official approached us and stoppep us dead in our track. Apparently, during football matches in Singapore, drums and banners are not allowed in. WTF, Singapore?! Have you mistaken the football stadium for the cinema? No wonder your own fans are avoiding the domestic league like the plague and watching EPL instead! We were livid and infuriated at this ludicrous request. But Freddie put on his charming persona to intervene and finagle with the official and we waited while he charmed his way with the official. Eventually, he relented. We could only bring the drums in, but the banners were to be left outside. Pfft. Never you mind, at least we had our drums and voices; our two most valuable weapons. We were made to occupy the upper tier of the grandstand, despite our plan to occupy the opposing stands. Another dirty tactic by the home side? We could only speculate. Never you mind, even if we had to sit outside of the stadium we would make sure that our voices could be heard by the team on the pitch. The sight of a familiar face; Astro Arena’s Zainal Abidin Rawop doing some pre-match analysis by the stairs brought back some assurance in our hearts.
The kickoff for the match soon took place, and we had barely settled down when Malaysia immediately opened the account inside the first ten minutes with Fakri Saarani doing well to head a cross beyond the Etoile FC goalkeeper. We went wild with delight. No Safee, no problem. And someone informed us that back home, our voices were heard loud and clear on the live telecast on Arena. We turned it up to eleven while the Singaporean fans were content to just sit back and watch the game. The first half finished with Malaysia leading Etoile FC 1 0, despite both teams creating several chances to score.
Halftime break meant a cigarette break for us. Of course in Singapore, smoking inside the stadium is frowned upon so we trooped off outside the stadium. Then something wonderful and inspiring happened. HH came up with the lyrics to a new chant while we were all smoking (by that time we could care less about a Singaporean 5-0 coming over and fining us) right outside the stadium. The chant proved to be an instantaneous hit with the lads and the second half could not have come any sooner for them.

Ultras Malaya, ekor Harimau Malaya
Ultras Malaya, ekor Harimau Malaya
Kami turun ke Singapura, Satu jiwa sokong Malaysia
Etoile FC…! Dibunuh saja
(What? You dont know Bahasa Melayu?! Should have learnt it a long time ago, son!)
The start of the second half saw most of the Malaysian first-team players being substituted for their back ups, including the talismanic goal keeper Apek who was substituted with Sharbinee Alwi. Now at first glance, this decision might infuriate some of the fans who want to see the Harimau Malaya continue dominating and extend their lead. However, this is where ‘The King’ Rajagopal’s genius shines through. He knew that even if the team ended up winning by two or three goals’ or even if they had lost, this was only a non-A class friendly match which does not carry any ranking points for the FIFA standings. Thus, this is a good place to try out some of the newcomers to the team such as Azidan Sarudin and former squad members such as Sharbinee, even if he risked losing the match. After all, you can’t just depend on the star players throughout a campaign, can you?
The difference in quality between the first team and their back up was understandably visible at the start of the second half with Etoile FC immediately seizing dominance of the game. And this dominance would have been translated into one or two goals for them if not for Sharbinee who proved that he is not ready to simply hand over the top goalie position to Khairul Fahmi, whose saves include a brilliant on-the-line parrying of what looked to be a certain goal. Fortunately, the back ups managed to calm their nerves down to withstand the onslaught and launched one or two counter-attacks of their own.
Despite Sharbinee’s awesome performance, Etoile FC managed to equalise halfway through the second half from a thunderous shot by Hicham Bouchemlal from outside of the penalty box. It was an amazing shot, and even we applauded it. But they were wrong if they thought that we would be silenced. The match had 20 minutes to go, and we cheered the Harimau Malaya on. And they would have scored again if they had not squandered several more chances, ensuring that the match finish level at 1 1.
We enjoyed ourselves all the same, cheering some more and thanking the players who were shuffling off the pitch. Better still was the sight of Etoile FC players applauding US for our antics. These European players obviously knew what this is all about. We ourselves trooped outside to congratulate the team

While waiting for our transport, Astro Arena’s delectable Fina Nasrom approached us with a cameraman on tow to get some face time with us; ‘Ekor Harimau Malaya’. Freddie himself was interviewed (or did he offer to be interviewed himself? Some facts were hazy.) What he said in the short interview was nothing short of poignant. “Kalau belum bersedia untuk terima benda ni lebih baik jangan join. Sebab sekali terjebak, takkan ada jalan keluar lagi. Benda ni menyebabkan ketagihan” Well said indeed. That is why we do what we do. It is an addiction which can not be cured by the most potent of medicines, an addiction that can only be alleviated by joining us make some noise during matches at the stadium. On that note, it seems like someone has a stash of high-falooting fancy literary stuff hidden under his bed. Just saying.

To Singapore, thank you for your hospitality. Sorry for the cigarette butts, but seriously there was no trash can to be found outside the stadium. But more importantly, no drums and banners at the stadium? Thankfully, Etoile FC fans seem to have been motivated and inspired by our antics as shown in their blog posts that you can read here.
To us, this is only the beginning. Our beloved team will traverse Asia in June and July for the Olympics and World Cup qualifying. Save your money for the airfare and get ready to invade yet more stadiums and show the rest of Asia how we do it in Malaysia

reporter by: Mohd khasyful
group member:

  1. nurliyana bt hairudin
  2. muhd shanier rizam b shafie
  3. mohamed syameer bin abdul fatah
  4. Afiq Asyraf bin Ridzwan 
  5. Muhammad Zarul Zahid bin Rusnan

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