Sunday, January 28, 2007

Malaysia Cup-like Fever

It's heartwarming to see the zest in yet another football encounter between Singapore and Malaysia in the Asean Football Championship fight last night.

Singapore edged Malaysia in a 5-4 penalty shoot-out (1-1 after 90 minutes, 2-2 on aggregate). Singapore will meet either Thailand or Vietnam in the finals. The first leg is at the National Stadium on Wednesday, with the return leg in Bangkok on Sunday.

According to The Sunday Times, some 55,000 fans went to the Kallang Stadium, decked in Singapore red and braving the evening showers as shown in the top left hand pix (top right hand pix from The Star shows the Malaysian crowds in predominantly yellow). ST captured the mood well by saying:

There was an outpouring of emotion on the grey National Stadium terraces, home of the Kallang Roar and so often the arena of Singapore-Malaysia rivalry.
Malaysian news reports are naturally more subdued in acknowledging the Singapore victory. The New Straits Times said Singapore would have to "fight till the very end in their own backyard", while The Star said Malaysia "let slip another win".

It doesn't really matter who won last night as long as it was good fun and entertainment for football fans on both sides of the causeway.

What's more important is the clear sign that football fans in Singapore and Malaysia starved of Malaysia Cup football ever since the great tradition was halted in 1995. The Singapore-Malaysia encounter last night was reminiscent of a classic meet between Singapore and Selangor, in terms of the size of the crowds and the national pride as shown by the partisan colours and flags.

But politicians and technocrats on both sides of the causeway will not revive Malaysia Cup due to narrow self-interest in protecting their feeble local leagues. The officials are still saying no despite very clear indication of the strong yearning for the return of Malaysia Cup.

It will definitely be good to revive Malaysia Cup for football fans and even politicians. Politicians on both sides are less likely to squabble or quibble over petty details if they are more sporting!

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