Malaysia XI vs. Manchester United: Don’t Insult Our Boys

Manchester United (MU) is currently touring Asian cities and they will return home with their coffers full of Asian money. Manchester City welcomes its mega rich Arab owners. The BPL clubs enjoy global appeal and they take advantage of it. Congratulations to the clubs for possessing good business sense.

The BPL fans in Asia will purchase match tickets and merchandises, make their pilgrimage to the stadium, scream and shout the names of their foreign idols and return home with opinions on the team. They will, almost religiously, perform their part to enrich the foreign clubs that they support, and for that part, some of them will hope that they will be regarded as ‘genuine supporters’ by their English counterparts.

However, what saddens me most is that some local fans even go as far as to boo, shout obscenities and show lewd signs to their own national team. These local fans love and know their English football, but they have failed to embrace the culture of loyalty that is evident amongst the English football supporters.

The Toon Army (Newcastle United FC supporters) and the Upton Park (West Ham United FC’s home ground) faithfuls didn’t get their reputation for being the most loyal supporters by singing the names of their clubs’ superstar players. They earned it by singing them when those players mistakenly passed the ball to their opponents, by singing their clubs’ anthems when their teams were relegated and by travelling to away matches when their teams were somewhere near the bottom of the league table. Supporters of clubs in the English lower leagues will always sing their players’ names, even when their teams don’t always play ‘beautiful football’ every week.

They will sing their players’ names even when the players bed groupies rather than their WAGS.

The supporters’ loyalty is more obvious when it comes to supporting their national teams. We really can’t see the Scots, the Northern Irish and the Welsh stop supporting their perennially under-achieving national teams and turn to support the England team.

They (and especially the media) will bash them properly when they lose alright, but the stadiums will always be filled.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for our local football fans. Win 4-0 against the Zimbabwean first eleven, and accusations were thrown against FAM for allegedly arranging a match with a less prestigious (and supposedly less capable) Zimbabwean club team. Win a cup final against SEA teams like Myanmar and the win will be discounted as if it holds zero value. It was as if Myanmar had no right at all to qualify for the final and play Malaysia, nevermind the fact that Myanmar was once an Olympic qualifier (1972, the same year when Malaysia qualified) and a runner-up in the Asian Cup (losing finalist to Iran in 1968).

These fans have no respect for their national team, and no respect for their national team’s opponents.

They have no similarities with the loyal English football supporters, and for them to have opinions about the English club that they idolize, and expect that those opinions be respected, is dumbfounding. I have read a comment in a top football website from an English supporter who can’t take opinions from Asian fans seriously, labeling them as ‘from Mongolia’. Before we accuse him of being racist, we should ask ourselves if we can equally respect the opinion of a Selangor supporter from, say, the far southern island nation of Palau?

As much as I agree to the fact that MU didn’t go to this match to fight tooth and nail, I would like to point out that the Malaysian players too, held back on some of their challenges as to not to suffer the ignominy of being the over zealous, unknown ‘third world’ player who caused injury to a MU superstar. I agree that MU players can be jet-lagged and not have the match fitness, but the Malaysian players too can point out that they can’t have the freshest legs when they’re only nearing the end of the current Liga Super season. MU fans will say that the MU stars found it difficult to play under to the hot and humid Malaysian weather, but no sane Malaysian player prefers a 5.30pm kickoff to the 8.45pm start time for all Liga Super matches. I too, think that when the Malaysia XI plays MU again, it’ll result in a big win for MU. But that’s not an excuse to not to support the country’s young national team. This is actually the national U-23 team with only four full internationals (which includes Zamani, Indra and Amri, with Amri only being recalled after a three-year absence). They are Rajagobal’s boys, and he inherited Sathia’s boys. Those two can certainly give a good bashing to their players that even Sir Alex Ferguson would be proud of.

For me, a supporter can choose to not to support a national team player but never the national team. If they claim to have a ‘reason’ for not supporting the national team, fact or no fact, the ‘reason’ is just an excuse. True supporters will never go out of their way just to find excuses to insult their national team. Call it misled patriotism if you will; it’s an accepted tradition and culture in international, especially English football.

Ask yourself this question: Do I really want to be called a ‘fair weather fan’?


~ oleh Rimau XI di Julai 19, 2009.

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