The Malaysia Cup is still running annually, isn’t it? Yes I think it is. I think I stopped following local football around 1997-98. But as a schoolkid growing up in the 80’s, we all followed the Malaysian League and cup. I wasn’t really into watching all that much, but I did follow the league because everyone did. We didn’t have Astro, live telecasts were only for finals or international matches.
The only time we got to watch a little football was the highlight show maybe once a week in season, and short clips during the late English news at 11.30pm.
As far as English football was concerned, we’d get Big League Soccer (late by a few weeks) and Road to Wembley.
Most of the time, we’d listen to the radio and read the news reports, I didn’t live in the state capital to get to watch any of the games live. But yeah, I did follow my team Johor ever since I started watching football from the 1983 Malaysia Cup final. That was the year of the epic Pahang vs. Selangor match.
But anyway, Johor was mostly an average team, except for 1985 when we won the Cup for the very first time. That was the year of Khalid Shahdan, Hassan Miskam, Salleh Md. Noor, Md. Som Abidin and Lahad Daduk. maybe one day I’ll blog about that Cup final, the year I was in Form One, and we all got public holiday for it.
But the only other time Johor won the Cup was 1991, which was also the last time. It was the first year in uni. I remember there was some friendly thrash talking between the Selangor students and my new found fellow Johor friends. It was also mid semester exam week, I remember all of us rushing back at night after sitting for a paper in the faculty to catch the game. Watching the match was a problem – we weren’t allowed to have TVs in our dorms, the only TV was in our dorm common room.
I say common room, but it’s more like a mess hall, and it caters for more than 3000 guys. Well on normal days no one watches TV, weekends it’s quite packed with guys watching movies on the Singapore channels. But that night, man… It was packed. Everyone arranged the lounge chairs facing the TV like a theatre. Guys sat on the floor in the front. Guys standing at the back where there were no more chairs. Guys leaning on walls and glass doors on the side. Guys standing on tables far at the back. Close to 500 guys. All trained on that small 21″ cathode ray tube television with dodgy colour. At least reception was good.
The mercurial Ervin Boban
This was the year of Ervin Boban, Alistair Edwards and Abbas Saad (yes, he of Astro Supersports fame). Local boys Nasir Yusof, Khalid Shahdan and Hassan Miskam were still around. Ervin had been a mainstay in the team since M-League went semi-pro, i bumped into him one day at a bookstore in Kotaraya JB. I was a fitting Cup final, Ervin scored a hattrick to beat Selangor 3-1. With 20 minutes remaining, the Selangor fans started leaving the hall, amidst friendly jeers from the Johor boys. All except one single guy, sitting smugly in the center of the hall, decked in his yellow and red cap and scarf (woi, tak panas ke pakai skarf?)
Ervin Boban is standing next to Aussie coach Michael Urukalo. Alistair Edwards is backrow leftmost, Abbas Saad is seated on the right grinning like he won the lottery.
Short of being in the stadium itself, the atmosphere was amazing. we were singing Johor team songs, cheering everytime Ervin touched the ball. When the camera zoomed in on a beautiful princess from the another royal family, everyone cheered loudly. I had to asked a random Malay guy next to me who that was.
Yeah, those were good times. A short few years later, the EPL took off with Astro’s telecasts, and i started seeing my friends wearing EPL jerseys. A couple more years, and it was no turning back. I guess that was start of the decline of Malaysian football and support. But yeah, thanks to the Johor squad of ’91 for the great memories. And especially to Ervin Boban, probably the best footballer to don the Scorpions jersey. Sometimes i wonder where he is now, and does he still remember the days of staying in this small town across the bridge from Singapore.
(Pics found on Google)