A few years ago, I wrote an article about the Malaysia Cup for the SarawakCrocs website. I was demanding that the competition in the context of modern Malaysian football deserves to be given more respect.
In a nutshell, instead of the FA Cup, the winner of the Malaysia Cup should be given a slot in the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Cup. I’m glad that the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) has made this possible, though to be fair it took a pandemic for this to happen. However it remains to be seen if FAM will stick to this decision.
Now let’s talk about this year’s final.
For a start, Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT) is going to be there. For me personally, there isn’t much reason to feel titillating about this. Don’t get me wrong here, they have by far the best assembled squad and play the most exciting brand of football; more than deserve and expected to be involved in such occasions. Kudos to them.
It is their opponent Kuala Lumpur (KL) City FC that has taken most of the dopamine that runs through my brain. Even if it had come at the expense of my birth-state team, Melaka United. No one at the start of the year including their own fans could have predicted this.
Then again, it is stories like this that make football, bloody hell, a beautiful game. Perhaps the signs were there just that we were too busy to notice this was coming.
In the BOLA BOLA show first match day vlog experience back in April, we had witnessed at firsthand how a KL team that was steady and unfaltering in their approach even it was against the mighty JDT. On a night when we were expecting Bergson da Silva to run riot, a resolute KL defense pretty much turned him into a frozen margarita that had no taste.
A few months later, we had the privilege of interviewing the team’s O Capitão, Paulo Josué. In a short span of 25 minutes, Josué emphasized on every aspect that was what needed to create a harmonious and focused group in the dressing room. His character and leadership was unquestionably on a crème de la crème level.
No wonder the team at that point was on a 9 games unbeaten streak. Since then they have only lost once (who else, but to JDT) in a 14 games run which has brought them to where they are right now.
KL’s presence in the 21st century Malaysian football landscape is somewhat mingy when compared to other established teams. However, there was a time during the mid 1980s to the early 90s when things were a lot different.
When the late Tan Sri Elyas Omar took over as the team’s president in 1985, the City Boys were in the making of a Galaticos side. The combination of superstars from both sides of the causeway (Malaysia and Singapore) aided by top coaches (e.g Dr. Jozef Vengloš, and later on Chow Kwai Lam) brought unprecedented success especially in the Malaysia Cup. Players were rewarded big time for their contribution on the field.
As I have tweeted earlier, the memories of them defeating Kedah in the 1989 Malaysia Cup final still remains crystal clear. The euphoria of that victory was widely celebrated back then and there is reason for this.
Throughout its history in the 20th century, only two teams that often loom larger than life in the Malaysia Cup; Selangor and Singapore Lions. Not only they had the most titles, but also were the only sides to have won it in three consecutive years.
So when KL equalled that feat in 1989, it was also about setting new standards in Malaysian football. A standard which I feel has become an important benchmark for future teams.
For KL fans, though small in numbers, when it comes to their heart and passion, they are as strong as an ox.
I recall watching KL against Sabah in the opening day fixture in 2015 at Merdeka Stadium. The majority of the crowd on that day were there to watch Sabah, or let me be more specific here; they came for a certain El Hadji Diouf. That’s fine as I too was one of them.
At the same time, I couldn’t help but notice a small and dedicated group on the other side of the stadium. They were as loud and boisterous as ever. For them, the presence of a Senageles who had featured in the World Cup or even turned out for Liverpool carried little weight. All that matters was supporting their beloved team.
32 years is a long time and it can go by pretty fast; and the world is going to stop and wait for you to remember what it used to look like.
Regardless of what happens on Tuesday night, the occasion is still worthy of any celebration for every KL fan. They have every reason to feel joyous and blissful for what their team has achieved this season. Don’t let any gendang noise spoil the occasion.
Let’s not forget this is the 100th edition of the Malaysia Cup. I don’t know if I’ll ever be alive when Malaysia turns 100, so this is one historical moment that I’m not going to miss for the world.
Best of luck, that is to both KL City and JDT of course!