As I’m writing this blog post, the Malaysian football team is already out from the Asian Games 2018 competition after the narrow 1-0 loss to Japan in the round of 16. As a fan, it is quite sad to see the fairy-tale run coming to an end but looking at it from the bigger picture, this particularly team represents hope in the future of our Harimau Malaya.
Say what you want but from my point of view, Asian Games 2018 was a good campaign for our Young Tigers. We beat Kyrgyzstan and the fact that we beat the defending champion South Korea is already an achievement by itself and what makes it so special is that I was there at the Stadium that particular night. The night our Young tigers beat the South Koreans!
It is always fun to watch the Malaysian under-23 team plays. My better half and I were there during Sea Games 2015 in Singapore and we were also in Bangkok to support the boys play during the AFC u-23 Qualifiers last year. So it makes sense for us to make that quick hop to Jakarta to watch the Asian Games.
But the journey wasn’t a walk in the park. Schedule and venue for the matches involving Malaysia were only announced on the 11th hour and managing logistics like flights, hotel, annual leave and game tickets were quite a challenge.
But it is worth it. A couple of days before the opening ceremony of the Asian Games, Jakarta is all about the games.
The game vs Korea was played in Bandung, so we had to travel for about 3 hours from Jakarta. Considering the accessibility of the venue and to some extend the safety factor, we decided to charter a ride throughout the game day.
Going through the “macet” while reading about the game. Not many were expecting that we could challenge the South Koreans, not even our local media.
A good sign that Harimau will mengaum?
Located about 30 minutes’ drive from central Bandung, I was initially complaining quite a bit about how remote Stadium Si Jalak Harupat is. But as we reached the area, it was nice to see a stadium surrounded with paddy fields and scenic mountains at the back. We even had a nice pre-game meal in one of the Sundanese restaurants.
2.5 hours flight, 3.5 hours journey by road, we were finally at Si Jalak Harupat Stadium.
We were quite early and almost immediately we noticed that we will be drowned by sea of reds. Hundreds of Korean and (Indonesian) fans vs few of us Malaysians. It did not took us long before we realised that the locals were there at the stadium to watch and support the Koreans! To be fair, many are actually working for Korean companies that are based in Jakarta so it makes sense for them to support the South Koreans.
Inside the scenic stadium, Bahrain was struggling against Kyrgyzstan.
While waiting for the rest of the Malaysian supporters. Just the 2 of us and 2 policemen. We felt safe.
The South Korean and Indonesia fans!
And with 30 minutes before kick-off, other fellow Malaysians started to arrive (Alhamdulillah!).
Some are hardcore fans who flew all the way, while some were coincidentally in Bandung for holiday. Within minutes we formed a small cheer group for the Malaysian team.
And cheer we did. From the moment the boys came out for warming-up all the way to the final whistle.
Special moments for the night had to be the two goals we celebrated as well as the last 15 minutes. Nerve wrecking action.
Seconds before the end of game, all of us stood and sang “inilah Barisan Kita”.
After the final whistle, the boys came to say thank you and once again we sang Negaraku. Thank you for acknowledging the fans!
One for the album.
I swear I was smiling all the way to Jakarta that night. Even the 3-hour drive was more bearable thanks to the adrenaline rush.
With our primary mission of supporting the boys completed, we had a couple of days of weekend break in Jakarta enjoying some good food.
We even had the chance to support our Badminton team vs Japan.
But I think I’ll stick to football and specifically our u-23 team. Badminton is too “quiet” to my liking. 🙂
Congratulations to the Young Tigers team for a good campaign.
The way they proudly wear the jersey playing for their country, the way they fought for full 90-minutes each game and the discipline and teamwork shown on and off the pitch, there is something special about these boys and their chemistry with Datuk Ong Kim Swee and the coaching team.
Asian Games – checked.
Olympics 2020 next? Dream big boys.