Last Saturday, Malaysians from all walks of life watch and celebrated the 92nd edition of the Malaysia Cup final between Perak and Terengganu. And boy what a match it turned to be. The full house attendance inside the Shan Alam stadium were given a huge treat. For their rewarded, they have witness with one of the most dramatic and intense finale.
I was happen to be at restaurant, having dinner with a friend. I ask the owner if he don’t mind to switch the channel since to where the game was on. My friend instantaneously reminded me on the 1997 Champions League final between Juventus and Borrusia Dortmund. Looking at the landscape of the stadium which was filled with a sea of white, black and yellow, couldn’t agree with him more.
Not once but twice, Perak were staring at the jaws of defeat thus forcing the game into extra time and subsequently on penalties. The manner which they came back from the dead is something that will forever be entrenched in Perakian folklore. For Terengganu, its enormous pain to have seen the trophy snatch from their palms twice. It is something that they will have to live with until redemption comes knocking on their door.
The overwhelming outcome of this final was even picked by football’s world governing body. The Fédération Internationale de Football Association posted a tweet on this via their official account. Now how about that!
😅 Another last-second equaliser to force penalties
6⃣ The first Malaysian cup final to feature six goals for over 30 years
🚀 Rockets, red cards, errors and own goals aplenty
— FIFA.com (@FIFAcom) 27 October 2018
The Malaysia Cup has always brings back plenty of nostalgic memory for me. It was my first intro to Malaysian football back in 1989. Of all person, it was my late grandma who so eager to watch the final between Kuala Lumpur (KL) and Kedah. The sight of her watching the game from the middle hall in our house in Alor Gajah and cheering for KL is still vividly clear in my head.
Of course, there are many other great recollection from me when it comes to the Malaysia Cup.
In 1991, I was awestruck by Johor lead by Abbas Saad, Alistair Edward and Ervin Boban after the epic semi-final battle against Kuala Lumpur. I was perhaps the lone ranger in Shah Alam cheering for them in the final against Selangor. Guess I made the right choice then. Three years later, I was a happy boy again when my Abbas Saad, my favourite local league footballer put up a five star performance for Singapore against Pahang.
Let’s not forget the agony that I to put up with classmates from Raja Mahadi, Klang during Selangor’s three peat era from 1995-97 (yes, I profess my friendly antagonism for the Red Giants here, haha!)
How about when Selangor MPPJ lead by Juan Manuel Arestogui and Bruno Martelotto made history by being the first club side to lift the trophy in 2003. And the many times that Sabah and Sarawak broke my heart for unable to bring the trophy to Borneo.
Speaking of Singapore, I was happen to be in the Republic when the news broke out a team known as the Lions 12 will take part in the Malaysian football season. I was having chat my friend’s uncle who is an old timer Singapore supporter. I was having chat my friend’s uncle who is an old timer Singapore supporter. He told me great tales about the good old days involving him and his buddies. They would travel across the causeway to Merdeka stadium whenever their team made it to the Final.
I must say that he was very happy about the Lions 12 participation. It’s been more than 15 years since the last time Singapore took part in the Malaysian football scene. The Malaysia Cup still remains a paramount discussion among the football fans in the island.
Remember the term “World Cup Fever”, that football idiom which comes around every four years? We happen to have our version which is called “Demam Piala Malaysia”, literally means Malaysia Cup Fever in English. In the past, it is only when the Malaysia Cup gets underway where everyone starts to get fever pitch.
To some degree, it is great to see that the competition still remains relevant in the Malaysian football context. Malaysian football has undergone a change of landscape since Tengku Mahkota Johor (TMJ) brought the Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT) to the forefront.
In line with his vision, the best way for Malaysian teams to elevate themselves is by taking part regularly in the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) based competition. As the moment, there are only two ways to qualify for these competitions. It’s either through the Super League or the FA Cup. Winning the Malaysia Cup however, doesn’t come with such incentives.
There has been an intensified effort to encourage Malaysian sides to give AFC based competition the full focus. A stark contrast in the past when teams tend to be less attentive to such competition. I recall when both Pahang and Sabah both wanted to withdrew so that they give their all for the Malaysia Cup.
I do wish to agree with the popular verdict. The future of Malaysian football lies in the AFC. It is only when competing against the best from the rest Asia is where we can truly measure our standings. This is also a recognition for Asian football when club sides takes the AFC competition more seriously. It is a practice in line with what’s happening in Europe and South America.
At the same time, it is also imperative that the local governing body, Football Association of Malaysia continues to preserve the special place of the Malaysia Cup. It saddens me that for some team, the Malaysia Cup only becomes an important subject when their AFC odyssey comes to an end.
On one hand I can gauge from these team’s perspective. It isn’t easy in trying to balance continental aspiration while trying to be equitable on the domestic front. Hence why with limited resources, a great hecatomb may be necessary. My fear is that this could have detrimental effect on cup’s supremacy in the long run. If such trends to continue, the Malaysia Cup may one day sink into a tangential hole.
At the moment apart from the Super League, is the Malaysian FA Cup that grants the winner a place in the AFC Cup. While not trying to impose any prejudicial feeling towards the FA Cup, it doesn’t have the magic and aura of the Malaysia Cup.
Furthermore, the Malaysia Cup also has a history that goes a long way even before the country gain its independence. As the football season’s curtain raiser, it has a culture and tradition that is deep rooted in Malaysian football that is unparalleled to the FA Cup.
Hence why, it is a good for FAM to set a motion to make the Malaysia Cup as the premier cup competition of the country. And winning should reward the team with AFC incentives. Even in Wikipedia it is clearly stated the Malaysia Cup is….
Even though it is the nation’s oldest cup tournament, it is currently a secondary cup to the Malaysia FA Cup as the Malaysia FA Cup is the cup which is given the nation’s slot for continental cup tournament.
This is a wrong that FAM needs to ensure it is corrected. You don’t take something that is considered eminence yet being given marginal treatment because it doesn’t contain anything that is value added. It shouldn’t be like this.
By taking this unanimity decision, the cup’s prestige and prominence can be preserve in the long run. Not only that the winner gets to have some domestic bragging rights but also the opportunity to vie on the continental stage. In my view, that is fair deal for everyone.
How this can be done is up for debate. There are those who feels the Malaysia Cup shouldn’t be allowed to be formatted into a fully knockout based competition. On this aspect I do tend to agree but this shouldn’t be stumbling block to give the competition a new outlook.
After all the competition’s relevancy may need a radical approach as long it doesn’t diminish the magic that we all crave for I’m sure with some tweaking and modification on the format, the Malaysia Cup can be made to preserve its purity and distinction as the country’s prime cup competition.
Remember, the UEFA Champions League has undergone many changes. Changes that was necessary to adapt in the current environment. This didn’t had demean outcome the tournament. Instead it was grown, in leaps and bounds. Thus solidifying itself, as the biggest club competition in the world.
The Malaysia Cup too can grow into a similar stature, in Malaysian football at least.
//Article contributed by Sivan John. Follow him on twitter at @sivanjohn_