One of the things that I needed to change at work was the Saturday working malarkey. Six days a week is too many, particularly when you are doing ten-hour days. Fortunately we were able to come to an agreement that gave me ‘proper’ two-day weekends and that allowed Jen and I to head up to Shah Alam for a Saturday night Malaysian Cup game.
Our hotel was only about twenty minutes walk away from the stadium and with the kick-off not being until nine o’clock we had plenty of time to find somewhere on the way to get something to eat.
As ever, there was a cat to feed and it was happy to accept whatever we dropped down under the table. We ate whilst watching people sauntering past on their way to the mosque, seemingly unhurried by the persistent call to prayer.
PKNS, of the second-tier Premier League, were taking on Super League club Perak in the Malaysia Cup. It was supposed to be a home fixture for PKNS, but my understanding was that they usually played their games in Melaka. I noticed very few home fans in the area around the stadium.
Perak, despite being based a couple of hundred kilometres away in Ipoh, had lots of support. Maybe they are just a more popular team. I dare say that I’ll find these things out in time.
We opted for grandstand seats at twenty ringgits rather than general admission at half that price. The tickets appeared to back up my suspicion that PKNS didn’t usually play at this ground, with the Hang Jebat Melaka stadium named on them as the venue.
Mind you, the competition was wrongly listed too. Perhaps we could have got into the ground with old bus tickets.
Everyone was searched on the way in, including girl who couldn’t have been any older than five. She had a packet of fags in her back pocket which she had to hand over so that they could be checked to see if a lighter was concealed inside. The lighter was found and duly confiscated.
I like to think that the stewards will have missed her Paw Patrol hip-flask of whisky.
Odd as it might seem, we couldn’t find the entrance to the grandstand from the concourse and after doing half a lap of the ground too far we ended up in general admission seats on the opposite side instead. It was fine though as with there only being three or four thousand fans in an eighty-thousand capacity stadium we had plenty of space.
I googled the Shah Alam stadium and whilst I couldn’t be absolutely certain it looked as if the Boro might have played there on a pre-season tour under Robbo. I doubt he’d have been too impressed by the refreshment options in the area where we’d just had our tea.
We had the usual state and national anthems and then with the game underway the noise continued with each set of fans having at least two drummers. My initial assessment outside had been correct and it looked as if the ‘home’ side had less than thirty fans, with everyone else originating from either Ipoh, Norton or Baton Rouge.
Perak, in the white, took the lead mid-way through the first half with a glancing header from a floaty free-kick. PKNS, in an orange kit, were struggling. They had a player in left midfield who had a habit of mis-hitting his shots and passes and then apologising with a wave of an arm that brought nostalgic memories of Curtis Fleming flooding back.
On a similar Boro-related note, PKNS had a fella upfront who bore quite a resemblance to Jonathan Greening in his Jesus phase. Was that a phase? Probably not, as I’m not sure I’ve ever actually seen him looking any different.
At half time the only refreshments available were small cartons of water. Despite it being late in the evening the temperatures hadn’t dropped much and so I braved the scrum to buy a couple for a ringgit each.
We switched seats to behind the goal and one of the Perak fans came over for a chat. He reckoned a lot of the visiting support had made the short journey from nearby Kuala Lumpur rather than all the way from Ipoh. It’s similar, I suppose, to the make-up of a Boro crowd for London games.
He also mentioned that Perak had picked up a bit since they had appointed a German coach who was in his eighties. Apparently he was the bloke who had managed Malaysia to their greatest achievement, which was qualifying for the 1980 Moscow Olympics. I presume it was for the football and not three-day eventing or something. Their efforts turned out to be in vain though as the government then promptly withdrew them in support of the US-led boycott.
The visitors equalised after the break with Jesus Greening flicking on a cross with his head into the corner of the net to make it one each.
Ten minutes from time Perak missed a sitter when the striker put his shot against the bar only for PKNS to nip straight down the other end where one of their players wellied the ball home.
The Super League side failed to force an equaliser and finished the evening both short-tempered and short-handed with one of their players being sent off and their manager, who was certainly old enough to know better, waved away to the stands.