Jen and I don’t live too far from Kuala Lumpur airport and so there are quite a few options for a Friday evening getaway. For this weekend we’d chosen Penang which is an hour’s flight up the coast.
We stayed in Georgetown, an old town that has a couple of interesting museums, a nineteenth century fort and a town centre that late on the Friday night seemed to be a magnet for travelling white boys with dreads. We didn’t stay out for long.
On the Saturday we had a look around the other attractions and then in the evening walked the couple of miles towards the Bandar Raya stadium. On the way we passed someone getting a massage. Nothing unusual there, I’m sure Georgetown has plenty of options for massages, as does most of Asia. What made this one different was that it involved a couple of meat cleavers. Not much prospect of a happy ending with that one, I suppose.
We were still two hours or so early by the time we reached the ground but the floodlights were on and the gates open. We checked the kickoff time with a couple of coppers on the gate, whom I presumed were on duty and not waiting to get changed for the game.
The ticket office was right next door to the turnstiles and there were already people milling around. It was a big game, in as much as Penang were in danger of being relegated if they lost, whilst the Police weren’t far enough ahead of them in the table to be considered safe from the drop either.
Tickets were fifteen ringgits which is about three quid. I just asked for two, without specifying any area of the ground. It didn’t look like rain and so I wasn’t really bothered about where we sat.
With our tickets in hand we called in at a restaurant a minute or two away for something to eat. It was mainly outdoor tables but fortunately there was a light breeze to cool things down a little.
The place was filling up quickly, perhaps as a consequence of them having a telly that was showing the Manchester derby. We ordered chicken and rice which, when you aren’t confident in identifying the items on the menu, was a safe enough option.
After dinner we popped into the petrol station next to the turnstiles to pick up a couple of drinks. We got as far as the turnstile with them, where they were confiscated for being potential missiles. The police couldn’t have been more apologetic though and suggested a compromise whereby we could leave them in the turnstile hut and, if we promised not to hurl the bottle at anyone, we could call in for a drink whenever we liked. Perfect.
The stadium is the oldest in Malaysia, dating back to 1956 and with the usual uncovered bowl and one main stand arrangement. We just sat at the top of the terracing behind the goal, mainly because it meant a shorter walk to the turnstile hut whenever I wanted a swig of coke.
There was a decent turnout from the Penang fans and also a handful of ultras to our right who were supporting the visitors. They seemed well-organised and so I presume they were actual junior policemen who had been ‘encouraged’ to attend and offer some support.
Curiously, one of them had a scarf with A.C.A.B. on it. If it meant the same as it did on those knuckle tattoos in the seventies, it seemed an odd sentiment. Mind you, there was another one with a ‘Fuck The System’ scarf. Probably CID.
At half-time we had a chat with the rozzer on the gate. After admitting to supporting Penang rather than his employer he expressed his reservations over their chances of survival. He had faith in the manager who had been recently appointed but was worried that the upturn had come too late for this season.
After finishing our drinks we moved around to the other side of the ground, passing a prayer hut where a few of the fans were doing their best to get some divine assistance for the second half.
The prayers turned out to be in vain, unless one of them had put the game down for a one-all draw on his coupon. It was a result that didn’t really help either team out in a definite case of two points dropped for both sides.
We made it back to the hotel without encountering anyone else waving a meat cleaver and had a few drinks on the rooftop terrace where there wasn’t a white boy dread in sight.