Kelantan v Perak, Saturday 24th February 2018, 9pm

I’d picked this game as it had originally been scheduled for an afternoon kick-off. Of course by the time the game came around and after I’d booked the flights and a hotel, it had been shifted to a 9pm start. Our mid-morning flight to Kota Bharu took just under an hour, which was a lot easier than I imagine the alternative of an eight-hour drive to a town high up on the east coast and only about fifteen miles from the Thai border would have been.

There’s not lot goes on in Kota Bharu. We called into their state museum which seems to celebrate Islam successes rather than local or state achievements. Until our visit I hadn’t realised that everything that had ever been invented had been first thought of by a muslim gadgee and then just tweaked slightly by whoever the western world subsequently credited with the invention. I was hoping to see an early version of my sadly non-patented and brandy-fueled brainwaves of the Ryan Air coat for getting around flight luggage restrictions and the spoon with a hole in it for those who don’t like too much milk with their cornflakes. However, there mustn’t have been room for them among the planes, motor vehicles and weaponry.

The only other activity we could find to occupy us was a walk along the river. The stretch that you can access is pretty short and in the hour or so that it kept us occupied we saw nothing more than a couple of bright yellow birds, a few scabby but friendly feral cats and a sleeping tramp.

The Sultan Mohammad IV stadium was only a short walk from our hotel and was overlooked from our room. I’d had a bit of a fright when I woke from a pre-match nap as I noticed players running around under the floodlights. Fortunately it was just the warm-up and not another revision to the kick-off time.

On the way into the ground we stopped for some food. You never really know what will be available inside and even then, it’s rarely up to much. Jen had chicken and rice, whilst I had char kway teoh or something. It’s flat noodles with chicken. I’ve had it in Thailand before and it was better there. Still, it enabled us to watch the pre-match chat on a telly.

Even though our food choices were something that you imagine would be knocked up in a few minutes, they took a while to arrive and so despite arriving in town eight hours before kick-off the game started without us. We had the usual lap of the ground to find the ticket office where we bought fifteen ringgit seats behind the goal. When we’d looked from our window that has appeared to be the section with the fewest fans.

It turned out that we were right next to the Perak fans and their drums. We would have been in with them if I hadn’t nipped under a tape barrier. Still, everyone was very friendly, if a little louder than I’d have liked them to have been.

The visitors opened the scoring mid-way through the first half. I couldn’t tell you what happened as it was up the other end and I was looking around the crowd. They held their lead well into the second half until Korean Do Dong-Hyun equalised for the hosts. I think the Perak fans had been taking victory a little for granted, but they took the Kelantan celebrations well.

They had less than a minute to wait though to regain the lead and then it was the turn of those around me to flash those wry smiles. Ten minutes of Perak time-wasting later and Kelantan were level again with another from the Korean fella. At that point the game could have gone either way and I think neither side would have been too disappointed with a draw.

There was more to come in the final moments though and we had a brawl, a disallowed goal at one end and a legitimate one at the other, a hat-trick effort from Mr. Do to clinch the points. I’d been tempted to nip off early to try to find somewhere for post-match drinking but with most of the action condensed into the last quarter it’s just as well that we didn’t.

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