Posts Tagged ‘Malaysia Super League’

PNKP v Negeri Sembilan, Saturday 3rd February 2018, 4.45pm

March 14, 2018

It was the opening weekend of the new Super League season and my initial plan had been to head south to Johor Darul Ta’zim’s game with Kedah. Johor were last season’s champions and the fixture doubled up as the Malaysian version of the Charity Shield. That game was a nine o’clock kick-off though and that’s a bit late for me. I can stay up that late, usually, but it messes the evening up and means any post-match eating and drinking doesn’t start until knocking on for midnight.

There was a game up at Batu Kawan though that kicked off late afternoon and therefore looked a much better option. It was a four hour drive up the coast and Jen and I arrived at the Negeri Pulau Pinang Stadium with an hour in hand.

For the last two games we’d been in hospitality sections, but for this one it was back to reality. On the plus side though the tickets were only ten ringgits a go, just under two quid.

It’s an unusual looking ground, with curved stands on opposite sides lengthways and with the areas behind the goals grassed over. They’d be ideal places for lying back with a picnic, but it didn’t look as if anyone was allowed into those areas.

We took up seats centrally and towards the back of the stand. This gave us plenty of shade and a welcome breeze on our backs. We were among the first into the ground and eventually what was probably around a few hundred spectators took their seats on our side of the pitch.

A fairly even first half finished goalless. PKNP took the lead early in the second half but couldn’t get a second to make it safe. Negeri Sembilan went for it in the closing moments and hit the post twice in added time with one of the shots bouncing back out from what seemed an impossible angle.  At the final whistle the visiting players slumped to the floor at the reality of leaving empty-handed after having those two late chances to take a point.

We were staying about five miles up the road in an area renowned for its seafood restaurants. Unfortunately I’d booked us into a hotel located in an industrial estate and our only dining option was a curry in a café that didn’t sell booze. We were back in our dry hotel by 8pm and in hindsight probably would have been better off going to Johor after all.

Kedah v Selangor, Saturday 15th July 2017, 9pm

September 12, 2017

Kedah play their home games at Alor Setar which is more than five hundred kilometres north of where we live. There are flights, but I thought it might be more interesting to take a train instead and so a few weeks in advance I booked seats online from Kuala Lumpur Sentral. They were less than twenty quid each way and in a modern train described on the website as ‘Platinum Class’.

The train was fairly full, or at least it was in the early stages of the journey and our ticket included biscuits, a sweetened soy milk drink and nut-numbingly cold air-conditioning. We even got to see a sub-titled film that, I think, featured Tom Hanks as some sort of Berlin-based spy.

Our hotel was just a five-minute walk from Alor Setar station and the Darul Aman Stadium was a further half an hour away. I got there early so that I could do a lap of the outside of the ground and get some photos whilst it was still daylight.

There were lots of stalls selling football shirts and food and I had some chicken in triangular-shaped pastry and then something that was claimed to be a kebab but probably could be more honestly described as a mix of unidentified meat and veg in a hot dog bun.

I’d noticed that the ends of the ground were open and as you never really know when it might rain in Malaysia I requested a seat with a roof above it. My twenty ringgit ticket got me into the covered section of the bowl, opposite the tunnel and the main stand.

By kick-off the thirty-two thousand capacity ground felt as if it was about two-thirds full. There were around two hundred Selangor fans in a section to my left, most of whom were wearing their team’s red colours. Kedah were in yellow and the majority of their fans also wore team shirts, not surprising I suppose when you could buy them for under a tenner outside the ground.

The noise was provided by four drummers to my left and a singing section straight across in the opposite stand. We also got three national and state anthems and then a short silence for someone or other just before the action started.

I’d checked the players out in advance and the visitors had a Spanish fella up front who had made a single La Liga appearance for Atletico Madrid. It was eleven years ago and at a time when I was living in Spain. I had a look at my records and discovered that I’d missed his day in the limelight as I was at the Boro’s FA Cup semi final against West Ham at Villa Park watching Dean Ashton elbowing Mark Schwarzer in the face and Pardew dancing his jig along the touchline. Twats. I don’t dislike many clubs, but West Ham are certainly on the list. It’s not so much for that semi, they’ve a much bigger rap sheet than the events of that day, but I’d be happy to see them relegated. Every single year.

I did see Atletico a few months later, whilst the impressively named Rufino Segovia del Burgo was still at the club. It was a pre-season tournament at Coruna and so I briefly had high hopes that I might have actually witnessed him turning out for Los Rojiblancos. I like it when I’ve seen a player before. However, If he was in that pre-season squad there’s no evidence that he made it onto the pitch.

I didn’t see a great deal more of the Spaniard on this occasion either as he was stretchered off in the twenty-fourth minute having contributed little to the game himself but with his team a goal to the good.

I had however seen one of the Kedah team play before. They had a Dane, Ken Larsen, who I’d watched at Home United in Singapore last season. I’d say that the Malaysian Super League is definitely a step up from Singapore football and it must be a lot more enjoyable to play in front of a well-attended noisy stadium. He scored in the game that I saw him play in last year. He scored in this one too with a very similar curling effort from outside the box that nobody got a touch on, including, most importantly, the keeper. Ken’s goal levelled the scores and that’s the way it was at half-time.

I was able to get a couple of orange coloured drinks at the break that I doubt contained anything that had ever been anywhere near a tree and, as I didn’t fancy squeezing past people to get back to my earlier seat, I made my way to the uncovered back corner of the stand.

Whilst I was now confident that it wouldn’t rain I hadn’t factored in the weird bugs that were dropping from the sky. They didn’t seem to have wings and so it was as if something bigger was dropping nits on me. I moved a little further over to a seat back under the roof.

Kedah, who had started the day in second place in the table, pushed hard for the win with a bloke from Kosovo, Lindon Krasniqi, running the show for them in midfield. Kosovo is considered a proper country these days. Who knew that? Or at least it is as far as UEFA and FIFA are concerned and that’s probably the criteria that holds the most weight with me when deciding if countries are real or not.

Selangor wasted time shamelessly and whilst Kedah went close a few times there were no more goals. The draw was probably about right overall but meant that both teams slipped a little further behind league leaders Johor Darul Ta’zim.