Last year I saw a Malaysia Cup game featuring the Singapore Lions XII, the local team that plays in the Malaysia Super League. However, I had yet to see them in an actual league contest. As you probably know, I like to count the number of different venues I have been to, as well as the number of separate leagues and cup competitions that I have seen. So when a colleague mentioned he was going to the game, I decided to join him to add another league to my total (which is now 95).
It rained quite heavily a couple of hours before the game, so I was late leaving, which necessitated a cab to Jalan Besar Stadium. This turned out to be quite fortunate as I arrived just as a gentleman was unloading complimentary tickets. I asked for two and he kindly handed me two, and I went to find my colleague who was near the front of the ticket queue, about to unnecessarily spend $12 each. I showed him the freebies and he quickly moved out of the line. With our newfound savings, we decided to visit the nearby hawker stall to pick up a beer for the first half. You are allowed to bring plastic cups into the stadium, even those filled with a can of Tiger. At $4, it is definitely worth it on such a hot night.
The visiting team was Negeri Sembilan, a traditionally strong team who was off to a poor start, lying last in the table. The Lions (in red), on the other hand, were just a couple of points shy of top spot, with two games in hand.
During the first half, I thought that Negeri was Malay for "injury" and Sembilan was Malay for "fake". That was because the first 45 minutes were characterized by a succession of Negeri Sembilan players writhing around in pain despite minimal contact. The most egregious offender was a chunky Argentinian, Emanuel De Porras (below), whose poor acting skills did not endear him to the home fans. On at least three separate occasions, De Porras fell to the ground holding the clearly destroyed part of his body that had been ever so slightly brushed by his marker. The referee would patiently walk over and ask De Porras to get up while the fans booed lustily. His teammates were no better and whenever the Lions threatened, a Sembilan player would suddenly collapse, forcing the sporting Lions to kick the ball out of play while the injured player miraculously recovered.
The fans had the last laugh though, as De Porras complained a bit too loudly when a Lions player was awarded a free kick, only to receive a yellow card, which shut him up for the rest of the match.
In the second half, the visitors were clearly playing for a draw, and Singapore dominated with several chances. They were finally rewarded when captain Shahril Ishak was able to head home a cross off a corner kick in the 79th minute. Negeri Sembilan never seriously threatened after that and the Lions moved to the top of the table with the 1-0 victory.
This was the second Malaysian soccer game I have seen and in both cases, the constant overacting was tiresome. It always amazes me how these players have no shame; it is not gamesmanship but immaturity. I won't be back until they grow up.
I'm heading to Perth, Australia in a couple of weeks for an Australian Football League match in Subiaco and then a Western Force rugby battle the following night. The Perth basketball team is in the Grand Final but I don't think the series will last until my visit. Fortunately, the West Australian Football League (WAFL) has a match between Perth and East Fremantle. This is a semi-pro league but I won't waffle and will definitely be visiting Brownes Stadium to end that 3-day journey. Check back for all the action.