Sunday, November 03, 2013

The Greatest Malaysia Cup Final Ever...

... was the 1991 final between Selangor and my home team, Johor. For sure I'm biased lah, but it was indeed a gripping match with plenty of subplots that added to the whole drama and emotion.

Those who know their Malaysian football would remember that '91 was the year Johor brought in the Australian duo of Abbas Saad and Alistair Edwards, both of whom had played for rivals Singapore. Well, Alistair made his feelings known about his ex-team rather quickly when during a match vs the Lions, he flashed a rude sign to their fans after scoring a goal. Haha.

Anyway, Johor that year was a powerhouse with not only the duo but the brilliance of their homegrown players and of course, the long-serving Croatian (and my favourite foreign player of all time), Ervin Boban.

Okay, speeding things up, under the guidance of Aussie coach Michael Urukalo, Johor swept the league title and were well on their way to picking up the most prestigious title of all, the Malaysia Cup.

Abbas and Alistair had consistently starred for the team including during the tough semis where they got past mighty Kuala Lumpur. BUT, Abbas picked up a second yellow and was automatically suspended from playing the final! What now?!! Was what the Johor fans were asking.

I was in my first year in law school that year. For the final, I went to Stadium Merdeka alone, although I usually went with my Selangor buds for the weekend league matches.

I wore a bootleg Johor jersey, and prayed for the best. And as some of you might remember, it poured and poured before the game. The pitch was waterlogged, but the match was to go on.

Without Abbas, Johor did look a little pincang. Then Selangor scored, and my heart sank. I think it stayed that way at halftime.

But after that, Urukalo showed what he was worth as a coach. Johor played only in the dry areas and started to pressure Selangor.

Then my beloved Boban scored. I screamed my heart out and hugged strangers around me. Then Boban scored again, and another time for good measure. A historic hattrick at a historic ground.

Johor were the double champions. The forgotten hero was in tears and so was I.

Completely drenched, I was happy and shirtless as I took a mini bus back to the campus.

A memorable night, and in my books, still the greatest Malaysia Cup final ever...


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