Thursday, December 31, 2009
Bola Akhir Tahun

Bukit Jalil National Stadium hasn't changed much since I left, and now that I am back, it is nice to know that I haven't miss anything major at Bukit Jalil other than the game between my dad's Negri Sembilan and Kelantan, the very much talked about and controversial Malaysia Cup final match.


I was 10 years old when I went to Bukit Jalil for the first time and it was not for any football match, but for the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony. The only way for me to get there that time was by train. Everything was new back then, so the comfort of a new train journey to a new stadium was something really big for a small boy like me.


So 10 years passed, and I have lost count the number of times I went to Bukit Jalil to watch football matches. I had the privilege to travel across the globe to witness and experience the atmosphere of world-class and famous football stadiums like Old Trafford and Anfield, and while they boast to be the home of many football historic moments and greats, my favourite is still the ones at home; the one in Shah Alam and the other in Bukit Jalil.


So I paid the latter a visit yesterday, as Malaysia hosted Syria in a friendly match. The number of fans were no match to the number of support and love the national team got when they bagged the SEA Games gold medal last month. In a way, it was good to have so much space for yourself in the absence of so many on-and-off football fans.


I arrived an hour early, like I always do in any football match I go to, usually to avoid traffic and to have enough time to settle down (strolling around the stadium for food and souvenirs and snap few pictures before going to the loo for final clearance). Usually the ritual was very quick and brief, and the leisure of having the breathing space was non-existence. I could not even talk in my normal voice because I would have to shout every time I was talking to a friend.


But last night was a bit different. I parked my car 100 feet from the field, and I could see the sight of my car from the place I sat when I was eating at the food court. And the fact that I ate at the food court was something new as usually I would have a small bite of crisp or burger before the game. But last night, I had nasi goreng cili api with telur mata kerbau (fried rice with Bird's eye chili and eggs, sunny side up) with teh o ais (iced tea).


I finished and started to walk to get my seat 5 minutes before the game started and I didn't have to run and rush as I would normally have to. When I secured a nice seat, the game was just kicked off.


For my standard, last night was a VIP experience. Thanks to Alep, Sam, Faiz and Nazha for the company.


*


Malaysia was not the better team in term of ball possession as Syria was more superior in controlling the ball. It was their infamous vocation in playing long ball that brought the ball forward most of the time. It proved a lucrative gamble, especially with Zaquan Adha's decent ability to win the ball and taking shots.


While the strongest point for Malaysia was in its defense, they lacked the edge in the attack. Midfielders, especially Safiq Rahim was not playing his best match, albeit scoring two goals both from penalties. His lack of creativity and the eye for killer passes were the points for Zaquan Adha's wasted runs. He also wasted so much the opportunity to benefit from dead ball situation and Rajagopal should have brought in Amirul Hadi Zainal earlier in the game to turn things around.


I am personally worried with Safiq Rahim's form, who now plays for Selangor, but Amirul Hadi, who also wears Merah Kuning came to the rescue.


Amirul Hadi wasted no time to provide the assist for Malaysia's fourth goal, my pick for the best goal of the night, as he calmly fed Gurusamy before the midfielder chipped the ball nicely to the back of the net to round a satisfactory 4-1 win.


While the game was marred by disputable decisions by the referee, it was surely a nice moral booster for the boys ahead of Asian Cup qualifier against UAE, 6 days from today. I wish the boys the best of luck and continue the winning streak, play nicely, score goals, and score the hearts of Malaysians.


Do you know Ayu Raudhah? She played Aliya in the hit series Nur Kasih which I didn't watch but most of my friends did. She was there at Bukit Jalil, most probably because his boyfriend, the national striker Zaquan Adha was there to play. Zaquan Adha scored the third goal and was sent off under the suspicion of time-wasting. My friends were looking for Ayu Raudhah after the game, and instead we found her 'striker'.


*


Alep suggested a place for after-game drink, and we headed to a stall at Dato' Keramat, located in front of Masjid Dato' Keramat. It opens until late and you can easily park the car at the side of the road, or inside the mosque if you are not wearing shorts he he. Watching a football match needs as much stamina as playing a football match so I had a giant glass watermelon juice and iced tea to rehydrate. I ordered tauhu bakar (grilled tofu with vegetable filling, prawn paste sauce and crushed peanuts), and was surprised to just have to pay RM5 for all that.


Now that I am broke and have no one to pay me every month, I can imagine coming back to the stall. To eat lah, not to work. Bodoh lah you.


*


Earlier that day, I had lunch and catching up with Cepe at Avenue K before walking to Ampang Park. Yes, walking to Ampang Park to-and-fro KLCC like I used to 10 years ago. But I am 10 years older now, so I took a return train and joined cute fashionable school girls on my way back.


Cepe told me they are building a third tower for KLCC, means more weapons for Ultraman to fight with invading monsters.


The old camera shop where my dad used to take me when he still had his craze in photography is still there at Ampang Park. Off The Edge is now priced at RM12. It doubles its editorial size too, so okay lah kot.


It is good to know I didn't miss anything much.


*


It's the last post for the eventful year. I would like to personally wish you a very happy new year. Take care and see you next year!

 
posted by Izham Ismail at 3:10 pm | Permalink | 4 comments
Monday, December 28, 2009
Houdini

Someone said I am a good writer and bla bla bla. First of all, I am not a writer. Let me tell you why.


Izham Ismail a writer is a big misnomer. Because I am a blogger - something that I am not really proud of.


Blogger is not a writer. Blogger is an escapist, a mediocre writer. Bearing the pain of being rejected and unpublished, blog is an easy compromise.


But until he had his work published, he should stay quiet and remain a blogger.


Television makes watching theatre pointless. Photography is eating painting little by little, inch by inch, day by day. E-books is taking away the pleasure of reading hardcovers, and online news' plot to murder broadsheet newspaper is in its final phase.


Blogging kills writing.


But someone has to start somewhere, and blog is the most convenient breathing space. But one has to realize where the other hand would take. Blog might take you somewhere now, but one day it will turn its back.


The life cycle is just too comforting that you would not know when will it smite.


Have you heard of Twitter? It is a micro-blogging scheme.


It kills blogging and it goes without saying.


So where am I going from here?


I don't know, for I am just another mediocre blogger.


Art is never about the turnout, the crowd. No matter how celebrated an artist is, no one can guarantee he could belch another masterpiece the next time.


That is why looking at how well the blog is received is never a celebration for me. I have miles ahead of me before anyone can call me a writer.


But thanks anyway, I am sure flattered.


I think too much (or too little). Okay I'll go masturbate now to balance it out.


So much for the thought of quitting blogging and write seriously.

 
posted by Izham Ismail at 9:13 am | Permalink | 5 comments
Saturday, December 26, 2009
How I Spend My Boxing Day
Out for drink with great friends, and remember the day the most important person in my life came to this world.

Happy Doplo Nang Disember.
 
posted by Izham Ismail at 8:10 am | Permalink | 4 comments
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Au Revoir

Thanks for everything. Take care of yourself. I'll come and see you again one day. Bye now, I have a flight to catch.

 
posted by Izham Ismail at 2:46 pm | Permalink | 3 comments
Monday, December 21, 2009
Budak Koleq and Pride

As published in Konspirasi Overfloor on 19th December 2009, 37 years after the birth of Alyssa Milano, the actress I once had crush on. I was so proud of having such excellent taste.


*


Mr Liew of the basketball team was conferred an honorary membership in MCOBA just recently, making history as the only non-Malay to receive the honour of its kind. The decision was lauded as denying any racial sentiments Malay College old boys usually associated to.


In the case of Mr Liew, it is without doubt that any contributions in that size should only be replied with honour, and if there is anything bigger than conferring an honorary membership, such thing would be due for Mr Liew.


On behalf of the Class of 2005, I would like to thank Mr Liew for his timeless contributions in taking Malay College basketball to a whole new level. I can only judge from my two years experience there circa 04/05 that the college was orientating themselves in conforming to the nature of MCKK which is to build the future on its success. Apart from my batch's excellent PMR result in 2003, and my batchmate's Zaim's triumph in Pidato Piala Di-Raja, there were no real success for the whole college could take pride of.


But Mr Liew re-modelled the basketball team and with assistance from few old boys, the team turned into a powerhouse and fearsome competitor. Most importantly, the team achieved results which brought back the air of pride to Kuala Kangsar.


I may not know him personally, but the impact he made to some people I know was exceptional. So thank you and congratulations to Mr Liew.


But that is it.


*


Malay College old boys have this strange fascination of taking pride for something they belong to. The most obvious one is being a Malay College boy. And a Malay College boy would bring together with them the belief that for anything the college achieved, even if they don't have anything to do with, they could bring home the pride.


The only real achievement for a Malay College boy is to get enrolled in Malay College first. Academically, the school houses the best boys in UPSR and PMR, and students are handpicked for place in Malay College, and I particularly acquired my admission on the latter's ticket.


So the basic pride is understandable. Moving on.


Within the gates and many walls the college has, there are so many other permutations of pride that stem from many possible achievements - in sports; like the basketball team and of course many other sports teams, debating, examination results and musical skills. These are the bricks Malay College boys thought to have the power to give them pride, and for them, pride translates to the biggest single power than can make them stand taller than anyone else, respect.


Please don't get me wrong, the motivation is in many way good and the kind of momentum should go uninterrupted. This is the driving impetus for MCKK success in the yesteryears, and the challenge to become good at so many different fields as to have the bragging rights and getting the respect should be seized to keep the MCKK air of success alive.


Getting out of MCKK is as much a success as getting into MCKK, and the success of getting in and out of MCKK should not be the only reason to be proud of. Getting into MCKK requires hard work, and with the amount of challenges we did not know in the pipeline ahead of us, the hard work to get enrolled was negligible.


I may sound selfish as there are hundreds of other boys who might have punched each other to get into MCKK but failed to get enrolled. It was an easy choice for me, because getting into MCKK was not my choice. I had to only fill the same form those girls had to fill before they got into SSP and TKC, and we had no idea which school we would get into if we did well in PMR.


Like I was in coming to this world as a Malay, I can only explain my enrollment in Malay College as a destiny, and God wanted me to be a Malay College boy, like the way He wanted me to be a Malay.


So how do I say I am proud to be a Malay? How can I be proud as something I did not choose to be?


But I know that I am proud for being the person I become given the environment I was brought up in. I grew up in Malay-speaking community, and in the Malay-culture practicing populace. I am proud in how the environment has moulded me into the person I become, no matter how limited the resources and how poor the environment could sometimes be. I definitely take pride of everything that I have achieved, but that is it, I achieved what I have achieved was because I was the person who was moulded into, not because I was a Malay.


This is the fallacy that Malay College boys have long fallen into. They take pride for something as petty as being a Malay College boy, and to take pride of something else you don't have anything to do with is just pathetic. But Malay College boys cleverly shroud the feeling with the sense of belonging and brotherhood they cherish. So to take pride and tell everyone that you are good because your schoolmate is good is just wrong to me.


Self-worth is a quality every Malay College boys should have if they want to steer clear of this black days. Little do they know, until they respect themselves and people around them, no one will respect them.


As a Malay College old boy, I feel saddened with the association of Malay College boys with strong closed fraternity clouded with pathetic vanity over our previous success. Previous success is something we need to build the next success on, not something we should just be proud of.


As long as Malay College boys go on the way they are, as long as the pathetic mental attitude of taking pride in other people's achievement does not change, as long as there is no true sense of self-worth and knowing what the college has turned themselves into, then any superficial attempt at getting respect will be an illusion.


As for the success of my friends who achieved something when they were in MCKK or wherever they are now, I am proud to have known them, but just by knowing them is not something I am expecting respect in return.


And as a Malay College old boy, I am not proud because I was once a student there, but I am proud because the school has changed me to become what I am today.


That is for me, a quality of a good school.

 
posted by Izham Ismail at 4:53 am | Permalink | 0 comments
Sunday, December 20, 2009
Snowy Weekend and The Final Whistle
It is a sweet week of football news, at least to the way I read it. It came short of the script of romantic movies I would pay to watch. It is snowing everywhere in the UK, and it is with such grace English football has its stories drizzle. I am not the biggest fan of snow, although I have to submit to the fact that it is beautiful when it does.


The view of the frosty torrent is just breathtaking as I near the window for a peek, and the coldness easily annoys my Malay skin. I haven't been out for workout since it snowed, so most of the time was spent under the roof. It is gold, considering I have few books needed to be finished before going back, and of course, getting myself ready before boarding the plane. And what better way of doing it with some football news interlaced to compromise the actual playing hours I have wasted due to this beautiful and at the same time ugly weather.


Maybe the biggest and the most talked about by my countrymen was the success of Malaysian football team in SEA Games, possibly the second biggest football tournament in the region, after ASEAN Football Championship. But in terms of historic significance, SEA Games stands taller than ASEAN Football Championship, previously known as Tiger Cup, and presently known as AFF Suzuki Cup (much to do with the change of sponsorships).


Malaysia went to Laos with little hope of winning, and a bronze medal would be more than enough. It was due to Thailand and Vietnam's excellent form that Malaysia agreed to settle for anything they could. But the odds were turned around by the players, who were of course there to fight, and not calculate what was on the paper. They showed real determination and brilliance (by the region's standard) to bag the gold medal, beating Thailand and Vietnam in the process.


Back to reality, winning a gold medal in SEA Games does not paint the picture of Malaysian football doing well. It is just a tournament with age-limits. But it is good to take it as a driving impetus for the local football to grow. Now the challenge has increased in size, and Malaysian football has to be ready to seize it.


The most heartwarming development, aside from seeing Malaysian boys on the podium as gold medallists, was the spirit in Malaysian football fans that were instantly enlightened. The upbeat emotional support was similar to Dead Men of Dunharrow's when Aragorn summoned and commanded them to join him in the Battle of the Pelennor Fields.


Malaysian football fans are mostly the Dead, and most of them were summoned the day Malaysian football team won the gold medal. I was particularly emotional with the support and care Malaysians actually have in their own football team, and I hope they will honour the support even if the team is losing.


*


The boldness in the foreseeable frosty rain did not stop Liverpool from being unpredictable, as the team go through a rollercoaster ride inside the first half of the season. The win against Wigan was believed to be the turn of The Reds' misery ride, with Fernando Torres back to bang for more. Rafa Benitez even concluded his firm confidence that Liverpool will end the season as top four, but little did he know that the future is not as sweet as he had predicted.


Few days before Portsmouth hosted Liverpool at Fratton Park, European football casted its eyes to the next episode of UEFA Champions League which has now entered the second round. The bill was out and the world was shocked to learn how much money was made from the tournament, and clubs still involved were eager to get the ball, and cash rolling.


Liverpool were out of cast even before the last group fixture, and English football's bragging rights hope lies in Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal. The draw produced two dramas involving two reunions; Mourinho with Chelsea, and golden boy David Beckham with Manchester United.


The ghost of Mourinho was there at Stamford Bridge even before the draw - in FC Porto, the team Mourinho revolutionized few years ago. But this time, he is coming for real with another team he is perfecting, Inter Milan. Mourinho is my favourite manager of all-time so far and no one comes near to his charismatic and intelligent demeanor in managing a top class football team.


The value Mourinho possesses is not only in his pugnacious nature and contentious relationship with the media, but the way he protects his player and honour the player who plays for him. I raised my eyebrow when he called himself The Special One many years ago when he arrived at Stamford Bridge, but I think he has made his point now.


He turned down the offer to be England's manager right after he left Chelsea and is now taking Italian league by a storm with his free-firing side Inter Milan. I predict a close match to welcome back Jose Mourinho at Stamford Bridge.


The 1992 FA Youth Cup winning-team players will be reunited at Old Trafford on March 10, as David Beckham will be back in the tunnel. For so many love-hate stories between him and Alex Ferguson, I think the bigger story is how David Beckham's career took it turn in different way as his fellow winger Ryan Giggs' had.


Both were untouchables at their prime under Sir Alex Ferguson, and both were predicted to be the driving force in United's success for as long as Sir Alex is in charge. But fame and money lured the number 7 away as he signed for Real Madrid, and for me, David Beckham was no longer David Beckham I once knew.


David Beckham struggled, although being one of the famous Galacticos. He won La Liga after four years with Real Madrid, and he was subbed in the decisive game that handed Real Madrid the title, ironically by current England manager, Fabio Capello.


He moved on and signed for LA Galaxy, and won 2009 MLS Western Conference title, after two years battling with his own form and relationship with Galaxy fans. It has been few years since he played for England, and the hole is getting deeper as Fabio Capello is now the manager.


Likewise, United number 11 never gets old, as since David Beckham left, he collected another Champions League trophy, three Premier League titles, one FA Cup, two League Cups, three Community Shield and a FIFA Club World Cup. And recently, he was awarded PFA Player of the Year and BBC Sports Personality of the Year.


Although at one point his place was in peril as another United Number 7 came into the fray in the form of Cristiano Ronaldo. But Ryan Giggs prevailed and took the challenge to remodel his game brilliantly to keep up with the new pace of the game.


As for David Beckham, the years were wasted with fame and money. He should know by now that the has chosen the wrong path, if his ambition was more glory and honour. Now he is playing for Milan on loan, and expectedly struggling for place.


Ryan Giggs and David Beckham chose to be in different stories, and on March 10, they will pit against each other. But the battle for honour will be finished for David Beckham if he waved to the United supporters and then headed for the bench, as Ryan Giggs led the team on the field which grows him up.


*

When Liverpool went down to Fulham last October, United took it as a celebration. But ahead of United's much anticipated reunion with David Beckham, they stumbled at Craven's Cottage. It was bad timing for any Liverpool fans to laugh at the deja vu Fulham gave to United fans, as the trip to Portsmouth was proved to be an unproductive one.


Mascherano was sent off, and Liverpool were beaten with two goals unanswered. Maybe the saddest thing was to know that both Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard were playing. The pressure is piling on Rafa Benitez, as the hints of getting the boot was rectified by his colleague, Mark Hughes who was sacked albeit winning against Sunderland.


But I hope Liverpool's board still have their common sense intact, as team-building takes time, and Rafa Benitez needs time.


So the world champions were downed by Fulham, and the crown was fit to be passed on. Thousand miles away from Craven's Cottage, the crown was on the line as reigning European Champions, Barcelona take on their latin counterparts, Estudiantes La Plata.


Estudiantes were unlucky to concede two late goals and had to settle runners-up. The bone in contention was no other than Lionel Messi who just has to win the FIFA World Player of the Year award after the vital match winner. He was the runner-up for two consecutive years, and I am sure this year the title will be his.


*

And Wan Zahidi wrote a newsletter for Gangdust's Facebook group about me last night, and I am flattered for such acknowledgment. I hope Gangdust will still be alive and kicking, and continue the legacy we agreed to build together.


And my last football-filled weekend in the UK has come to an end. English football experience has never come this close, and it was a delight to be part of the massive atmosphere (even for a little while). But sadly, my dreams are bigger than that. See you again sometime.


Ah, the snow, till then.

 
posted by Izham Ismail at 6:02 am | Permalink | 1 comments