The truly beautiful game
FOOTBALL fans were fixated by the recent Piala Malaysia that few had time to talk about the other leagues that are equally beautiful, if not more so.
For example, Piala FAM 2016 had its final just a week earlier with the Malaysia Indian Sports CouncilMalaysia Indian Football Association (MISC-MIFA) emerging champions.
The team defeated Perak State Economic Development Corporation (PKNP) FC 2-1 (3-1 aggregate) at the Perak Stadium in front of 7,000 spectators. M. Yoges scored in the fourth minute, his sixth goal of the competition, and Munawwar Shavukath Ali in the 67th minute.
As champions, MISC-MIFA took home RM200,000 in prize money. A week before that PKNP lost 0-1 to MISC-MIFA at the Shah Alam Stadium with more than 6,500 fans watching. Overall MISC-MIFA won 11 games, drew three, and lost two; topping the FAM table at 36 points and 19 goal difference.
The championship was sweet for the team considering that it missed last year’s final on goal difference. The success this time around saw the team being promoted to the premier league.
There were 17 teams in all, 11 were from the last season, including MISCMIFA while the rest were new. Their target set in 2014 to be in the Premier Division “in two years” seems to have paid off handsomely. Kudos.
MISC-MIFA made their debut in 2014, in the 12-team FAM Cup, and ended the season in ninth spot with 23 points from six wins, five draws and 11 defeats. More than that, the team has always been multiracial with about half its players being Malays and Chinese. Interestingly, while the other teams are based at some state or the other with a stadium as “home ground”, not so for MISC-MIFA that has only the Universiti Sains Islam Malaysia (USIM) Stadium at the Nilai campus, Negri Sembilan, as its “home ground”. Yes, you read it right – USIM, the Islamic Science University of Malaysia!
To many, this may look like a rather odd combination especially when the team used to undergo centralised training at another institution in Sungai Petani, Kedah. But it did not turn out to be that way going by statements made by the MISC-MIFA officials following the historic win.
Team manager S. Arumugam was quoted as saying “padang USIM padang keramat kami” (USIM’s field is our sacred ground); or that of Datuk T. Mohan, the president of MISC-MIFA who regarded the win as “luck dari USIM”.
In more ways than one, such expressions are testimonies that race and religion are never barriers in sports as always assumed. Datuk M. Saravanan, deputy minister of youth and sports, on YouTube, recognised the role and contribution from USIM to the championship win given the commitment of its staff in ensuring MIFA’s feat.
Unlike media reports that frequently highlighted the tension between Hindus and Muslims on the controversial issue