The truly beau­ti­ful game

The Sun (Malaysia) - - SPEAK UP -

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

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