Jul 01 2011
Without wishing to offend anyone, Malaysia really sucks at sport. Apart from the odd medal in badminton, this nation of more than 27 million people rarely gets anywhere near the winners’ podium. This is particularly embarrassing with football, where enthusiasm for the game is hardly ever matched by success on the pitch. The Malaysian national team is ranked 143rd in the world, below such titans of the game as Cape Verde (79th; population 500,000) and St Kitts and Nevis (119th; population 51,300).
In light of all this, local lovers of the beautiful game have taken the pragmatic step of supporting teams which are actually good at playing football. For the most part this means following teams in the English Premiership. Several EPL games are televised live every week during the season, guaranteeing good business for any bar or pub that shows them on a big screen. This avid fan base has not escaped the notice of the clubs, many of whom have taken to visiting Malaysia as part of pre-season Asian tours.
This year, three of the biggest and most successful clubs in England — Arsenal, Liverpool and Chelsea — will be playing in Kuala Lumpur over the space of just nine days. Their opponents on each occasion will be the Malaysia XI, a team made up of players from the Malaysian Super League. As the Malaysia XI have never won a game, anyone expecting a David versus Goliath moment will probably be disappointed.
Their first match will be against Arsenal, at 20:45 on July 13. For many years, Manchester United’s main rivals for the Premiership crown, the Gunners have endured a disappointing few seasons. Of the three teams, they have the smallest local fan base, which means those people coming along to support Malaysia XI will not feel quite so outnumbered.
The same could not be said of the second team on the triple bill, Liverpool, who are making their debut appearance in Malaysia, on July 16, at 17:45. The Reds have a massive local fan base, second only to United’s. Despite a disappointing sixth place finish last season, Liverpool fans are optimistic about the future. Installing Kenny Dalglish, one of the team’s greatest former players, as manager for the second time has been a popular move to say the least.
Last up is Chelsea, at 20:45 on July 21, who despite finishing second behind United last season, sacked their manager soon after. Once the richest club in England, thanks to billionaire owner Roman Abramovich, they can no longer afford to outspend their leading rivals. Chelsea fans will be keen see how the Blues shape up under new manager Andre Villas-Boas.
All three matches will be played at the 87,000-seater National Stadium in Bukit Jalil. The best way to reach the ground is to take the Sri Petaling branch of the Ampang LRT line to Bukit Jalil station. Tickets, which range from 58 to 388 ringgit, are available from Ticketpro to all the games, although the Liverpool game is selling fast.
Bukit Jalil National Stadium
Jalan Barat, Bukit Jalil, Kuala Lumpur
T: (03) 7880 7999
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