SHAH ALAM, SELANGOR — Nostalgia was thick in the air at the annual Sultan of Selangor Cup in the cavernous Shah Alam Stadium on Saturday (24 August), as fans enjoyed reminiscing a once-fierce rivalry and cheered Malaysian Cup legends such as Fandi Ahmad, Malek Awab, and Soh Chin Aun.
Between them, Singapore and Selangor have won the Malaysia Cup – the region’s oldest football tournament – a staggering 57 out of the 94 editions (Selangor 33 times, Singapore 24) since it was first played in 1921.
The two sides have faced off in 23 of those Cup finals, forming an indelible rivalry that continues to be cherished even after Singapore left the competition following their 24th and final Cup victory in 1994 – coincidentally won at this very venue.
Cheap tickets, lucky draw bring plenty of fans
No doubt, the generosity of Selangor Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah also helped ensure a strong turnout for the Cup tournament he founded in 2001, with tickets priced at a cheap RM10 (S$3.30).
There was also an enticing lucky draw, with the two most fortunate ticket holders winning a snazzy Honda City sedan and a brand new Harley Davidson motorcycle.
And so droves of fans came, filling up a good portion of the ageing 80,000-seat stadium, all eager to cheer on their former football heroes in the veterans’ match, as well as their current team icons in what was essentially a friendly tie.
So what if the veterans, all pushing 40s and 50s in age, could only huff and puff through a truncated, 40-minute tie? Even though neither side scored in regulation, seeing their former Malaysian Cup heroes in action was enough to evoke roars of delight from the 54,920-strong crowd.
And diminutive Singapore goalkeeper Yazid Yasin stunned the crowd when he saved both attempts by Selangor in the ensuing penalty shoot-out – with each side taking just two penalty kicks – to give the Singapore veterans bragging rights for this year.
Special occasion for Singapore team
The main match between the Selangor and Singapore selection teams was at least competitive, with neither side giving an inch despite the inconsequential tie. In the end, it was Selangor who managed to eke out a 1-0 victory, courtesy of a 19th-minute goal by Nigerian striker Ifedayo Olusegun.
“It’s a special occasion for all of us,” said Singapore right-back Zulqarnean Suzliman. “We got to play in front of a very huge crowd, which we don’t usually enjoy in Singapore.”
There was also an Under-15 tie between the two sides, and it was the Selangor youths who emerged 3-1 winners over their Singapore counterparts.
But as fans dashed to the pitch-side fences to take selfies with the obliging players, and organisers treated them to a Harley Davidson parade and a fireworks display, the night was less of a competition, and more of a celebration of a decades-long sporting bond.
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