Malaysian football players have done it yet again.
It has been a terrific couple of months for Malaysia on the sports front. We have had at least one medal at the Tokyo Olympics and as recently as yesterday (as of writing), legend Datuk Soh Chin Aun was recognised by FIFA as the world’s most capped player in international football. How many? 195 caps, 10 clear of the next nearest.
More remarkable an achievement when you scroll down only to stumble upon the illustrious names beneath him are some of the greatest players the world has ever clapped eyes on – Sergio Ramos at joint 4th, Cristiano Ronaldo at 6th and Gianluigi Buffon, who absurdly still ekes out a living as a professional footballer at a not-so-tender age of 43, at 8th.
Immortalised as the protagonist in 2016 Malaysian football flick Ola Bola, Chin Aun wasn’t the sole Malaysian honoured by the men in suit based in Zurich. Joining him in the FIFA Century Club were Zainal Abidin Hassan, Datuk M Chandran and Datuk Santokh Singh, adding to existing centurion inductees Dato’ Abdul Shukor Salleh, Dato’ Mokhtar Dahari and Datuk R. Arumugam.
To celebrate their achievement, we list other memorable moments where Malaysia football players made it to the top of the world.
Johor Darul Ta’zim FC, or better known as JDT, winning the AFC Cup
In the 12th edition of the AFC Cup – for those familiar with European football, the AFC Cup is equivalent to the Europa League – JDT won the tournament for the first time ever after they gallantly defeated FC Istiklol 1-0 away to the capital city of Tajikistan. Mohd Safiq Rahim was named the tournament’s most valuable player.
As a reward, JDT qualified for preliminary rounds of top tier AFC Champions League in 2016. The club have entered group stages of AFC Champions League on multiple occasions since.
Watch the highlight here
Mohd Faiz Subri scored the world’s best goal of 2016
An award christened after a Real Madrid and Hungarian legend, the FIFA Puskás Award celebrates the most aesthetically pleasing goal scored in a particular calendar year. Prior to the current process where goals are judged by a panel selected by FIFA who deems their worthiness, the award was decided by fan votes up until 2018.
While playing for Penang FC in a 2016 Malaysia Super League encounter with Pahang FC, Faiz scored a seemingly impossible free kick. Described as physics defying, it beat contenders from the likes of Lionel Messi to secure a spot in the top 3. Crowned the best goal of 2016, his wicked strike garnered nearly 60% of total votes in the final ballot. Winners of preceding years include Cristiano Ronaldo, Zlatan Ibrahimović and Neymar.
Watch this Malaysian football highlight here
1972 Olympics team
While much has been publicised about the 1980 Olympics team, their predecessors were just as formidable. At the height of their power, they were among the continent’s best and vindicated by to-date the only appearance of the Malaysia national football team at the Olympics. On route to qualifying, Malaysia defeated Japan and South Korea. In Munich, the team also achieved a victory in the group stage, winning 3-0 against the United States. The precious result remains Malaysia’s only victory in Olympic football.
1980 Olympics qualifying team
The 1980 representatives, captained by Chin Aun, were deservedly celebrated not only for their heroics in qualifying for the Olympics, but for their selfless sacrifice by forfeiting the priceless opportunity to represent the country in the Moscow Olympics. The Cold War was marred by incessant political tension. In protest of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, Malaysia joined a US-led boycott of the games, which meant no Malaysian athletes partook.