The glory days of Malaysian football

R. Arumugam, better known as Spider-Man, dives across to make an acrobatic save to block a powerful shot from South Korean striker Jung Hae Won during the Merdeka Tournament final on July 15, 1979. Captain Soh Chin Aun (right), Bakri Ibni (on the ground) and Shukor Salleh look on anxiously. Malaysia and South Korea shared the trophy after a 0-0 draw at Stadium Merdeka. Between July 1979 and April 1980, Malaysia played South Korea a total of four times, making these fiery ties such blockbuster affairs as both teams strived to be the best in Asia. Photos: The Star Archives

Where does fact end and fiction begin? When it comes to Malaysia’s greatest – and arguably, most heartbreaking – football story, the Asian Group 2 pre-Olympic football qualifying rounds in Kuala Lumpur in early 1980 is a tale of love and spirit for the country that has transcended generations.

The quest to qualify for the Moscow games, depending on who you speak to, has survived a mix of lucid and cloudy memories.

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