JOHOR BARU: Johoreans had a double reason to rejoice after being given a public holiday following Johor Darul Ta’zim’s (JDT) win in the AFC Cup.
Thousands of fans thronged Dataran Bandaraya here to watch the final in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, against FC Istiklol screened live on big screens.
Many shed tears when the referee blew the final whistle to make JDT the AFC 2015 Cup champions.
State secretary Datuk Ismail Karim, who is also the Johor FA president, made the announcement that Sunday would be a public holiday through the Southern Tigers Facebook page.
Among those celebrating the win was civil servant Yaakon Adnan, 45, who brought his entire family to watch the game.
“This is the happiest moment for me and the rest of the fans not only here but throughout the state as we become the first team in Malaysia to lift the trophy.
“Hopefully JDT will continue to bring honour to Johor and makes us even prouder, “ he said, adding that he had come to Dataran Bandaraya in the early afternoon.
Housewife Murni Nordin, 31, said Oct 31 would go down in history as the Southern Tigers became the first Malaysian team to win a regional football competition.
“The whole country is behind JDT as the team is representing Malaysia on the international stage.
“I hope the win will signal a brighter future for football in Malaysia,” she said.
Secondary school student Abdul Latif Abdul Karim, 15, said that ever since Tunku Mahkota Johor Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim transformed JDT into the best team in the country, he had stopped watching European football.
“JDT are now the best team in Malaysia and Asia.
“I hope to see them compete against bigger football clubs especially from Europe,” he said.
JDT Argentinean midfielder Leandro Velasquez scored the only goal in the match in the 23rd minutes.
With the win, JDT collected their third trophy this year after clinching the Malaysia Charity Shield and the Malaysian Super League title.
Meanwhile, a group of Johor media practitioners did not miss the chance to show their support for JDT in the final.
The 30 media practitioners from various publications watched the match between JDT and FC Istikol via live streaming in on Keretapi Tanah Melayu Bhd’s Peninsular Express.
The group, led by Johor Media Club president Mohamad Fauzi Isha, who were on their way back from Hatyai, did not let the fact that they were travelling stop them from watching the match.
The programme, which started on Oct 28 until Nov 1, was one of the club’s yearly activities and supported by state government, state Tourism Department and KTMB.