Football fever at Newcastle

A TEAM of soccer-loving Malaysian students at Newcastle University has divided loyalties as Newcastle United is taking part in the FA Premier League Asia Cup which ends today in Kuala Lumpur. 

They cannot decide which “home team” to support – Newcastle United or the Malaysian national side.  

The students, who regularly play in five- and six-a-side inter-university matches, are such big fans of Newcastle United that they have adopted the team’s famous black-and-white kit as their own.  

GEORDIE MALAYSIANS: Malaysian students at Newcastle University who play in the Newcastle United strip, supported both Newcastle adn their home country in the first matches.

“Most of us will be in England for the tournament, so we’ll be watching it on television,” said Ahmad Aslam Kamarudin, an MSc mechanical engineering student. 

“We’ll be supporting both Newcastle and Malaysia in their first round matches. But if Newcastle meet Malaysia in the next stage, we really won’t know which team to cheer on.” 

Huzaimi Kassim, who is studying English, added: “I’ve been crazy about football since I was young I even used to have a book by Malcolm MacDonald, one of Newcastle United’s best-ever strikers, about how to shoot. One of the reasons I came to Newcastle was for the football.” 

Newcastle is a member of the elite Russell Group of universities, which includes Oxford and Cambridge and is renowned for world-class teaching and research. Newcastle University is also well-known for its excellent sports facilities.  

Amir Fazly Nazri, who is studying for an accounting and finance degree, added: “Newcastle is a great place to be a student. As well as having a top Premiership side, Newcastle is a really lively and friendly city where there’s always lots going on.”  

The group of students are all members of the Malaysian Society at the university and have named their team Newcastle University Malaysian Society FC.  

Medical student Helmy Haja-Mydin, who does not play but organises the team’s fixtures, said: “St James’ Park is just down the road from the university, so we go and see home matches whenever we can. We were proud that the university gave Sir Bobby Robson, Newcastle United’s football manager, an honorary degree for services to football.” 

Anyone from the Malaysian Society can play for the team if they are good enough. The team recently reached the semi-finals of a tournament in Nottingham, beating five-a-side teams from several other UK universities.  

The Cup finals will be played tonight at the Bukit Jalil National Stadium. 

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