Football fever hits schools

  • Education
  • Sunday, 18 Jun 2006

LOOK RIGHT. Look left. Look up. Look down. It is World Cup mania all around!  

With this year’s slogan of A Time To Make Friends, the event of the world has brought everyone together for the love of football. 

Although the matches are being screened at night and into the wee hours of the morning, the passion for the game is keeping many awake as they watch their favourite teams in action.  

Students have not been left out of this madness that grips Malaysia once every four years. In fact, they are among the most passionate supporters. Fourteen-year-old Nicholas Chin from SM Sri KDU has no qualms about staying up late for the matches as he watches it with his Dad. He does not sleep after the matches but instead prefers to stay up until it is time for school for fear of not waking up.  

Students at the Australian International School Malaysia are giving it their all for their home countries. (From left) Kelly de Vries is supporting the Netherlands, Yul-Rahim Zaman is all for Germany,Ga Yeon is South Korea’s biggest fan, Nada Kurahashi is supporting Japan, Alex is for the English while Tristan is a true blue Socceroo.

When the tournament approaches the semi-finals stage, Nicholas has plans to go over to a friend's house to watch the match together, no matter what the time. 

“This event only happens once every four years so I'm keeping my fingers crossed that my parents will allow me to do so,” says Nicholas who cites English skipper David Beckham as his favourite player.  

Fellow England fan, SMK La Salle student Benjamin Leong, 16, is not allowed to stay up late on a school night. However, he admits to doing so when it concerns an “important” match that involves two big rivals. 

“When the competition gets towards the knockout stages, that is when you’ll see more of us staying up often to watch the matches,” he says.  

However Samba-football crazy Nicholas Cheong, 16, is getting the best of both worlds by sleeping early and waking up in time for the matches in the early hours of the morning.  

“The first match Brazil played was at 3am and there was no way that I would miss watching my favourite player Ronaldinho in action,” says the SMK Bandar Utama student who plays for the Brazil Football Centre.  

Collecting prepaid top up cards with pictures of the big football stars is a fast growing trend amongstudents during the World Cup. Suniljit has more than 15 in his collection so far.

SMK La Salle Petaling Jaya Principal A. Rajenthran is surprised that there have been very few cases of absenteeism at his school since the start of the World Cup.  

“I have yet to hear any stories from teachers that students have fallen asleep in class but it’s still early on in the World Cup,” he says. 

Rajenthran notes that the last World Cup in 2002 recorded more cases of students being absent despite the matches being shown in the afternoon and evening.  

Getting into the game  

To get into the excitement and the thrill of the World Cup, many fans have bought merchandise of their favourite teams to show their support. 

Fifteen-year-old Suniljit Singh from SMK La Salle Petaling Jaya who is an England fan, bought himself an England jersey recently and had the name “Gerrard” emblazoned on the back of the shirt in tribute to his favourite player, England midfielder Steven Gerrard.  

This year’s World Cup is not distracting these Arsenal Soccer School students fromtheir weekly training.

Suniljit also collects prepaid top up cards which have pictures of the big name stars of the World Cup. He has more than 15 cards so far and hopes to complete his collection in time for the final. 

“If I've got the same card, I will trade them with my schoolmates for the one I want,” he says.  

Australian International School Malaysia (AISM) assistant principal Wayne Wagner says the football fever has slowly taken off on campus.  

“When Australia beat Japan, I saw students running around with the Australian flags the next morning,” he laughs.  

Meanwhile, AISM Year Eight student Tristan Hilbig is bursting with pride at the Socceroo’s achievement last Monday.  

“We scored three goals and beat Japan in the last 10 minutes! I called my friends immediately as I was watching the match on TV and we decided to bring our jersey and flag to school the next day to celebrate the victory,” laughs Tristan from Australia.  

The 14-year-old says he cannot wait to watch his country play against the mighty Brazil.  

AISM Korean student Ga Yeon Yu is not about to be left out from the World Cup frenzy. Her eye-catching football fan outfit makes her stand out from the crowd. The 15-year-old Seoul native was all dressed-up to celebrate the 2-1 victory for the South Koreans in the match against Togo.  

Like most female fans cheering on the pitch, Ga Yeon wraps her country’s flag around her hip and wears a matching jersey and a headband of red-devil horns. She also has a red “Korea” banner to go with her “FIFA look”.  

“I got so excited from cheering for my team while watching the match at a Korean restaurant that I even bought the t-shirt and headband for the World Cup,” she says.  

In Seoul, Ga Yeon says most people will go to parks and watch live matches together with other fans.  

“Football is a big thing in my country. The great thing is that my Dad is also a fan of football so we will go to Desa Sri Hartamas to watch the matches on the big-screen,” she says.  

The Cup of life 

Arsenal Soccer School General Manager Gobi Nair is glad that the interest in the sport has picked up as a result of many children following the English Premier League and the World Cup. 

“A soccer school is a great place to learn the important lessons in life. The students learn about teamwork, discipline, respect for one another and make friends along the way,” he says, adding that attendance has been good despite the World Cup. 

However, AISM Year Seven student Alex Fitch wishes there are more football fans in his school.  

“A parade could be one thing that we could do for the World Cup if there were more football fans around,” he says.  

Alex also collects and decorates his room with posters of big football stars including his favourites Wayne Rooney and Frank Lampard. He adds that he would like to do something special if the England team makes it to the final.  

“Maybe I will paint a small flag of my country on my face,” he says. 

"I am sporting

Nada Kurahashi

“My mom and I are supporting the Japanese team. She even bought me an official Japan national team jersey from the last World Cup. And my favourite player has to beNakata Hidetoshi because he is cool.”Nada Kurahashi, 14, Australian InternationalSchool Malaysia. 

Sanoj Warrier

“I am cheering on Brazil in the World Cup. My favourite player Ronaldinho is going to steer them towards victory and help Brazildefend their title.” Sanoj Warrier, 15,SMK Taman Tun Dr Ismail. 

“Brazil is going to win the World Cup again this year, especially with a player like Ronaldinho. He's the best Samba dancer inthe whole world.” Justin Tung, 15, SMK La Salle Petaling Jaya. 

Kelly de Vries

“My dad and I are big Robben. I’m going backfor school break so we get together at football Kelly de Vries, 13, Australian International. 

Isaiah Vergis

“The team I am supporting in this year's World Cup is Germany. My favourite player is their goalkeeper Oliver Kahn even though Ilike to play as a striker.” Isaiah Vergis, 10, SK Sri Subang Jaya 

Germany is everything! My favourite players are Oliver Kahn and Michael Ballack. I plan to wake up in the middle of the night to watch the football matches if my parents allow me to do so.” Yul-Rahim Zaman, 13, Australian International School Malaysia



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