PETALING JAYA: The night when the Malaysian soccer team scored against South Korea in 1980 was an electrifying one, recalls former Star Sports editor Ng Weng Tuck.
Speaking to The Star Online, he said the Malaysian national squad back then was feared among Asian teams.
Ng, who had been there to watch the match and edited the sports front page for April 7, 1980, said the atmosphere in the stadium was just unbelievable.
“It was electrifying, you can hear fans singing and cheering at the top of their lungs, all in support of our Malaysian team.
“Back then, we were top ranked and we used to beat Korea and Japan and all, and the stadiums were always packed to the brim when our national team played, unlike today where they play to an empty stadium.
“They (players) were hungry for victory, and though they were not paid much, they gave their heart and soul to the sport,” said Ng, who was then the Sports Desk sub-editor.
He said football was “the sport” at that time and games like badminton only became popular in 1992.
Ng explained that being a sports editor back then, he was able to head to the stadium to watch the match after clearing copies for the first edition.
“Once we are done with the first edition, we will go to the stadium to watch the match and later come back and write about what happened there for the second edition.
Speaking of the qualifying match, Ng said that Malaysia was performing at their best that night, and the goal from Sabahan striker James Wong was etched in his mind.
“He was the striker and when he got the ball, it was a heart-stopping moment. We all held our breath to watch him toss the ball twice on his knee before he scored the goal,” Ng said.
Asked on why he had headlined the article as Hail King James!, Ng said he did so simply because Wong meant king in Cantonese.
“I saw it fit at that point of time, so I used it,” he added.
Having witnessed the game live, Ng said it would have been better if the recent Malaysian movie Ola Bola, had stuck to the facts.
“I have not watched the movie but they should have kept to it that the goal was scored by the Sabahan and maintained the scoreline of 2-1 instead of the depicted 3-2,” he said.
Ng shared that the team which played in the Olympic qualifier that year was the best team the nation had.
“If the boycott had not happened, that team would have gone to Moscow for the Olympics, because they were the best we had,” he said.
Hail King James!
Ola Bola should have stuck to facts, say James Wong and Hassan Sani