“PLEASE don’t treat me like a hero.”
That’s the plea from national hotshot N. Thanabalan.
The Kuala Lumpur SEA Games have seen Thanabalan’s stock rise steeply, especially after his 86th-minute header helped Malaysia beat Indonesia 1-0 in the semi-finals at the Shah Alam Stadium on Saturday.
That has paved the way for Malaysia to meet defending champions Thailand in tomorrow’s final at the same venue.
“I’m nothing without my teammates. Football is a team game,” said the Seremban local, who has scored four goals en route to the final.
Thanabalan, who draws cheers from the crowd whenever he touches the ball, stressed that he is just a cog in the team.
“There are no superstars in this team. Everyone works equally hard to help the team reach the final.
“I may have scored the winner (in the semi-final against Indonesia), but it was down to team effort,” said the Felcra player.
“I struggled to make an impact in the game as the Indonesian players marked me quite tightly. I was looking to assist other players to score but, in the end, I was at the right place at the right time to score the winner.
“It feels great to hear your name chanted from the terraces.
“I want to thank everyone for the love they have shown me, but I’m just a normal player who works hard for the team.”
And he has promised to work just as hard against Thailand in the final, which was initially scheduled to be held at the National Stadium in Bukit Jalil.
However, the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) announced yesterday that the final will be played at the Shah Alam Stadium with the tickets priced at RM21.20 (including GST).
The 22-year-old Thanabalan is fine with the choice of venue.
He feels that “the team will benefit from it as we’ve played all out matches there”.
“I think it’s good that we are playing the final at the Shah Alam Stadium. It’s fast becoming my lucky venue.
“I hope to get lucky again in the final,” said the former Tunku Ismail Sports School (SSTMI) student.
See our full coverage of SEA Games 2017