PETALING JAYA: Malaysia's hopes are with you – that is the message Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad gave to the national football team who will meet Vietnam in the two-legged AFF Suzuki Cup final to be played on Dec 11 in Kuala Lumpur and Dec 15 in Hanoi.
During a courtesy call by national footballers and officials to the Prime Minister's Office in Putrajaya, Dr Mahathir confirmed that he would be at the first leg of the game at the National Stadium in Bukit Jalil.
"Even though I am not really a football fan, I will be there to watch the game. Please do not disappoint me and Malaysians.
"Practice well and work hard for this final. The nation's hopes are on you. When we win, it is always fun.
"Victory will give us pride. As Malaysians, we are responsible for the country's dignity and respect. The spirit must be there," he said.
Dr Mahathir reminded players that only discipline and hard work will bring success, adding that they should aim higher and hopefully play in the World Cup one day.
"When we got our independence, our team played in the Merdeka Cup and used to be a force in football. Asian teams feared us in the past, especially Japan," said Dr Mahathir.
"Now, things have changed. Once upon a time, Japan learned football from us but now they are regularly in the World Cup. We still have not qualified for one," he added.
Dr Mahathir then said that discipline and a good lifestyle were necessary for Malaysia to be the best.
During the meeting, Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) president Datuk Hamidin Mohd Amin gave Dr Mahathir a customised national jersey with the number "7" and words 'PM' emblazoned on it.