Wednesday, March 31, 2010


"What ball? ..... Big ball"
"What ball? ..... Fishball"
"What ball? ..... Meatball"
"What ball? ..... Baseball"
"What ball? ..... Dodgeball"
"What ball? ..... Football"
"What ball? ..... Dragonball"

It was the FIFA World Cup 1998 fever. Unfortunately it was also months away from our high school public examination, SPM (O'Level equaivalent for Malaysia). We football fans here in Malaysia hardly had any sleep because we were born in the wrong timezone. It's like watching a drama serial of European football league for the entire month! We were like zombies in the class for the entire month, taking any opportunity that came by for a quick nap. We go nuts with the La Copa de la Vida song by gay singer, Ricky Martin as everyone seemed to know how to party and sing it along and aloud. The entire 1998 World Cup can be summed up with 3 words: Zidane, Ronaldo and Šuker. What do they have in common? All three were at that time Real Madrid current or to be players. One was the World Cup winner, the other the first runner up while the last one was the second runner up. Šuker became the golden boot winner as Batistuta and Vieri were one goal behind with 5 goals scored. The World Cup also saw the rise of the new legend, Zidane and the fall of another legend, Ronaldo. Šuker is on the verge of ending his competitive football career so you can say he went out with a bang! Zidane helped France win their first World Cup with two goals from the 3-0 demolision of Brazil while Ronaldo disappointed his country with a shocking final letdown in probably one of the biggest upsets in World Cup final history. Šuker became a legend of Croatia as they beat the Dutch to grab 3rd place.

When we were caught in the World Cup fever, our secondary school had a brilliant idea of organizing a football tournament. It is a good example of striking while the iron was hot as we enrolled ourselves without much thinking. We don't really care if we are going to be demolished just as bad or worse than Brazil because our team definitely did not have much experience and background in football. Back then, we spent more time in the basketball court and we didn't have football boots and the jerseys to play. Luckily the organizers are not interested in upholding strict rules as long as you pay money to join the tournament. We gave our team the name Dragonball because many of us are DragonBall Z fans. We had to go around school convincing potential targets to join our unknown club, set up within days. Of course it is hard to get any appeal seeing that we were a bunch of football idiots. We only know football by theory, watching the matches on TV. We were divided into four groups and our group had 4 teams, including ours.

It was a Saturday morning but our history teacher was giving us exam. Our match was scheduled just right after the exam. Our captain, AK went to register our team. Then he met the captain of our first opponent. The entire team wore a uniform jersey like some professional football club. When the captain asked our captain, AK, do you know anyone from the Dragonball club, he replied he don't out of shame. When it was finally the kick off, the captain was abit shocked to see AK at the centre of the field during the coin tossing. Anyhow, being our first match and against such a cohesive team, we were of course nervous. Spectators around the field must be looking in disbelief that we, a bunch of nobodies wanted to play football in our colourful 'jerseys' and most of us in normal running shoes. Me as a forward, had to depend on fast passes to run into the penalty box. I mean we never train together before so forget about understanding each other and how each of us passes, crosses or moves the ball around the field. We just depend on speed.

In the first half, a player of ours were brought down very near the penalty box. I went for the freekick, giving signal for my team mates to run towards the goalie in case the ball was blocked. I managed to drive it through but it hit the goalie, knocking him down flat and the ball rolled to my midfield friend, CK, who had no obstructions whatsoever to score our debut goal. Being nervous as all of us were, in that split second, he kicked the ball way up the sky, at least 50metres over the goal. He was devastated, so were we.

Fast forward and came the second half. Our left winger, KT, was hell of a good dribbler. Most of our attacks started from him or orchestrated by him. I knew from then onwards that I needed to time my runs to understand him better. Soon, the moment of truth arrived. KT sent me a brilliant pass from the left wing, I ran into the penalty box to receive the ball. The fullback and goalie ran out towards me from deep inside the penalty box to stop me from getting the ball. In that split second, the ball reached first, I took it, bounced it out of the path, ran right to avoid their contact. Both of them accidentally hit each other. The ball landed on my brother and with full force, I hit it into the empty net from below. Erm, maybe I'm exaggerating but I believed it hit my bro, landed in front of me before I kicked it in. Haha! Nevertheless, GOOOOOAAAALLLL!!!!! I ran to dive through the field out of happiness as I saw both the goalie and full back pointed their middle fingers at me. Soon, the match ended and we won 1-0. Sweet! Suddenly, everyone wanted to join our team!

Match 2 came on a Sunday morning. It was definitely weird to play on Sunday in school since nobody was around apart from the gardener. It was so quiet that football seemed for the first time to be a boring match. It felt like how Real Madrid played AS Roma in a closed door match in Rome from a UEFA ban because the referee was hit by an object. This team we were facing consisted of relatively short players so high balls would definitely benefit us. Just after the whistle for kick off and our friend, KL, took the ball, saw me running like mad into the penalty box, kicked a very high ball into it. I timed my run as I looked into the sky with the ambition to head the ball in. I jumped with all my might and managed to head the ball into the net. GOOOOOAAAALLLL!!!!! 15 seconds? 10 seconds? KL was boasting from then onwards that he assisted the fastest goal in the entire tournament. I had to thank him for his incredible strength to kick such a long distance ball. It was a great start!


The 2nd goal came shortly as our captain, AK, my partner in crime at the front, scored from my assist. Fast forward into the second half, they earned a corner kick. The ball went into the penalty box but was headed out. A team mate got it and passed it half the field down for me to chase. I got past one defender and finally came face to face with the goalie. I did a fake dribble to the right and he fell for that. I ran to the left instead and (probably out of arrogance!!!) kicked the ball softly for it to roll into the empty net. Unfortunately, for our really bad pitch, we didn't have grass and even ground all over. It rolled and touched the goal line before a defender ran towards it to kick it out. From my view, it was as good as a goal since it touched the line. However, the linesman and referee did not see it so there was no point arguing. Fair enough, we ended the match 2-0.


The last group match came on a Satuday morning. The last few days had been raining ferociously and some matches took place. The field was in a deplorable condition, with mud and water filled holes everywhere, especially near the penalty box. There was no way I could repeat my rolling the ball into the net arrogance move again. Our goalie came very late and slept very late last night. He probably was partying whole night. The first goal scored against us finally came and it did roll in between his legs. Only after the mistake, he finally woke up! The condition of the field forced us to play a lot of lobs, crosses and high balls like how England plays. It is impossible to send passes through the mud. Sometimes, halfway through our runs, we got ourselves caught inside the 'quicksand'. For the first time, we were trailing and chasing from behind. It was tough. In the second half, they scored one more time from those tricky set pieces in the mud. Since their team consisted of lighter and younger players, the pitch suited them well to sneak around us.

Finally, close to the final whistle, KL was brought down in front of the penalty box. A fight was almost created because he was tackled real hard to be brought down. We calmed him down and I volunteered or forced the team to let me take the kick. Since it was very near the goal, it was hard to get enough trajectory for a curve swing in. I tried anyway since we were running out of time. I reversed a couple of metres, avoiding some mud along the way and gave it my all. Although it did not swing like the trademark Roberto Carlos swing that Barthez looked in amazement!


Since we did not end up at the top of the table, we faced a very formidable side consisting of real football players representing the school and athelics from another group in the knock out stage. We knew we will die right there right then as the fun had to end somehow somewhere. It ended with us losing badly, probably 9-0.

Still, it was one of the greatest moments in our secondary school time. Although we were not that great, we did bond well from forming this team. We chanted
"What ball? ..... big ball"
"What ball? ..... fishball"
"What ball? ..... meatball"
"What ball? ..... baseball"
"What ball? ..... dodgeball"
"What ball? ..... football"
"What ball? ..... dragonball"
before every match, putting our hands together to lift our spirits high. It was fun and definitely no regrets!



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