Wednesday, June 22, 2011

After Moscow, there was Kuwait

As the national Olympic team prepares to take on Lebanon in the first leg second round Olympic qualifiers in Kuala Lumpur Thursday, many are hoping that the players will play their hearts out and not only qualify to the next round but also to London for the 2012 summer games.

Many are hoping for a repeat of the Moscow adventure, when the national team qualified for the 1980 games in the Russian capital. The team did not participate in the games because of the American-led boycott of the games. Malaysia also qualified and participated in the 1972 games in Munich.
The two qualification and the fact that the team seem to be doing well has given hope to soccer fans to hope for a repeat of the Moscow adventure. Thet would make the picture perfect - the senior team doing well and the junior doing well also.
We wish Ong Kim Swee and his lads all the best.

But, somehow the 1980 adventure did not seem to have a good ending. They qualified but boycotted. Later on the team with some additional stars took part in the World Cup qualifiers and experienced what was known as the Kuwait debacle in 1981.

The national team, led by skipper Soh Chin Aun was just a step away from the World Cup and they were the favourites in 1981 Asian Qualifying finals.

The actual reason for the dismal performance is still not clear. Some blame the weather, others the presence of "star" players and some other reasons. What ever it is, it surely was a major disaster for the soccer team.

Maybe we should learn from that debacle. If we are on the top, learn to be humble and continue to improve and have the passion for the game.

In Kuwait, Malaysia lost 2-1 to South Korea, 4-0 to Kuwait and drew 2-2 with Thailand. Kuwait finished top of the table with six points from three games to qualify.

In a recent interview with the local media, Chin Aun recalled the pain of not qualifying very clearly and remembered the headlines of the day after the miserable outing.

"Oh you mean ‘The Kuwait Debacle. It was a big miss indeed. The team to Kuwait was a good fact one of the best assembled,"said Chin Aun. The members of the team include defender Santokh Singh and strikers James Wong, Hassan Sani and Mokhtar Dahari.

A year earlier, Malaysia had beaten the dominant Koreans 1-0 through a James Wong strike that saw them qualify for the 1980 Moscow Olympics.

It's good to have a dream and the have an adventure. But, remember "Kuwait" may come again after "Moscow", if we are not careful.

The Munich 1972 team:
Bahwandi Hiralal, Osman Abdullah, Salleh Ibrahim, Mohamed Bakar, Zawawi Yusuf, Harun Jusoh, Shaharuddin Abdullah, V. Krishnasamy, Ali Bakar, Rahim Abdullah, Wong Kam Fook, Looi Loon Teik, Khoo Luan Khen, Lim Fung Kee, Soh Chin Aun, Wong Chun Wah, Namat Abdullah, Hamzah Hussein, Dell Akhbar, Santokg Singh, Chow Chee Keong, M. Chandran.

The results: First Round (Group A) - Malaysia 0 West Germany 3; Malaysia 3 USA 0; Malaysia 0 Morocco 6. (Malaysia in 10th place overall).

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