The Malaysian football fan will first encounter football in his or her formative years as they watch Dad screaming at the guy on TV who’s running away with a ball being chased by 20 other guys. Soon, the Malaysian adolescent begins to develop a fascination for the strange spectacle and asks the father about it.
Boy : Dad, what’s football?
Dad : It’s a game, son.
Boy : Like hide and seek?
Dad : No, boy. Like life and death.
Once the seeds of football have been planted in the minds of impressionable young tykes, comes the crucial point in their lives; picking a team. This step is one that must be seriously thought over for the ramifications can be catastrophic. A Malaysian person must pick a team that will foreseeably be successful well into their adult life. If they pick a team that is a dud, they risk going through life being scorned by fans of better teams and watching their team languishing in mediocrity. Of course they have the option of switching allegiances to other teams, but this is tantamount to sin. This is why some people are called “Judas”.
Unfortunately, some Malaysian people had the choice of team made by their parent a long time ago and they might be supporting a mid-table or God forbid- non league team. But this can be used to their advantage as they can accuse other Malaysian people of being “Gloryhunters” or fair-weather fans. Gloryhunters will never admit that they are supporting a team just because they’re successful. You should never insinuate this for it could lead to them either ostracizing you or giving you a long lecture on their history as a fan of the club. Both outcomes are equally unpleasant.
A typical Saturday night for most football fans involves a crowded pub or mamak stall (future post), effusive fans and a large TV screen. Expect to hear many insults thrown at the referee or the fancy player who has a penchant for theatrics. Some fans may get violent, but you shouldn’t worry. It’s just their way of expressing themselves, like how cavemen used to bang their chests and yell a lot. Once the game is over, you might see some crestfallen fans who weep in disappointment at their vicarious dreams being shattered. This means they have to get back to the harsh realities of real life. This is something they do not want. But if their team should win, this would make their existence seem meaningful as they are part of something some group of people did in some land far away.
But the match does not end there. Malaysian people also feel the need to analyse, complain or gloat about the events post-match. For some, this is more important than the match itself as they get to imagine that they are sports commentators on a TV programme. A sports commentator position is one that Malaysians dream of as no other job pays you five figures to wax lyrical about 22 men fighting over a leather sphere. If you’re feeling particularly masochistic, you should ask a Malaysian person to explain to you how football leagues are secretly controlled by bookies and organized crime. Of course, Malaysian people also feel the need to supplement this passion for football with Futsal games. Futsal is essentially football but in a smaller court with less people that allows amateur players to feel like they are professionals.
The end of a football season triggers withdrawal symptoms in Malaysian people as they start to resemble an extra from a George A. Romero film. This can be a frightening sight for someone unaccustomed to it. It is necessary that you relate to their pain. However, once football season begins again, they’ll be back to themselves. Expect to hear the phrase “Now life has meaning again.”
Note: There are Malaysian people who wear football jerseys in non-football situations. This kind of Malaysian person must be handled carefully.