Local papers claim that ‘football fever has landed in Sarawak’, and they couldn’t be more right.
Almost everywhere people are talking about the game with hopes riding high that Sarawak will make it to the finals in Shah Alam this coming 3rd November. Optimistic fans, like myself have already purchased our flight tickets to Kuala Lumpur because we have been following the team for years, and this is indeed one of the strongest sides ever assembled since the days of Alan Vest in 1992.
But this post is not about the finals, nor is it about the semi finals where Sarawak would be set to meet Pahang to battle for their righteous passage to the elusive Malaysia Cup. This is about the team and the Sarawak football fans.
For the past three years, the transformation of the team towards what it is today has been nothing short of amazing.
The gloomy days between 2007 to 2010 have been forgotten, and the stands at Stadium Negeri are now filled to the brim every time a home game is played.
But it seems that is just the tip of the iceberg.
A new group of supporters, known as Ultras are starting to gain foot in Sarawak, and they are eagerly followed by many with separate groups starting to emerge according to where they seat in the stadium, as they give their undying support to the team when the game is on. Despite the difference in how they support, all share one objective, which is to give their favorite team the support it needs, and this has prompted some to carry out numerous so called ‘community projects’.
One of the projects, known as #BolaTanpaMercun which is an awareness against throwing object, particularly firecrackers onto the pitch got the local fans ‘booing’ every time a firecracker was thrown into the pitch. Some went ever further by attempting to catch the one doing such acts. Reports from the last game also revealed that even those throwing foreign objects into the pitch got a good scolding from fans as awareness from the campaign seemed to have gained massive momentum.
Another project which is less published is the singing of the state anthem ‘Ibu Pertiwiku’ before every game Sarawak plays. It is understood that the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) only allows the national song, which is Negaraku to be played before football matches, and hence the effort by Sarawak supporters to carry out this project which is now in it’s second time.
The song is sung without the help of any audio recording from the mighty stadium speakers, but with everyone well aware that the song is on going with Sarawak flags raised high. As a matter of fact, the Sarawak players even showed the song and their fans o much respect for this effort as they ignored their usual team photo session before the game to stand up straight to honor the song.
For a true blue Sarawakian which was at Stadium Negeri last weekend, that particular moment was indeed special. I would be kidding if I said winning the game was not important anymore, but moments like this just have ‘magical’ written all over it.
That said, it is my hope that Sarawak will advance to the finals, and eventually win the Malaysia Cup, but regardless, I foresee a very positive trend in the Stadium Negeri nowadays with the Sarawak fans leading the way to create first class football fans in Malaysia.
NSarawak Selamanya, Ibu Prtiwiku! Ngap Sayot!