The magic of social media (in this case, fb) has brought me back to Azizol Abu Hanifah, Malaysian football legend, and more importantly, my school mate. I lost contact with him when he left Teluk Intan (after the bribery controversy which I would prefer not to write about even though I had my own theory).
Revisiting Azizol brought me back to what football used to be for me, when I was still a small kid.
I used to be a football 'freak' if not 'junky' and 'fanatic'.
Football was not just my favorite game, but almost like a philosophy of living, thinking, feeling, playing, or more likely, of 'being' the game itself. I loved it since it was old enough to kick the ball, when I was about 8.
In school, my friends and I used to crumple newspapers into a ball shape, wrapped and tied it with a plastic bag to make our own 'adidas' ball. We played everywhere, from school corridor (used to be canned by the headmaster for 'running around' during school session) to car park to badminton court to volleyball court.
We graduated to a proper football field when we became the school players (Horley Methodist Primary School in Teluk Intan then). We practiced at the legendary Padang Speedy.
When we were in form one (13 years old) during our secondary school days (at the Horley Methodist Secondary School), we used to write hand-written letters to our favorite 'enemy', kids (form one) from the Sultan Abdul Aziz Secondary School, to invite them for a 'friendly game'. The 'padang' or field depends on the 'courtesy' of either our school's gardener or the opposing team's gardener.
There were times when we used to be chased out by unfriendly gardener or school 'jaga' (security assistant). I still remember one time when we used to scramble like crazy, fleeing from a 'parang' waving 'jaga' who was chasing us away for using the school field without permission on Saturday or Sunday morning. But, this cat and mouse game made the whole business of friendly game much more interesting then.
I can still remember few of my football buddies -
> Padmanathan (our goal keeper, in Primary School)
> Cepoi (Saiful, our goal keeper in Secondary School)
> Badrul (our reserve goal keeper in Secondary School)
> Ipin (fullback)
> Dzul Buyong (fullback)
> Hardev Singh (fullback)
> Jaafar Man (fullback)
> Megat Jamal Bahrin (midfield)
> Zamri (midfield)
> Latif (midfield)
> Yahya (Striker)
> Azizol Abu Hanifah (striker)
> Yours truly/me! (stiker)
Now, maybe most of you amongst the younger readers may not know the name 'Azizol Abu Hanifah'. But for those who grew up with the Malaysian football team of the 1980s, the name is a legend. Of course, for me, he is more than a legend. He was my school mate, my football buddy since we were at the Horley Methodist Primary and Secondary Schools in Teluk Intan, from standard 5 (11 years old) to form five (17).
I used to be his 'twin striker' when we were playing for our 'under 17' School Team. We trained together under Cikgu Syed and Ustaz Salim when we were in the primary school, and under Cikgu Umar Rasul when we were in the secondary school. We played so many games, I lost count. We won most of them, and used to be a team to beat. We were the Hilir Perak under 15 football champion in 1980 and a semi-finalist for the Hilir Perak under 17 in 1982 (too sad to tell the story behind the defeat). Our supporters where quite a 'hooligans' then, feared, even by the referees (but not Salasiah Din, the first women football referee in Malaysia). Of course, I played for other teams. But playing with Azizol for our school team was way up there, at the peak of my 'little' football history.
To witness how Azizol became a 'legend', the best (at least for me) midfielder Malaysia has ever produced (other than Shukor Salleh), is one of the most cherished and exciting experiences in my life.
Azizol was already playing for the Perak senior team and Malaysian junior team when he was 17. A year later, he was already called to play for the national team along with Soh Chin Aun, Santokh Singh, Mokhtar Dahari, Zainal Abidin Hassan, Dollah Salleh, Rashid Hassan, Ong Yu Tiang, etc amongst many legends. So, can you imagine, seeing a friend of yours, who used to play paper and plastic ball with you, then playing with these 'giants' and 'legends'.
I used to be brought to the legendary Stadium Merdeka by Abang Taha (brother in-law) to see the Malaysian team played. Whenever I was watching the Malaysian team played then, I was in heaven. I have to thank Abang Taha for it (also for his 'Shoot' magazines that he used to subscribe). But Abang Taha plus Stadium Merdeka plus Malaysian team in the 80s will be another blog entry.
This blog entry is about Azizol, my legend (and more importantly, my friend). Watching him played with the other football heroes was.......phhuuuuhhhh.....pure ecstasy!! I can write a poem or theorize about the game plan. But, don't let me spoil this blog entry here.
I also used to go to the Merdeka Stadium with school friends, sat at a corner where the Malaysian players used to come out from the dressing room, and yelled 'Jijon' or 'Demang' (his nicknames) when he came out. Of course, he used to smile and wave back at us. We did that to show our support to him and our national team, other than, to show off to other members of the crowds (that we were Azizol's buddies).
The Malaysian football team then was rather a light-year different than it is today (I am being bombastic here).
Don't let me start on the state of Malaysian football since the 1990s, not to mention the current Malaysian team (re-branded as 'Harimau Malaya'). Not that I am a pessimist, but I just prefer to focus on my little but meaningful experience, more than investing too much on a hope for a (not fully tested) 'brand' (or a parade of hairstyles).
Nevertheless, I am forever a cursed supporter of our Malaysian football team, who found himself praying more for the team not to loose in many occasions, rather than really enjoying a clever and entertaining game.
In the meantime, I will remember, cherish and place the experience of playing with Azizol and the rest of the school team as a very rare and precious moment of my football experience. I just wish I could find that old photo of the school team from our school magazine.
Time to dig out that stacks of old boxes back home in Teluk Intan.
|Horley Methodist Primary School football team, Teluk Intan, 1977. Standing from left : Yahya, Dzulkifli, Megat Jamal Bahrin, Zamri, Khairuddin, Azizol Abu Hanifah, Cikgu Syed. Front from left : Latif. ?, Padmanathan, Hasnul Jamal Saidon, Kamal|
Revisiting Jijon via fb :