Monday, August 1, 2011

Off The Pitch

I was there along with perhaps 85,000 more people (I can't say Malaysians since mat salleh pon ramai je tengok, siap pakai jersi Malaysia lagi) to watch our boys take on Singa Import. Gedebak gedebuk, we drew the match and lost 4-6 on aggregate. They even took the best acting award too, oh well.

Anyway, I'm pretty sure the game itself has been blogged to death already by now so you can Google your way to it. I'm gonna write about everything else instead.

After work, I rushed to the toilet and changed quickly into my blue Malaysian jersey, blue jeans and trusted Jack Purcells and took a train to Bukit Jalil. After a long cramped ride, I arrived to a festive atmosphere. A sea of blues and yellows and the odd Man Utd jersey here and there (tak reti bahasa bebudak MU nih, pakai jersi merah time Malaysia lawan Singa Import), I found Zad near the station and went looking for Vijay. After prolonged looking (the phone line was jammed up), and walking to find a less crowded gate, we finally entered Green Gate and walked all the way to the end of the terrace. We found a place on the third tier and sat and waited for the game to start.

The stadium filled up rather quickly and the noise was deafening. We can see the Ultras Malaya set who took up one section on the first tier already getting into the groove with their chants and drumming. I am guessing their most popular chant that day was "Loser, loser" directed at Shahril Ishak, which was quickly picked up by the rest of the stadium. Nice.

I've not sang Negaraku in about 11 years, and that was an excellent moment to do it again. The stadium sang in unison and the way the crowd erupted after the anthem was tremendous. Shame that a lot of fans booed Singapore's anthem, but then their players weren't sporting (or even Singaporeans in the first place, heh) during the game anyway, so lantak pi lah.

Of course there are still some idiots who lit and threw firecrackers (which blinded one poor chap, I read in today's paper) but generally it was a footballing crowd. I can still recall the elation when Safee scored the first goal, and the utter disappointment when Singa Import China scored the equalizer. It was an immediate hush around the stadium, and we can actually hear the 300 odd supporters in red cheering.

But Ultras Malaya soldiered on and soon the rest of the stadium joined in to lend our vocal support as the 12th player. But it soon dawned that it's not going anywhere and by the time the referee blew, sections of the stadium were already emptying.

It was a good atmosphere, and Zad said it best with "thanks for introducing me to the joys of a full 90,000 capacity stadium". You won't find that experience in front of the telly albeit much more comfortable and with the advantage of instant replay, trust me the real deal is worth the hassle. That said, I have a few comments to make:

1. Why can't we have numbered seats on the tickets? That will ensure everyone who bought it WILL get a seat. Twice before I've been to a football match and did not get a seat despite paying good money for it. People had to sit on the stairways and every nook and cranny they can find. Imagine if there's an emergency, what then?

2. They need to dedicate a section for families. I watched a game in White Hart Lane a while back, and I bought a Family section ticket. That section had more stewards and enforced a strict no swearing policy (a shirtless bloke was told firmly to "shut your trap, put your shirt on, or I'll kick you out!" when he swore a few times). Little kids need not be exposed to that side of the game really.

3. There was no control upon exiting (and entering too actually) the stadium, everyone just rushed to exit through the awfully small exit points. Some idiots kept pushing and that caused a little commotion. Pity the ladies and again small children who had to brave through that as well.

4. Same thing at the LRT station, people were crowded near the entrance because they won't let more people in the station. IMHO, let the people in but control entrance to the platforms instead. Small space, too many people - someone can easily faint or have difficulty breathing. Referring to my experience watching the game in London, the tube station was manned by policemen and they ensured that people line up orderly (even when the line was so long I can't see the start of it). Why can't we be doing this?

5. The management need to get a hold of the stalls, there were too many of them. The reason why people had to crowd the LRT entrance was because there was no other space to wait once you're near the station. Otherwise you have to walk back to the stairs, and turning around in that stampede was not an option really. Same goes for vendors inside and outside the stadium, people were rushing to get out and they stood right in front of the exit hawking their stuff. Good idea in normal circumstances, but terrible idea with this kind of crowd.

6. Indiscriminate parking, especially by motorcycles and vendors' vans. It blocks pedestrian traffic flow A LOT.

So, will we see any changes after this (after a barrage of criticisms, especially after the 3 EPL matches which saw many SNBJ virgins attend for the first time)? Let's hope someone does something before we see a Heysel in our own back yard.

1 comment:

Teh Tarik Drinker said...

Was at the match myself with a bunch of my german colleagues (refer to my post) and we too were facing similar problems. Really must be something done to improve the stadium if we want more people to come comfortably....