Ayah knew my interest in football because I used to hog the idiot box whenever a football match was on, be they delayed, live matches or weekly round-ups and the passion was translated into action on the pitch in front of our house. That was also the year Ayah and Mak bought me the book European Cup, 1955-1980, a great hardcover co-authored by John Rowlinson and the No 1 TV commentator, John Motson.
Much to my excitement and awe, players I watched only on Big League Soccer and read about in Shoot! were playing in the flesh, the likes Martin Buchan, Lou Macari, Garry Birtles, Kevin Moran, Steve Coppell and Joe Jordan...though they were nowhere near the standards of Liverpool then (how times have changed).
When United returned to our shores in 1995 courtesy of Glamoir World of Sports (how are you Datuk Seri Abdullah Hishan Hashim?), I was already a football writer at Berita Harian, carefully nurtured by Hishamuddin Aun (bodek). The Red Devils, without Eric and Fergie, were taken to Balai Berita, where I remember A Kadir Jasin and Ahmad A Talib reigning supreme as hosts for the occasion. They played two matches against a Selangor selection.
...and slightly taller than Peter Schmeichel. Can you recognise Beckham and Martin Edwards?
By the time Fergie unveiled van Nistelrooy and Veron at the National Stadium in Bukit Jalil in 2001, I was writing for the nation's No 1 tabloid, the Malay Mail. Malaysia got hammered 6-0 and the crowd bore witness to Giggs' frightening pace, he was as quick as Watson Nyambek...and Aziz Ismail had no chance to snap at his heels. After the match, Allan Harris' face was as red as Beckham's jersey.
Posing, not buying...
Covering the Commonwealth Games in Manchester in 2002 was definitely one of my most memorable overseas assignments. But I was too busy (haha) keeping tabs on Malaysian athletes to pay a visit to the Old Trafford megastore. But I did complete the journey, as you can see from the pictures above.
The loose cannon remains the odd one out. The rest (from left) Datuk Dell Akbar Khan, Datuk Yap Nyim Keong and Datuk Zolkples Embong are die-hard ManYoo fans. Pic circa 2000. Also in picture, if you can find them, are Steven van Huizen, Datuk James Selvaraj, Datuk Sieh Kok Chi and Musa Noor Mohammad.
Datuk Razali Ibrahim (left) and Datuk Hishammuddin Hussein and son celebrating loose cannon and Harian Metro's Azahar Mohd Taib's gold medal exploits in ManchesterManchester was memorable for a lot of reasons. One of them was Amirul Hamizan Ibrahim's triple gold medal feat. And the small group of print journalists made it a fun trip that was hard to delete from my memory bank. Lazarus Rokk (NST), Badrulhisham Othman (BH), Azahar Mohd Taib (HM), Eric Samuel and Rizal Abdullah (The Star) and Khalid Saad (Utusan Malaysia). NSTP too dispatched two photographers - Khalid Redza and Kamaruddin Ahmad.
When Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor, Azalina Othman Said and Khairy Jamaluddin said their piece in wanting ManYoo to come for the 2007 trip that clashed with AFC's showpiece event, the Asian Cup, I chose to highlight the fact the Government had given their word not to promote any event during that period. There was a contract that needed to be honoured and I stood by this principle in going against the current. Naturally many labelled me as an AFC lackey. Azalina's legal background did not help her much then. Khairy was of course being biased because he's a United fan and I was told he had planned to host a dinner reception for the stellar cast from Old Trafford.
For ManYoo's fourth trip to Malaysia since 1981, I intend to buy the cheapest ticket and sit down quietly at one corner and savour the moment. Or perhaps FAM can issue a pass for me?