Monday, June 18, 2012

The Euros, my personal timeline

My Euro timeline...

1980 - my first Euro was restricted to occasional news clippings on TV and reading pleasures months after West Germany lifted the Cup, thanks to Shoot! and Shoot! Annual. It was a blow that my favourite player, Trevor Francis, the David Beckham of his era, sustained an Achilles tendon injury and had to miss the tournament...I had to wait a further two years before watching Francis in action in the World Cup in Spain.

There were two weekly editions of Shoot! that I remember with fondness - the cover that featured Ron Greenwood's England team with thumbnail sketches of each player on Page 2 and 3 ahead of the tourney and the post-tourney edition that had Tony Woodcock in an aerial duel with Wilfried Van Moer (or was it Eric Gerets) of Belgium on the cover.

A marauding right-back, a big-sized striker, a blond playmaker, a master-class dribbler as sweeper, a left-footed playmaker and a left-back built like a tank formed the core of Jupp Derwall's victorious squad...

A team that had a tall midfielder with the cultured touch, a German-based energetic midfielder and several players from the all-conquering Liverpool side was hard to ignore...  

Greatly influenced and impressed by Hansi Mueller's left-peg on the occasions that I saw West Germany on TV, I visualised myself hitting the net in a footy match - oh yes I did slam a left-footed shot that hit the underside of the bar and kidding! There was no net those days...what do you expect from a Standard 4 inter-class tournament? hehe

A midfielder with the 1980 Standard 4 inter-class champion - 4 Merah. With Zaimi Ridzwan stoking the engine room, Acis of Gersang fame as striker and Iskandar Ahmad Sabki as the central defender, I played a supporting role.

1984 - At such an impressionable age, I could not help but be seduced by the cavalier approach of Les Bleus. To me, their victory made up for the disappointment of losing the World Cup semifinal in 1982 to Harald Schumacher's boots (remember the day he hacked Patrick Battiston). The best part, my cousin had recorded most of the matches on video. So instead of taxing my brains with mathematics or science, foremost on my mind were Manuel Amoros head butting Jesper Olsen, Jean Tigana's tireless running and Michel Platini's magical moments, not forgetting Rafael Gordillo, with socks rolled down to his ankles, Antonio Maceda and Carlos Santillana making the Spanish tick and the Dane Preben Elkjaer's gallant displays.

Les Bleus had a former rugby player as full-back, a classy dribber in central defence, a poetry-loving keeper, a former postman with his tireless running that formed part of Le Carre Magique, the iconic jersey and above all, the talismanic future president of UEFA!  

1988 - Ruud Gullit, Frank Rijkaard, Marco van Basten, Jan Wouters, Barry van Aerle, Adri van Tiggelen, Hans van Breukelen, Ronald Koeman, his brother Erwin...with the help of a stellar cast, the Dutch finally fulfilled their potential with a major title.

From, a blog authored by a Malaysian journo

But the team that really caught my eye were the Azzurris...

They might look like the Mafiosi but on the pitch, very few sides could boast a classy right flanker, a top-class libero, a deadly attacking duo that went on to manage English clubs and an array of European champions but my favourite player in Azeglio Vicini's outfit was the playmaker Giuseppe Giannini, dubbed the Prince by Italian journos. 

1992 - Attached to the pullout Jaguh, it was routine for me, as the rookie reporter, to be given the job of writing the main feature when it involved foreign sports. For Euro 1992, I penned several articles without relying on the foreign wires. Expectations ran high that an unbeaten French team, with Jean-Pierre Papin and Eric Cantona leading the line for Michel Platini's team, would steamroll past their opponents. But suddenly the French became ultra defensive, bemoaning the fact they had only Christian Perez as their creative fulcrum.

We had our own version of the Euros, the inter-unit Berita Harian World Cup - picture is the Berita Harian sports desk twenty years ago! Read  here

1996 - This was Aime Jacquet's first major tournament after succeeding Gerard Houllier in 1994. People spoke about Alan Shearer, El Tel and all, but my eyes were transfixed on Zinedine Zidane, who had just recovered from an automobile accident. He showed nice touches and combined instinctively with Youri Djorkaeff.

Ahead of the tourney, Editor of New Straits Times' Football mag, Khoo Kay Soon, offered me a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to pen a few words about the French team.

Davor Suker was two years away from emerging top scorer in the 1998 World Cup

Ooh Aah What is France without Cantona?

A Malay journo writing a piece on French football? Why not?

Funny thing was, I was not attached to any sports desk then, having been transferred to the news desk at Berita Harian. Instead of covering athletes covered in their glory, I was instructed to interview among others, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, our then Prime Minister. But the opportunity to write the piece was too good to   ignore. I suspect because of the article, I was then offered the chance to cross over to the Malay Mail.

Astro News Controller, News and Current Affairs, Vincent de Paul is on the foreground...covering for the New Straits Times during Raya 1996 at the old Sri Perdana

2000 - By the time Rotterdam-Brussels came, the French were already crowned world champions and I was into my fourth year at the Malay Mail, back as a sports journo.

A picture was taken with Platini...but not before speaking to him about the Euros

On June 8, 2000, the Malay Mail carried the interview below on the back page.

FIFA adviser, Michel Platini who led the French musketeers to the Euro '84 title at their own backyard, is backing his compatriots and Holland for this year's edition.

 In town recently in conjunction with the launching of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) house, the French folk hero and three-time European Footballer of the Year, was asked by Mailsport's Rizal Hashim on topics ranging from Euro 2000, soccer in Asia and the World Cup 2006 bid.

 Mailsport: Michel, who do you think are the favourites for Euro 2000?
 Platini: Holland and France. People everywhere have been talking about them and I'm not an exception. These two nations appear to be the strongest at the moment. If you force me to make a choice, I would plump for France for the title. Not because I am a Frenchman but I believe Les Bleus are a mature team packed with leaders in all positions.

 Mailsport: Don't you think their status as the World Cup holders too much of a burden for them to carry?
 Platini: No. On the contrary, that is an advantage. Although other teams will always perform to the best of their ability against the world champions, I can sense the present French side are hungry for more success.

 Mailsport: But no World Cup winners have ever landed the European title.
 Platini: Correct, but this French team can create history. Who ever thought France could defeat Brazil 3-0 in a World Cup final and Denmark to become European champions in 1992 despite being a last-minute replacement for Yugoslavia?

 Mailsport: Unlike his predecessor Aime Jacquet, France coach Roger Lemerre is fortunate to have an embarrassment of riches in the striking department. Do you think Thierry Henry, Sylvain Wiltord and David Trezeguet can do the job? (Nicolas Anelka was on the fringe then).
 Platini: Yes. I think the Henry and Trezeguet can renew their partnership as they know each other's game very well, having played together at AS Monaco and France Under-21 side. Lemerre too might have special plans for Anelka. With the right support from (Zinedine) Zidane, (Youri) Djorkaeff, (Robert) Pires, (Johan) Micoud and the defensive midfielders (Didier) Deschamps, (Emmanuel) Petit and (Patrick) Vieira, scoring opportunities will be aplenty. But the defence have shown the tendency to concede silly goals. I gave (Laurent) Blanc his first cap against Ireland in 1989 and 11 years on, he needs to be at his best.

 Mailsport: What about Holland?
 Platini: Holland can beat anybody on their day. Personally, I feel they have a beautiful attacking team. And ever since the heydays of total football, Holland have been boasting of versatile players. In (Marc) Overmars, (Clarence) Seedorf, (Edgar) Davids, (Dennis) Bergkamp, (Jaap) Stam, Holland have a group of world class players.

And the French did win it!

2004 - When Portugal hosted this edition, my mind was already thinking of the Athens Olympic Games. The only thing worth remembering was Zidane's vomit before sending David James the wrong way with a well-taken last-gasp penalty, seconds after curling in a free-kick for a 2-1 win over England. But Greece winning the Cup, hah, good story ahead of my trip to Athens!

2008 - Having departed from Malay Mail in April, I re-branded myself as a blogger and predicted Karim Benzema and Mario Gomez to emerge as the stars, four years too early maybe. Read here. Again, I was handed a pleasant surprise. I got a call from Terence Fernandez, a former Malay Mail colleague, asking me to help out on the Sun daily pullout. All I needed to do was to pick up the stories, previews, graphics and write the captions. A handful of us watched the matches in the office and it was routine for me to go home after Subuh prayers. It was a nice experience working at the Sun, and the pay was good too.

Occasionally, I was also invited to speak about the Euros on TV9, upon invitation from my former senior at Berita Harian, Wan Sabariah Shikh Ali.

Dollah Salleh is a fan of the Dutch team...

Yatt the actress with loose cannon

2012 - I had looked forward to a relaxed and undisturbed Unmissable moments, so that I can pick and choose which matches to watch and which to skip. But lo and behold, I was told by Slamet Sazly Yakub a few days before kick-off that I had been picked as one of the pundits at the studio..."what?" how come I was not told earlier? That means I have to work the graveyard shift??? At this age? And leave the studio around 5am, so that I can reach home in time before my wife goes to school? Arghhhhh...

But thank you Astro Arena for giving me the chance to share the chroma key centrestage with renowned commentator/anchor Zainal Abidin Rawop and ex-Selangor playmaker, Nazzab Hidzan

And of course former Negeri Sembilan, Selangor and Johor FC coach, K. Devan

Again, much to my surprise, Azahar Md Taib, my former colleague at Harian Metro who was my room mate throughout the Athens Olympics, sent me an email, asking me to answer a few questions, and a few days later...VOILA!

Now the cashier at the grocery shop has recognised chance of buying things incognito. As the article clearly indicated, I picked the Germans to lift the Cup named after a Frenchman.


tokcik said...

You certainly have good memories Rizal LC - wish I could have some. Yes the "graveyard hours" were really testing; wonder how I managed that for 3 weeks non-stop.

Hey LC - how come we picked the same team for the Final? The German team has got character and discipline.

Anonymous said...

Bro - you are just great, FAM should hire people like you to run the show. but they never learn about the beauty of soccer!

Anonymous said...

"Graveyard Hours"......but masyukkkkkkkkkkk

mamak putih said...

u have proven to be one of the best soccer 'input' in the country.. syabas rizal...its all about hardwork, etc.. and being humble paling penting.. sometime u ada sikit lagak boleh tahanlahhhhhh.. anyway keep up the good work..

Prav said...

Great read, Rizal.

I was having a conversation with friends a few weeks ago. Any idea how many matches of Euro 1984 were broadcast on RTM?

I remember watching some group games, but my friends insist those were 'recorded' matches.

Thanks, and keep up the great work :)