We came down for our grandniece’s wedding over the weekend.
As we reached the Kempas Toll, we found out that there was a football match that night between Darul Takzim FC and Woodlands Wellington in a pre-season quadruple tournament.
One of our grandnephews posted on FB of getting 12 tickets to the match. A quick phone call saw him turning back to the stadium to get the additional five tickets for us.
Why the interest, you may ask.
Well, everyone was looking forward to see the Darul Takzim FC, whose players have been dubbed the Exclusive XI, in action.
Tunku Mahkota Johor Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim, as president of the Johor Football Association, has not only created excitement among Johoreans but also those from other states.
With former Singaporean player Fandi Ahmad as its coach, Darul Takzim FC has in its line-up national captain Safiq Rahim, Norshahrul Idlan Talaha, Safee Sali, Azmi Muslim, Muslim Ahmad and the twins of Aidil Zafuan and Zaquan Adha Razak. It has also signed up Italian midfielder Simone Del Nero and former Spanish international Daniel Guiza.
Will the two foreign signings take Johoreans back to the glory days of the state's football team in 1991, the year it won the Malaysia Cup? Back then, Johor had Michael Urukalo from Australia as coach and Ervin Boban (Yugoslavia), Abbas Saad (Australia) and Alistair Edwards (Australia) as players. It was also the same year that Fandi played for Pahang.
We left my niece’s house at Taman Kempas at 8pm after one of our grandnephews got an MMS from a friend of his of the team doing their warming-up at the Tan Sri Dato Hj Hassan Yunos Stadium in Larkin.
On a normal day, it would take us easily 10 minutes to reach the stadium. That night, traffic was heavy heading to the stadium, named after one of the state’s menteri besar.
Cars were parked and double-parked along the Jalan Larkin towards the stadium. We found out later that some people parked as far as Larkin Bus Terminal and walked all the way to the stadium.
“When was the last time we saw such a crowd?” I asked my brother. His wife and two kids, who had never gone to see football played at the stadium, were with us. He couldn’t remember.
The last time I was at the stadium was probably in the late 1980s-early 1990s.
The stadium holds 30,000 people but we were sure that there was more than that there that night.
Not only we couldn’t find parking, we also saw the long queue of people trying to enter the stadium. We weren’t sure if they were ticketholders.
“So, what do we do?” my brother asked as he maneuvered the car amidst the human traffic.
“If we don’t have the kids with us, we can wing it,” I told him.
He didn’t want to take the risk.
We were told 20,000 tickets were printed and sold but those without tickets were eventually allowed into the stadium.
We drove out and headed towards the food stalls at Sungai Chat for our dinner instead.
We found out through tweets and Facebook that Darul Takzim FC beat Woodlands Wellington 5-1.