Monday, May 14, 2007
The Junior Duckies (our own lingo referring to the MCKK Hockey Team) was in the SBP North Zone U-16 tournament from last Thursday to Sunday in Sungai Petani. We made a promise in March (well me and my mulut capoi made that promise in TAR Hall actually, which made all the old boys’ head turned and I could see fire in their eyes waiting to devour me) that we will try our best to be with them for each of their game – so we had to honour it.
For the first day, Epit, Badut and I left early in the morning before Subuh and sped to Sungai Petani. As always, at 160 kmph we would be there before the boys. On top of that, the boys were delayed because they had to sort out their exam papers, which had to be brought to Sungai Petani for them to take at night after the games.
From the beginning, there were mixed feelings. I am so used to a team which knows exactly what I want, which is nearly perfect in ever sense that there’s very little I have to do to make things tick. So when I could not even break down the wall of communication with most of them, it was very frustrating – my very own confession that I, who is known to be able to start a conversation even with an Indonesian cleaner I meet at a public toilet; cannot break the wall with the kids. Of course there were two or three people who had already warmed up to us and it was natural with them; but with the rest – many times I felt like talking to a wall and I made a complete fool of myself trying to start a conversation; after all that department was my and Epit’s responsibility.
But we told ourselves to be patient, because it will take longer than 3 months and we (the kids and us) have to go through pain and joy together before we can feel we are a team.
So we brushed it off and concentrated for the first game in the evening, against STAR.
The Draw Champion
The game with STAR started off well. We controlled the game, it was rather well played (at least in the eyes of a spectator like me) and we kept on attacking. You could feel the opponent’s (which earlier boasted loudly that they would thrash us 3-0) fear and nervousness defending against attack after attack. But that was it – it was just a series of continuous attacks which were not converted into goals.
We had to drive back that night so we had to rely on the boys to “hold the fort” (so to speak) until we can return on Saturday morning.
The next game was against SBPI Gopeng; which having watched their first game on Thursday, we thought it should be an easy win. It could have been an easy play as related to Cikgu Badri to us – but it was another goalless draw.
I guess panic began to set in, especially when one of the key players could not stand the jeering (we’ll get into that later) he boxed the tiang gol and broke a few bones in the process. Worse, the next game was against SERATAS, the top seed for the tournament. We needed to win or draw to have a chance into the knock out round.
I was in a meeting at the highest office level in Malaysia (I think) discussing business turnaround plans; Badut and KNO were teaching and Epit (ntah dia buat apa) when the news broke out that they drew again 0-0; that drew a sigh of relief (and disappointment as we thought they could actually beat SERATAS). So 3 games; 3 goalless draws. Panic really began to set in.
We had to win both the next 2 matches to qualify for the knock out rounds. It should be OK as we were up against SBPI Kubang Pasu and Syed Putra; which in previous games did not fare as good as us. STAR (the closest to beat us into the knock out rounds) won 3-0 with SBPI Kubang Pasu, so if we were to have any chance we need to beat them by even a bigger margin than that.
I initially thought that I didn’t want to go as I have not been around for the weekends since early March and I needed a break before PPM in 2 weeks’ time – but seeing how things have turned from bad to worse, I thought the boys would need every single support they could count on, considering the amount of jeering they had to go through.
So at 2.30 am Saturday morning, we drove to Sungai Petani all over again.
We arrived early, the boys were quite upbeat and after a few words of advice from KNO and Canoe, it was Idzam’s and my turn for some “last boost” (to quote nomenclature from the monthly batch usrah). We told the boys that for each goal they scored, they earned RM10 – so go and score as many goals as possible.
Which worked, and they scored 5-0 against Kubang Pasu, the highest score in a single game for the tournament.
But we were not totally out of the deep end yet, as our path to the knock out rounds depends on the outcome of the game between STAR and SERATAS. If they drew, we needed to win the next game and it would come down to the number of goals. If SERATAS lost, well we are practically out – provided STAR won their next game.
So the old boys with their battered and seasoned hearts; were left to watch the game while the boys, in their jubilation – went back to rest. To cut the long story short, because there were a few games before the match between STAR and SERATAS started; we went for a drink.
By the time we came back, both teams were on the field doing the brotherhood shout and 9 minutes later, it was a goalless draw. Our battered hearts took another beating and my life was cut short by another one week – since now the boys had to win and win big to qualify (and we know our boys don’t operate well under pressure). Luckily there was an announcement after that – SERATAS won 1-0. Ghupa-ghupanya we missed the first half so the goalless draw was only for the second half.
We bluffed the kids a bit and they got worked up and tensed thinking they had to win big against Syed Putra, only to laugh when they found out that the path was cleared for them.
So off they went for the final group match against Syed Putra under the scorching sun (which my colleague just enquired whether I went for a sun-bathing just now!). I spare you the commentaries (and agony) but they drew again NIL-NIL. Throughout the game the whole STAR contingent was jeering (more on that later) that when the siren went on air, STAR was jumping up and down as if they had won.
What was our feeling then? Difficult to say; but the hearts were not in good conditions. That draw against Syed Putra, meant we had to wait for the game between STAR and SBPI Gopeng to conclude before we know whether we were through. And we would be leaving it too much to fate, because Gopeng was definitely out so they could just fix the game to allow STAR, not us to proceed.
The Longest 9 Minutes
So the game started. Our boys were still down and did not react much to what was happening on the field.
But not us.
We thought it was time to return the “favour” to STAR who were jeering against us at each of our game and had cost us one player (well, out of his own mistake though). The five of us – myself, KNO, Canoe, Idzam and Syed Asrul; the borois and pak ciks2 by standard at the grand stand – proved to be a much more formidable cheering squad than all others; for SBPI Gopeng!
For the first time in my life, I actually cheered for other schools! Not just cheered, but cheering so loud I lost half of my voice capacity at the end of it. Our voices drowned all other cheering squad and that game was the most heated game of the tournament. In fact, SBPI Gopeng boys were astonished to see complete strangers rooting out for them. They picked up the fighting spirit and actually attempted a few dangerous attacks.
But the last 9 minutes (it’s a 9 min-2 min-9 min game) were the longest 9 minutes I could recall. We were cheering “SIREN SIREN” but it did not come about.
The game went on and there were a few attacks by STAR which nearly became a goal (and cut our life by one week shorter!).
Suddenly out of nowhere, there was azzan for Asar and a rather low siren sound – which created a confusion. Was the siren meant for a break to respect azzan, or was the game over. To make things worse, there was no announcement at the end of the winner. So while we were smiling and cheering, we had to wait another 10 minutes to confirm with the organiser that the game was indeed over and we were through to the semi final.
I wish we did not go through that longest 9 minutes, but ironically it was the best part of the tournament (and it was not even our game!)
They Just Have To Do This To Our Hearts
So Saturday ended with joy and one of the best cheering I’ve ever had. Pak Tuan (Mighty Ducks Wilayah Utara) drove us all the way to Tanjung Dawai, for a sumptuous dinner of ikan bakar, sotong and really nice watermelon juice.
20 kg heavier, we went back and rested for the following day – the most important game at semi final to determine whether we are through for the national level in Kuantan in July.
We went against SEMESTI and the game was good, both sides putting up a good fight. Being the Raja Seri of the tournament, as expected they drew again (0-0) and all of us began clutching our hearts! It was another round of heart attacks; because it would then boil down to penalty flick.
We were laughing that they (the boys) just refused to have an easy and clean path to the final just for the sake of playing around with our hearts.
Canoe and Idzam were confident all along that Afiq (the keeper) would just do it, I was not that optimistic.
Afiq saved both attempts. The first one was not really challenging as SEMESTI hit directly to his chest. But the second save was the save of the tournament; the ball flew nicely to the right uppermost corner of the goal but with a touch of the stick, it was deflected.
So the boys went to the final and despite the constant beating, we survived the tournament without anyone being carted off to a hospital for cardiac arrest.
As for the final; well we lost to a better team. SERATAS had played well throughout the tournament and deserved to be the champion, we can only look at their players and aspire that our boys will be better than them in one or two years’ time. But both koleq and SERATAS played good game and good sportsmanship that it always felt OK to lose to the better team.
MCKO Kopi O
I discovered that STAR actually has a special jeering song for koleq! It was well practiced, well coordinated – it was as if they included this jeering song as one of the compulsory cheering songs to be practiced.
It was this song that they used over and over again to jeer koleq each time we played. It goes something like this … “MCKO MCKO Kopi O blab la bla” which escaped my already near deaf hearing. But I did capture it on tape and will pass to KNO to upload to YouTube ha ha.
On top of that, there’s the usual “MC Balik Kuale”, “MC Gay Gay” etc. coming from their camp.
On one hand we were smiling and felt honoured that a school had to come up with a special cheering song for us – yet on the other hand, I felt saddened as I thought STAR should know better what it felt being ostracised and always being boo-ed or jeered; them being a premier school themselves. I also thought that it was not so much the fault of the boys, but the adults among them (old boys, teachers) who encouraged the jeering and did not teach the boys that what goes around comes around.
And that’s exactly what happened when they were up against Gopeng – we told ourselves that we would cheer so hard for Gopeng to rouse their spirit; but made it clear to everyone on our bench never to jeer STAR. And it worked – without the intense cheering for Gopeng, the results could have been different.
But the whole episode also revealed how not mentally prepared our boys were. From day 1 on Thursday, we told them to expect nothing but jeering. We told them we should not get affected but to take it in our stride. We told them to act decently and never to jeer an opposite team.
While most of the orders were obeyed, one (not to be affected by the jeering) was not. And it nearly cost us the ticket to the national level.
Of Constant Struggle
We are quite used to be feared when we go to tournament. Whether we win or not is secondary, but other schools would prefer not to see us – on the field or in the debating room. That is what being Malay College is all about.
But the tournament was slightly different. It was a struggle all along to even qualify for the national level. Many times our hearts stopped beating altogether, because we were so close to being pushed out of the tournament.
The mental fear that our boys had to battle when facing SERATAS – “cuak” in the current teenagers’ lingo; explained the standard and level we are now.
It’s a long way to go. There’s so much work to do. There are so many obstacles to overcome – from the boys themselves, our own constraints, time, money, resources, administrative, conflicting academic and co curricular interest etc. You name it, it’s all there.
Sometimes I wonder whether we are going to be there to make a clean exit. The exit strategy gets blurry as the days pass by.
But we would want our boys to be admired and feared from afar once again. Now that the hockey tournament is an annual national tournament just life PHT for the Cagers, the chance to recreate that reputation should not be missed. Only time can tell.
- first and foremost to Cikgu Badri, who bonded with us the first instance we meet; who understands the boys the way a Malay College teacher should
- the wives, girl friends and children; for understanding that daddy has to leave at 2.30 am to be around for an MCKK team 400 km away
- Pak Tuan (Syed Asrul) who were there from day 1 for the boys and us; and for that treat at “Mai Singgah Oi” in Tanjung Dawai
- Sheppe who came and meminjamkan jeritan emasnya for koleq
- Epit’s family for the lunch on Thursday
- The boys for surviving another day to fight another battle; for teaching us the meaning of life and adulthood
- SBPI Gopeng and SERATAS, for the sheer sportsmanship despite the temptation
Let’s hope Kuantan in July will not be as breath-taking.
Photos here and videos will come later
Posted by Noni Kapet at 11:40 AM