From Penang to Turf Moor, Izham Hassan fulfils Burnley dream

Izham Hassan is among the rare football fans in the country who do not support any of the big six clubs in the Premier League.

He fell in love with Burnley in the mid-1970s and has never wavered in his support for the unfashionable club which has ‘ties’ with Malaysian football.

Like most Malaysians who grew up in the 1970s, Star Soccer on RTM was the only place to watch football and it was on this programme that Izham took a shine to The Clarets.

“I’m probably the only Burnley fan in Malaysia! I saw them on the show and loved their attractive, attacking football. This was in the mid-1970s and I’ve been supporting them ever since,” said Izham, who fulfilled a cherished wish when he visited Turf Moor in 2019.

“It was in January and I met lots of Burnley fans who made me feel like I was one of them. It was unforgettable.

“We played Fulham and won 2-1. Jeff Hendrick scored twice but the second goal was later credited as a Denis Odoi own goal.”

The 59-year-old who hails from Penang added the trip was made special as he met Burnley players and officials.

“I was planning a holiday to England and wanted to watch Burnley play. Before going, I sent an email to the club about my plans and they surprisingly replied,” said Izham, who is married and has three children.

“Sadly, my son is a Manchester United fan while the rest of the family are indifferent to football.”

Asked his thoughts on manager Sean Dyche, Izham said he supports him even though the club is currently 15th in the standings.

“He is a good manager and pragmatic in his approach. He never publicly criticises his players if they perform below expectations.

“I spoke to Ian Woan (assistant manager) and some senior players and they said he has excellent knowledge of football tactics. He meticulously studies opponents and prepares the team well for each game.”

“Burnley did not start the season well but slowly improved. To me, success this season would be staying in the Premier League.”

Burnley has 30 points after 28 matches. Newcastle and Brighton have 27 and 26 points respectively after playing 27 matches.

The bottom three – Fulham (26 points), West Brom (18) and Sheffield United (14) – have played 28 games.

Burnley, Malaysia and Mokhtar Dahari

Izham is old enough to remember the Burnley Cup, a local youth tournament to unearth Malaysian talent.

It was subsequently known as the Razak Cup, named after then Prime Minister Tun Abdul Razak Hussein. Today, it is known as the President’s Cup.

The original tournament was named after his favourite club.

Choo Seng Quee, who was then the Federation of Malaya coach, was sent to England by the nation’s first Prime Minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman, in 1961 to learn how the English footballers train.

While there, the English FA sent Choo to visit Sheffield Wednesday and Burnley – clubs that would eventually finish second and fourth in the standings that season.

Before Choo returned to Malaysia, he was presented with two trophies by Burnley and Sheffield Wednesday to host youth tournaments.

The Burnley Cup, for Under-19 players, was only held six times between 1962 and 1972 with Penang and Selangor each winning three times.

Selangor won the inaugural edition in 1962, was joint winner with Penang in 1969 and shared the trophy with Perak in 1971. Penang was champion in 1965 and 1967.

Sarawak was the last winner of the event in 1972.

Many Malaysian legends such as Datuk Mokhtar Dahari had cut their teeth in the Burnley Cup.

FIXTURES (Malaysian time)

Newcastle vs Aston Villa (4am)
Leeds vs Chelsea (8.30pm)
Crystal Palace vs West Brom (11pm)

Everton vs Burnley (1.30am)
Fulham vs Manchester City (4am)
Southampton vs Brighton (8pm)
Leicester vs Sheffield United (10pm)

Arsenal vs Tottenham (12.30am)
Manchester United vs West Ham (3.15am)

Wolves vs Liverpool (4am)

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