Singaporean loves Harimau Malaya, but naturalised footballers not the way go

Have you ever heard of a Singaporean supporting Malaysia?

I don’t mean supporting out of spite; I mean supporting whole-heartedly. Well, at the end of this article, you will know of one – and that is me.

I was born and bred in Singapore to a Singaporean father and Malaysian mother, but in my heart, I am Malaysian.

I will give an example related to football, something I am very passionate about.

From childhood, I have been told to support anyone against Singapore because Singapore players were “action”, which is the colloquial term to mean arrogant.

I did just that, except when they played in the Malaysian Semi-Pro, and then later, the Liga Perdana.

I was influenced to support the Singaporean team because my favourite player in the league was Abbas Saad.

While supporting Singapore in the league, I grew fond of players like Fandi Ahmad, Malek Awab, Rafi Ali and Steven Tan. But outside the league, I would support anyone against Singapore.

Case in point, the 1993 SEA Games held in Singapore. Singapore lost the semi-final to Myanmar and I supported the visiting team in that match.

Things changed when I turned 12 and I picked a side. Not just a side, a nation. I picked Malaysia and I have been a fan of the Malaysian national team ever since.

I support Malaysia in every sport and at every multi-sporting event like the SEA Games and Olympics. My fondness extended to fostering closer ties with Malaysians working and studying here in Singapore.
I felt like they were my own. Later in life, I started dating some Malaysian girls, too, eventually marrying one.

Back to football, the first football match I watched featuring Malaysia was in the 2015 SEA Games in Singapore. The result was not great though, Malaysia was hammered 5-1 by Vietnam.

The next match involving Malaysia that I watched was more memorable. Harimau Malaya hosted Thailand in the Asean Football Federation Cup semi-final first leg at the National Stadium in Bukit Jalil in 2018.

There were no goals to cheer for, but I came back with some of the chants running in my head. Believe it or not, I know the national anthem, Negaraku, by heart.

Malaysia lost 4-0 to the United Arab Emirates in a pre-World Cup/Asian Cup match early this morning. Harimau Malaya will play Vietnam (June 12) and Thailand (June 16) next.

There has been controversy over the inclusion of naturalised players in the Malaysian squad.

In my opinion, players selected for the national team should only be those that are born in, and citizens of that country.

I am not in favour of offering a foreigner citizenship so that he can then play for the national team. I hope FIFA will put a stop to it, or at least, make the process more stringent.

In the case of Mohamadou Sumareh, he has been in Malaysia since he was 13. That, in my opinion, is a legitimate time frame for a person to be then offered citizenship.

A person who has been in the country for five years should not be allowed to qualify as a naturalised player, just to boost the quality of the national team in a short time frame.

In this region, Singapore was the first to use naturalised players for their benefit. While it did bring the nation short-term glory, I feel the sense of achievement is diluted by the presence of these naturalised players.

In the long term, this decision didn’t benefit Singapore at all.

What I am in favour of is for players of mixed-parentage or with ancestral links to represent a nation that they were not born in.

In this case, there is at least some connection with the country that they represent. This makes me eligible to represent Malaysia, but I am afraid that that ship has long sailed.

This is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily represent the views of Twentytwo13.

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