The young students at SJK(C) Yoke Nam are set to break the norm by becoming the first Chinese school representative to compete in the under-12 Federal Territory Kuala Lumpur Primary School Football (MSSWPKL) tournament starting Monday.
As a sport mainly dominated by Malaysia’s ethnic majority, having a Chinese school participate in a national football tournament is almost unheard of. That's because in Malaysia, it is almost an unspoken custom where one particular race is better at football, whereas another group is good at basketball, badminton and ping pong.
That presumption is something the team’s football coach, Azmeel Firdaus, or more fondly known as Coach Wak, wants to break as he is a firm believer that sport knows no colour or age.
"When I was in school, I didn’t experience this stereotype. I don’t know when it started to happen, but I want to try and break this standard that society has set,” he told Rojak Daily
in an exclusive interview.
Does this theme sound familiar to you?
In case you didn’t realise, it is basically the same premise portrayed in the record-breaking local film, Ola Bola
, which tells the tale of the Malaysian national football team that successfully qualified for the Summer Olympics in 1980.
This story really resonated in the hearts of many Malaysians - both young and old - but especially the students at Yoke Nam.
According to Coach Wak, the kids were so inspired by the movie that the school decided to set up a football team.
Not only that, their decision to sign up for the national tournament to compete with other more experienced schools surprised a lot of people.
Challenging the norm was why Coach Wak happily accepted the school’s offer to coach the Yoke Nam team in the first place.
“Everyone deserves to play football. Same goes to how everyone deserves to play basketball, everyone deserves to play badminton,” he said.
Having coached them since mid-2015, the young team has grown and improved leaps and bounds due to their passion and dedication to the sport.
When Coach Wak got into a motorbike accident and was forced to coach them with crutches for three months, the kids remained positive and cooperative during their training. They didn’t complain nor did they slack even though their coach wasn’t in his best condition.
“This is what I want because they came not because of me, not because of their parents, but to learn and play football,” said Coach Wak.
Team Yoke Nam’s determination to bridge the gap and break the stereotype of Malaysians touched the hearts of the Ola Bola
Hence the director, cast and crew decided to pay a surprise visit to the school during one of their trainings on Friday to cheer on them for the tournament.
The kids were treated to a meet-and-greet session where the director gave the team some words of encouragement to boost their spirits. They also got the golden opportunity to play football with the cast members and have their jerseys and football autographed. Needless to say, the kids were very excited throughout this unusual training session.
“These kids watched Ola Bola
and they were very inspired by the characters in the movie. This is what we want, kids who want to be like the player not because of his skin colour or race, but because of the heart for the sport,” Coach Wak said.
Just like how Malaysians cheered for the 1980 national team, let's all cheer for the Yoke Nam football team as they compete in their first ever tournament.