Thursday, July 05, 2007

How Little Argentina won the "Malaysian War"...

......10 years ago

Yes we are talking about the year 1997. How much do you remember about that year? Lets take a glance look at what are the most important things that took place.

It was the year, which two of the world biggest icons, Mother Theresa and Princess Diana passed away.

In pop culture, there were plenty of boy/girl bands around that were polluting everywhere, P.Diddy was the most unwanted rapper around, ska became a new musical force lead by No Doubt.

While at the movies, Face Off, The Saint and James Bond’s Tomorrow Never Dies were some of my favourites for that year.

And what about politics? Well frankly speaking it was never clean regardless any year.

But for any Albiceleste supporter here in Malaysia, there could only be one. The 1997 FIFA World Youth Championship, which was held here in Malaysia. To talk more about, I’ve decided to invite with a good friend of mine to have a chat about it (via-email) and also relive some of the good old memories we had back then. And whom am I talking about; well you all know through his countless of comments that he often posts in our blog.

So it is my pleasure to welcome our guest pundit at Mundo Albiceleste, Mr. Alwin Lourdes.

The followings are the conversation that took place from our respective workstation, even though we had a busy day at work.

John, 9.05 am - Hei Alwin!!!! Did you know that exactly 10 years ago today, was the final of the 1997 FIFA World Youth Championship held here in Malaysia? Ten years must have been a long time already; after all it was also final year in high school.

Alwin, 9.15 am - Hei there buddie, yeah it seems like a long time was that a memorable year for us. We won the cup..haha..but what do you really remember about MALAYSIA 1997? Lets go down memory lane...

John, 9.24 am - Well lets start with our first group match, which was against Hungary. Can't really recall that much because at that point of time I had no idea they were broadcasting any matches live. But we do know Argentina won the game 3-0 with goals from Bernardo ROMEO, Lionel SCALONI and the JUAN and only RIQUELME.

Alwin, 9.34 am - Yes exactly. We did not catch it cause we had Mr. Balakrishnan tuition class at 5.30pm and it was nearing the dreaded SPM exams so was under tight security of the parent radar. Argentina was based on the north in Kangar, Perlis, far from sight but not from the heart. Yes, SCALONI seems to be a flanking wingback with a knack for goals.

John, 10.20 am - Next match was against Canada, now this one I remember well as I was watching the game at home with my Dad. By this time I also got to know that Mega TV (local cable TV network) were showing all the matches live.

As for me, this is first time I'm seeing the likes RIQUELME, CAMBIASSO & AIMAR. By the way, far from how he looks today, CAMBIASSO had long hair back then, looks like a teenage version of Kurt COBAIN.

Alwin, 10.39 am - Lucky you had the MEGA TV. Our public channels only showed limited and selected games. I guess the TV director was not an Argentine fan, which I’m not surprised. Kept flooding in the games from the ENGLISH team and non other than BRAZIL. We did prevail against CANADA only just but still BERNADO ROMEO seems to be on the form of his life, makes me wonder why is he out of the radar these days.

John, 10.50 am - For the record, ROMEO had a fantastic career during his time at San Lorenzo and HSV Hamburg but thing didn't work out for him when he moved to Spain. But you’re right, he was on fire then. In fact he also scored in our third group game, which was against Australia, a match that I wont forget as it was one of the best during the whole tournament even if they surprisingly beat us.

Alwin, 11.23 am - Yes, how can i forget that game. 4-3 and we almost got the point after coming back from 3-1 down. In the end we succumbed to a late goal by that Aussie dude who netted 4 times in this game. An amazing effort but i wonder where is he now? As for Bernardo ROMEO thumbs up to him as he was our main striker for this tournament donning the Number 9

Anyway, thanks to this defeat we ended up in the tough part of the draw where all the big boys were. It was tough but then it gets even interesting. We will meet 2 nemesis back to back after this..boy i love this part now.....haha.. :) I can't stop singing..I'm so guys want to know WHY??

John, 11.41 am - His name is Kosta SALAPASIDIS. I have no clue either on what happened to him after this tournament. He scored a hat trick in almost 15 minutes, after ROMEO has put us in the lead. But we manage to pull back through PLACENTE (Can't really recall him back then) and ROMAN equalised courtesy of a penalty and in the dying minutes we conceded a penalty and Kosta scored his fourth in what could probably be the surprise of the tournament

Yes, this defeat put us in a much difficult path, as first Argentina had to face England that had the likes of Michael OWEN at Johor Bahru.

Alwin, 12.00 pm - From the NORTH to the SOUTH. Based in PERLIS in the north they flew above us and went to the south in JOHOR to meet ARCHRIVAL No.1 the ENGLISH. This was a huge game for both teams...tell which Argentina vs England wasn't. All the history and emotions. It was nail biting but we prevailed. We defeated KING GEORGE's troops at the LARKIN stadium. The great RIQUELME and PABLITO AIMAR did it for us. That time i was very young and did not know mush about tactics but now im wondering how did PEKERMAN lineup his formations with both RIQUELME and AIMAR starting? Do you know or anyone out there can shed some light? We beat ENGLAND, i love saying this out loud and i feel very happy, i get goose bumps and tears of joy flow knowing the fact that we beat the ENGLISH!!!

John, 12.20 pm - I must say I have to agree with you that this was a great result. Unfortunately for me I had to miss the game because I was not at home that day. But I remember watching the delayed telecast. As expected the majority of the fans were supporting England (England is often regarded as the adopted national team because almost 98% percent of the football fans here follow EPL).

Let me tell you this, it was a great feeling to go to school that day being one of few people who had the last laugh as most of my classmate were all supporting England. Hahahaha!!!!! At that time, I felt like I was a millionaire.

But the best has yet to come, as Argentina will be traveling to Kuching, Sarawak to play their quarterfinal match against non-other than………..

Alwin I'll leave this to you…

Alwin, 12.44 pm - ready for this..ARE YOU READY??

Ok let me brief you abit about this opponent in MALAYSIA. There are like the second biggest thing in football after ENGLAND. They bashed a Thierry HENRY led FRANCE 3-0, they walloped S.Korea 10-3 and then bashed BELGIUM 10-0...ohhh...I’m scared, I’m really scared of this TEAM In YELLOW. So they had to come face to face with their nemesis, we are like the AUTOBOTS or shall i say ARGIEBOTS in this, BRAZIL are the DECEPTYCONS, they destroyed their opponents, left them with no respect whatsoever..but then they had to face us and what happened. We SENT THEM PACKING!!!..Let the people know what happened in detail dude..all yours buddy..

John, 1.22 pm - As you've mentioned Alwin, but before that I'm going to go back a few days just to let everyone know what was my classmates reaction towards me after the England defeat. Well they were like "YOU GOING DOWN THIS TIME!!!" or "ARGENTINA has no chance against BRAZIL"

Ok I just kept my cool and let the game do the talking. The match was played on a Sunday evening and I was lone ranger at home as my other entire family member were routing for Brazil.

As soon as the referee blew the kick off whistle, they were attacking from all angle as I remember some shot hit the bar, just pass the goal post and this was going on and on until kept biting my finger nail thinking how long are we going to last.

And the suddenly in the 79 minute, a beautiful one two move involving ROMAN and SCALONI resulting in the latter putting us in the lead. But they kept coming pushing for an equalizer until another beautiful strike in 90th minute secured our place in semi-finals. This player called Martin PEREZLINDO scored that goal. I wonder where he is now?

After this game, I knew that we are going all the way. No doubt at all

Alwin, 2.34 pm - Oh Yes, PEREZLINDO killed them off with the swift counter attack when they were desperately seeking an equalizer. There were toothless despite all the hype about their form and goals. So with BRAZIL out of the way, it surely made ARGENTINA the favourites to lift the trophy. We kept our base in KUCHING, which is on the EAST COAST of MALAYSIA to face the REPUBLIC of IRELAND. The crowd dropped by half knowing that BRAZIL was out. It didn’t matter to me and by all means in a rather scrappy match it was BERNADO ROMEO's strike, which made the difference. The IRISH was a very respectable and formidable opponent but we just had that edge to come through and finally i can say ARGENTINA is coming to town!! After this.

John, 3.00 pm - remember watching that game, the whole stadium looks as if it was empty. But it was no nonsense Irish team, which included up coming stars such as Robbie KEANE and Damien DUFF, and we had to beat them by the odd goal.

However when Argentina were coming to play the Final match at the Shah Alam Stadium (which is about less than half an hour drive from our place), everyone here in the Klang Valley were getting Uruguay fever. Why? Because there were consider the local team having played all their matches here.

But very unfortunate for me, I had to be at home to watch the final, which is why Alwin, you need to play a crucial role in this part as YOU WERE THERE THAT NIGHT

Alwin, 4.21 pm - was indeed URUGUAY fever as the locals got fond with the team, they were mesmerized by the skills of Nicholas OLIVERA and Marcelo ZALAYETA. I remember walking into the stadium at 6.00 pm with my schoolmate Brandon and his brother Jason. The final ticket included the 3rd Place match so GHANA and IRELAND kicked off at 5.30pm, when we walked in i could feel some sort of aura, the smell of grass at the SHAH ALAM stadium felt fresh. The stadium was half filled at that time and i would say 80% of them were supporting GHANA for their amazing football. In the end IRELAND made away with a 2-1 victory. During this time also, there was the theme song for the 1997 tournament done by local group OAG, the song title was "NAME OF THE GAME” here is the video: -

The time ticked away, the crowd began coming in more and more and more and by the 7.30pm I would say there was about 50000 - 60000 people in the stadium that time. My heart beats faster and faster and i really waited all this while to watch RIQUELME and AIMAR especially in action. I manage to get a seat having a good view of the pitch. Then they marched in DIEGO MARKIC led the team out. I would say it was more of a 50-50 crowd with many neutrals around.

KICKOFF..Prrrrtttt!!!!.....Uruguay started brighter..had the better openings and before i knew it they had a free-kick from about 35m if I'm not mistaken. I could see it, eh run-up by a bearded guy by the name of Pablo GARCIA...and next thing was it was in and the stadium erupted...URUGUAY 1-0 on 15 mins. Argentina needed to raise their game and indeed they did, we keep venturing forward and from a resulting corner, some melee in the box and GOALLLLL!!!!!! That’s all I shouted with a lot of people jumping off their seats. CAMBIASSO and its 1-1. Then only did I know that many neutrals were around here including my friend BRANDON and his bro, I was pretty up for the task ahead. Kept cheering and cheering, shouting at every opportunity and cursing every foul committed by the rough URUGUAYANS. 2 minutes before halftime and more Argentina pressure led to a certain character by the name of Diego QUINTANA, a guy with a unique hairstyle made it 2-1......GOALLLLLLLLL!!!!!!! GOALLLLLLL!!!!!!!!!! And that was it I lost my voice by halftime. Second half URUGUAY pressured more but we managed to keep the player of the tournament Nicholas OLIVERA at bay. It was nerve wrecking in the end but we made it. Final Score 2-1 and the title is ours.

If I were to turn back time, I would wish this event happened sometime later where I had my own car and I could have gathered all my buddies and gone together, unfortunately at that time I didn't have my driving license and I had to depend of my friends dad to bring us there. If ever now the ALBICELESTE come down for any event for that matter, you can count on JOHN, BALA and Me being there with our Artillery.

So there you have it folks, a brief picture on what the Crazy Albi-Malaysian Gang is all about. Looking back for the past 10 years, plenty of things have happened and lot of changes has taken place. Except for one thing….


Special thanks goes to our guest of the day

Alwin Lourdes – An hardcore Albiceleste supporters. He does IT support and Internet marketing and also runs an Event Management company. You may contact him at at anytime. An extension of invitation to all followers of MUNDO ALBICELESTE, when you come down to Malaysia we will take good care of you.


linda said...

Great post, guys! I love our youth teams' ability to produce so much talent every single time.

By the way, I'm pretty sure the 97 team played a flexible 3-5-2.

Anand said...

thats so vivid a picture for people like me who never followed footy other than the fifa worldcup days back then. You guys rock!

Asil said...

I was there, I was there, I was there :) ...It's a golden memories that I will treasure forever. But I can't describe them like you, guys.

Alwin, John - Thanks for the memories...

Seba said...

WOW!!! What can I say?

I feel really honoured to count you as my friends.

If anyone who reads this article doesn't feel inspired by it. Then he/she simply was not made to love football.

The Albiceleste Malaysian Gang is sure an incredible example of passion and what true supporters should be like.

It's been a while since I wanted to hear from John, Alwin and Bala for a long time now!

What a perfect opportunity this 10th anniversary is for this!

Thank you so much and I sure was surprised to see such a sensational account of that tournament and that day in which Diego QUINTANA (or simply QUINTANITA, as he will forever be remembered -even when he turns 80-) book himself a place in the history of Argentine football.

Amazing how RIQUELME, CAMBIASSO and AIMAR are all regular key members of our current team. That speaks volumes of what a great job PEKERMAN did in discovering new talent and started teaching them the importance of wearing our colours.

Colours that are honoured, loved, respected and sometimes feared all over the World!


Rio said...

I thought you guys were mostly argies, now i know you're actually from other countries, I'm even more impressed.

How are you guys able to remain loyal to the albicelestes without the nationalism behind you? especially when the NT was in such depressing era after 94'. I'm almost ashamed to say this, but there're a lot of argies who turned their backs on the NT, those people need to learn something from our oversea supporters!

Seba said...

Rio, I would like to suscribe to EVERY word you wrote in your last comment.

It'll be one of the happiest days of my life, if everything works out in the future, when I take the Albiceleste Malaysian Gang to watch an Argentina match in Buenos Aires!

I can't wait to meet these guys and take them to their football temple!

John said...

First and foremost THANK YOU for your entire compliment. We really do appreciate it.

Rio, I would like response on your comment when you’ve mentioned about NATIONALISM.

To me there are two things comes very important in my life, sport and music. Why? Because these two do not represent any form racial, religion, class, or ethnic background. There are universal that is meant to serve for all.

In my case if it is sport it has to be Argentina and in music, anything that Rocks!!!

A certain player by the name of Diego MARADONA, who came from a harsh poverty background but persevered to become who one greatest in the game will ever seen, are truly great example for all us. It shows through hard work, passion and dedication, you can overcome mountains.

I may be a Malaysian by birth but my mind and soul is always Argentinean.

The other day when I posted an article regarding of our field hockey team success in Belgium, some anonymous posted a comment by using harsh words. I was angry but then I took Seba’s advice and just ignore it.

Also I would to ask each and everyone of you, incase if you had your own Albiceleste experience that you would like to share with us than MUNDO ALBICELESTE welcomes you with open arms. You can e-mail to me at:-

I’m sure many of us here would love to hear from you.

linda said...

I'm sad to hear that Argentineans turned their back on the Albicelestes, Rio. It's understandable, I suppose, but disappointment is surely unavoidable in football if one strives for success, and those who abandon a team because they're not doing well can't really be called real supporters.

I was born Chinese and I've lived half my life in New Zealand, but I grew up as an Argentina supporter and that's what I'll always be. And I have to agree with John on nationalism as well.

alwin said...

Team ALBICELESTE Followers,

Totally agree with John on the NATIOALISM thing. Seba, Rio and everyone, thanks for the compliments. One very simple word why i love Argentina. If anyone would to ask you to describe why you love ARGENTINA in 1 word? Mine would definetly be "MARADONA".


Saurabh said...

Great post John and Alwin. It is amazing how much you remember of 1997. I remember following the tournament through newspaper reports only. I thnk it is indicative of how much popular football has become in Indian that one of the sports channel is actually broadcasting the Youth World Cup this time.

Football is a universal game and as much as it strengthened by nationalism, the game also transcends national boundaries. More so in Asia, where given the poor state of many of our national teams, we adopt mostly South American teams to live our dreams vicariously.

And as John and Alwin said, we are all Maradonistas