There’s a famous char koay teow stall in Kelana Jaya, outside the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) building, that’s become like the unofficial meet-up point for those who’ve any business with the FAM.
If you’re a fan of the national football team – and don’t tell anyone I told you this – all you have to do to meet them is have a char koay teow at the corner lot restaurant whenever there’s national team training.
You might have to wait quite a while, cos you won’t know what kind of crazy-ass training schedule DATUK (that’s right, b*tches) K. Rajagobal has in store for them that day, but you’ll see at least a few of them there if you wait long enough.
Fortunately for me, I only had to wait like 30mins for my meet-up with Malaysia skipper Safiq Rahim, the midfield general who has been driving the Harimau Malaya forward since he helped them bag the SEA Games gold medal.
It’s not easy to get a hold of him. He has a manager these days, and word on the street (I’ve always wanted to say that =P ) is he gets so many offers to do advertisements and events now that he has to start charging for appearances.
Fortunately for me, our meeting at the char koay teow place was already like the fourth interview I’ve had with him, though I still can’t tell if he actually remembers me. I don’t think he particularly fancies these interviews. He might be a Tiger on the pitch, but he always seems a little reticent when it comes to media stuff.
Anyway, it was more of an informal meeting, thanks to friends of his management, and I really only wanted to ask him about the three big friendlies the Tigers have coming up – against Premier League giants Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool.
“Actually the most important thing now is the World Cup qualifier against Taiwan,” he said in Bahasa, succinctly, as usual.
“The friendlies are just for experience. The qualifier is what we’re really training hard for now.”
I guess the focus paid off – Malaysia saw off Taiwan on away goals to qualify for the second phase, where we will have to beat neighbours Singapore in order to keep our World Cup dreams alive.
But now that’s out of the way for the time being, Safiq will be keen to get the most out of the matches against three of the EPL’s Big Four.
“We’re excited to be playing against them, and we want to show what we are capable of, that our standards aren’t so different from theirs. Okay, maybe it is quite different, but we will play as well as we can to make it not that obvious,” he added sheepishly.
When I ask which club he’s looking forward to play the most, he answers immediately: “Arsenal. Because I’m a midfielder, and they have such a great midfield, probably better than Chelsea and Liverpool.”
I added that Cesc Fabregas might not even be around when the time comes, but Safiq isn’t bothered.
“They still have Nasri, Ramsey… We can learn a lot from them. Their style of play is more exciting than Chelsea and Liverpool,” he said.
I know it’s sort of a duh question, but I had to ask anyway – does he think the Tigers can beat any of the three teams?
“Our mentality is to always play for the win. But the results always depend on the game itself. You’ll just have to wait and see. Personally, I always think we can win,” he said.
Having gotten all the quotes I wanted for him, we started talking about his favourite players – Xavi, Iniesta, Scholes – as I finally got to stuff my face into a steaming plate of super-delish char koay teow – kerang, prawns and all. It was so good, I even tapau-ed some for that ravenous flock back in Menara Star otherwise known as the R.AGE team. We are very Malaysian that way.
I noticed however, that Safiq wasn’t having any. Now that, my fellow Malaysians, is true dedication to the cause.