When speaking about Malaysian soccer to older people, there’s typically is a standard development. It doesn’t matter what the present era has completed, there’s a nostalgic feeling that the nationwide group was a lot better in the previous. Personally, I do discover the comparability to be a bit of frivolous.
That stated, the Malayan Tigers’ golden age was undoubtedly again in the 1960s and 70s. Not solely have been they the most dominant staff in Southeast Asia, even on the continental scale, Malaysia have been considered one of the most revered sides of all. A number of gamers from this period have been amongst the most revered names in Asia – however there was one fascinating particular person who caught my consideration, prompting me years later to write down this text.
We live in the age of the Marvel comedian craze because of the current Avengers mania, so anybody who’s nicknamed “Spiderman” certainly deserves some consideration. The identify Arumugam is a synonym in Malaysia with regards to the time period “legend”. Whether or not holding a mic or guarding the objective, a whole nation is aware of his identify, and with cause.
Arumugam Rengasamy was born in Port Klang, round 20 minutes from my residence, in January 1953. Once I requested some older soccer followers from the space about him, all of them had a narrative to share, many going misty-eyed about his brilliance between the sticks and his golden gloves.
The primary time the identify got here to my consideration was again in 1988. He was throughout the information. I used to be solely eight so at first I couldn’t inform what the fuss was all about. So I requested my uncle; he informed that Arumugam had been concerned in a automotive crash and apparently died on the spot.
Like Arumugam, my uncle additionally performed in aim throughout his youthful years. I might perceive the affection he had in the direction of him. Above all else, I might inform that it was a poignant second for everybody in the home. Not solely had the Indian group misplaced a real position mannequin; the nation had misplaced an icon.
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Arumugam was recognized for his hard-work and no-nonsense angle on the area. Throughout coaching, his depth and dedication gained the respect and belief of his coaches from an early age. That kind of attentiveness, with unbreakable focus, would come to the fore on the pitch, making essential saves in video games he had little to do. What the army of the time would’ve given to have him guarding their bunkers.
I just lately took a drive to Port Klang to go to the place the place all of it started for Arumugam. The native pitch, which final yr was proposed to be renamed in his honour, is located in a quiet space amid a backdrop of business, with a solitary stand and many of areas to face. I closed my eyes and imagined what was it like greater than 40 years in the past. Individuals would’ve flocked to the aspect of the pitch to catch an area recreation.
It’s been stated the home membership recreation again then used to attracts hundreds of followers. They have been the first to bear witness to the artistry of Arumugam between the sticks.
It didn’t take lengthy for the authorities to study the gem from Port Klang whose depth would typically give him the higher hand in duels with strikers. In 1971, he was chosen to symbolize the Selangor youth aspect in the then prestigious Burnley Cup. A yr later, Arumugam was promoted to the senior aspect. The timing couldn’t have been higher for Selangor, who have been on the lookout for a alternative for his or her ageing goalkeeper Lim Fung Kee.
In the present day, Johor Darul Ta’zim is considered the greatest membership in the nation, if not the area, for what it does each on and off the pitch. In these days, that honour was bestowed on Selangor FA. Till then, and even in the years that adopted, they have been the most profitable workforce in Malaysia. As the state was having fun with an financial growth in the post-independent period, Selangor had the wealth to draw the greatest names in the nation.
Certainly, the spine of the nationwide staff was drawn from these who performed for Selangor. The defence was marshalled by Santokh Singh and Soh Chin Aun, whereas Reduan Abdullah was the consummate midfield dynamo. Main the assault was the nation’s favorite footballing son, the late, nice Mokhtar Dahari.
Arumugam and Selangor have been a match made in heaven. His character and angle endeared him to each the followers and his teammates, immediately profitable respect. His Indian background ensured he fitted simply right into a Selangor aspect that was the go-to group in a rustic that prided itself on being multi-cultural.
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Each Reduan and Mokhtar have been Malays whereas Santokh and Chin Aun have been of Punjabi and Chinese language descent, and each participant in the squad introduced a unique talent set to the staff. This specific mixture, of gamers from various backgrounds completely complementing one another, resulted in a single of the most potent groups in the area’s historical past.
Arumugam didn’t essentially have the look of a rugged footballer. He had a slim, lean physique, which was as soon as stated to have been on the street to long-distance operating. What made his physique distinctive have been his lengthy arms, a key attribute to his recreation, permitting him to succeed in balls many different goalkeepers would’ve struggled to. Crosses, well-placed photographs and penalties; they have been all in a day’s work for Arumugam.
His agility and nimble footwork made it troublesome for attackers to determine their subsequent transfer inside the six-yard field, and Arumugam would keep on his ft for so long as attainable, trusting his reflexes and velocity of motion when confronted with a menace.
Alongside his potential at stopping the ball, Arumugam was an professional communicator, heard barking directions all through the 90 minutes to organise his defence and shield his aim. To him, goalkeeping was about excess of simply the ball. Certainly, these on the finish of his Roy Keane-style dressings down have been solely ever appreciative of his phrases. He commanded full respect.
In addition to Arumugam, the 1970s have been a time when Malaysia produce its justifiable share of excellent goalkeepers, from Lim Fung Kee to Peter Rajah. However Selangor’s primary introduced a special dimension to goalkeeping, which was unprecedented in Malaysian soccer. Wanting again, at occasions he was like a Malaysian Hugo Gatti, this in an period when international soccer protection was restricted at greatest.
Legendary commentator Hasbullah Awang as soon as stated that Arumugam would foray upfield at occasions, intent on becoming a member of the assault, such was his high quality with the ball at his ft. Typically perched nicely outdoors his space, sadly I couldn’t discover any footage to again up this declare, although Arumugam believed in goalkeeper’s dictating play, some three many years earlier than Pep Guardiola made it well-liked in England.
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Arumugam and his band of Selangor brothers have been the darlings of Malaysian soccer. In his 16-year span with the membership, he gained the Malaysia Cup (then the most prestigious trophy in the nation) a staggering eight occasions. They turned generally known as the Purple Giants on account of their success in the home recreation – and their admiration wasn’t simply restricted to Malaysia.
Selangor offered the spine of the Malaysia nationwide workforce’s golden period. The connection between two is akin to the means Ajax littered the nice Dutch sides of the 1970s with expertise.
After making his worldwide debut in a World Cup qualifier towards South Korea in 1973, Arumugam stored the gloves for many of his profession. He performed a pivotal position in serving to the nation win bronze at the 1974 Asian Video games in Tehran; to this present day thought-about Malaysia’s biggest footballing achievement.
Two years later, he helped Malaysia qualify for his or her first ever Asian Cup in Iran. In the 1979 Southeast Asian Video games, he stored aim as the nationwide group clinched their first gold medal in 16 years on house soil. He was half of the squad that retained the title two years later in Jakarta.
Maybe the largest second in his profession as the nationwide staff goalkeeper got here in 1980. Arumugam was a quintessential determine for Malaysia throughout Olympic qualification. In a playoff remaining held in Kuala Lumpur, they beat South Korea 2-1 to earn their spot at the Moscow Video games. In Asia, the Olympics again then have been perceived as the second most essential event after the World Cup.
To play at the highest degree would’ve been a dream come true for Arumugam and the class of 1980. Sadly, Chilly Conflict politics prevailed, which denied him the alternative to play at the summer time Video games. Malaysia took the political determination to withdraw from the Video games as half of a US-led boycott following the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan, a choice which left Arumugam annoyed and disenchanted.
The story of this 1980 group was lately immortalised on the massive display. The film Ola Bola turned an prompt hit at the field workplace. Not solely did it deliver again fond reminiscences for a lot of, younger youngsters got an essential lesson from the previous: they started to rediscover the identify Arumugam.
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After studying a lot about Spiderman, you marvel how why Arumugam never took his profession overseas, although few knew a lot about Malaysian soccer at the time.
On one well-known event, nevertheless, he did make the likes of Brian Kidd, Alan Ball and Liam Brady endure when a Malaysia choose XI beat Arsenal 2-Zero in 1975. In one other recreation, he pressured Diego Maradona to play at his best possible to attain towards his aspect when Boca Juniors got here to city for a pleasant in 1981.
After a profession that spanned a decade, Arumugam was acclaimed as the unofficial greatest goalkeeper in Asia. He was given the gloves in a stellar forged that consisted of the continent’s greatest in 1982 as half of an Asia XI. Their opponents have been an excellent Brazil aspect that includes Éder and Toninho Cerezo in an exhibition recreation.
Nevertheless it wasn’t all glory and smiles. Arumugam needed to climate a number of storms in his profession. When he was dropped in favour of one other goalkeeper, he proved his value in coaching and gained his place again. When he was accused of match-fixing in 1986, he fought again to show his innocence. Sadly, by then it was apparent that his profession was on the wane.
He nonetheless had some unfinished enterprise, although: to carry a trophy as staff captain. That very same yr he was given the privilege by Selangor to command the ship towards Johor in the Malaysia Cup ultimate. The Purple Giants smashed six objectives as Arumugam collected his final winners medal.
Throughout his enjoying profession, Arumugam had meticulously deliberate for all times off the pitch. As half of an effort to provide one thing again to a recreation from which he had taken a lot, he shaped Starbrite Sports activities Membership in 1983. The goal was to open the door for kids round the Port Klang space to play aggressive soccer. The membership continues to be in existence right now, although it hasn’t produced the variety of gamers succesful of emulating Spiderman.
Its been three many years since that fateful day once I first got here to know of Arumugam Rengasamy, who was solely 35 when he died. It’s unhappy that he isn’t alive to move down his information and expertise to a brand new era of budding footballers in a nation the place the sport is rising at a speedy fee. My hope is that this function will maintain his legacy alive, if just for some time. In any case, legends never actually die.
By Sivan John @SivanJohn_