Football film Ola Bola scores with message of unity

I am disappointed that the Malaysian film Ola Bola, about the Malaysian national football team that beat South Korea to qualify for the 1980 Moscow Olympics, has not been shown in Singapore.

It was directed by Chiu Keng Guan and released in Malaysia last month to strong box-office takings. The movie is flawed with a mainly amateur cast and some overacting.

However, it is more than just a football film. Its multiracial cast and use of Malay, English, Tamil, Mandarin, Cantonese, Hokkien and Hakka have endeared it to diverse audiences. Its core message of unity and pride spoke to the people of a time when different races, religions and cultures pulled together for a common cause.

Malaysian football legends with nicknames such as King James, Lipas Kudung, SuperMokh, Towkay, Tank and Spiderman were amateur footballers with day jobs and could train and play only in their spare time.

Yet, their pride in representing their country meant more to them than the lucrative salaries of modern professionals.


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Chew Kok Liang

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 12, 2016, with the headline 'Football film Ola Bola scores with message of unity'. Subscribe