Why the Fuss over Ola Bola?

February 20, 2016

COMMENT: It is difficult for me to comment about the movie since I have not seen it for an obvious reason. The movie is not shown in theaters in Phnom Penh. Even if it were, the achievement of our national soccer in 1980– the defeat of the South Korean team– to qualify to the Moscow Olympics, which in solidarity with US President Jimmy Carter Malaysia boycotted because of the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan, has no significance to Cambodians who can perhaps remember that their soccer team defeated the over-confident Malaysian team some years ago. Of course,that victory in 1980 is a cause for celebration.

Nostalgia is comforting to all of us at this time. Unfortunately, Ola Bola reminds us of the standard of our football and also the state of the politics in our racially divided and religiously polarised country  today. Anand raised the specter of stark racism which the movie depicts when facts gave  way to fiction. The victory was real, but the movie is pure fiction. It s a movie full of political overtones, if I read Anand’s article well.

Expect nothing less from Malaysia where we practice self-censorship and promote political correctness. The movie producers  want the movie to be shown in Malaysian cinema theaters to make money. In his defense of the men behind the production, Anand overlooked this business reality.

The truth is inconvenient and can lend us in trouble with the powers that be, if we pursue it with courage to speak the truth to power. Dissent is taboo. Remember DAP’s Teresa Kok and Universiti Malaya academic Azmi Sharom were charged with Sedition (and it does not matter that these charges were later withdrawn after putting both of them through emotional hell). Malaysia’s famous political dissenter, Anwar Ibrahim, was jailed on trumped up and politically motivated charges of sodomy, not once but twice, once when Dr. Mahathir was Prime Minister and the second in February, 2015 by the discredited Najib regime.

The Malaysian 1972 Munich Olympic Football Team–Mohktar Dahari (standing far left) and Spiderman Arumugam (far right)

Being someone from an older generation and on the margin of the baby boomer period, I am curious to know why the movie producers chose to feature the 1980 soccer triumph instead of our qualification to our national soccer team to 1972 Munich Olympic Games where our football team gave the West German team a run for their money, or our Malayan hockey team which went to the Sydney Games in 1956.

My one liner answer is this: It is all about politics. Recall, the manager of our 1972 our Olympic  football team was the late Dato Harun Idris, the well known UMNO Youth leader who was a serious political rival of the late Tun Abdul Razak bin Hussein, our Second Prime Minister and the father of our 6th Prime Minister. Racism looms large in our 21st century politics and that has been hazardous to our national well being.–Din Merican

Why the Fuss over a politically motivated movie Ola Bola?

by K. Anand


Next to politics, corruption and the government – all inevitably linked – racism is a favourite topic of conversation among Malaysians.

Racism is such a monster that when it rears its ugly head, many an otherwise rational person might easily get caught in the wave of thinking that one has a right to agree with, or even express, a prejudiced view, without a tinge of doubt or regret.

There are two glaring examples of this in the past week that are flooding Facebook walls and daily conversation.The one that irks me more is over a movie that has brought together the nation in these difficult times. The movie is of course, Ola Bola, and it reflects all that Malaysia and Malaysians can be proud of – pride and unity in our diversity.

In case you are unaware of what so many Malaysians have been watching in cinemas nationwide the past three weeks, spending more than RM12 million at the box-office, Ola Bola is a movie that is inspired by a famous win by the national team against South Korea in an Olympic qualifying match in 1980.

Malaysia defeated South Korea 2-1 to qualify for the Moscow Olympics, a sporting event which was eventually boycotted by more than 60 countries over the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan the year before.

In the game played on April 6, 1980, Malaysia needed to beat the Koreans for the place in Moscow. They did that after James Wong scored the winning goal five minutes from the end. Bakri Ibni had given Malaysia the lead in the 13th minute and the Koreans equalised in the 58th.

I have been reading statuses shared by a few friends on their Facebook wall about how the movie is part of some propaganda by those in power, and that it is intentionally misrepresenting the events of the actual match.

This is such a false accusation against the Ola Bola director and producers. First and foremost, the movie was never sold as a historical drama, nor was it stated anywhere that it is “based on a true story”. Ola Bola was, from the very beginning, a movie about a period from Malaysia’s past when we had a good football team, and the inspiration came from the 1980 game. It is also about Malaysians coming together behind a team that was as diverse as the population.

Yes, it is packed with nostalgia, especially for those of us who remember that match and what it meant to get (back) into the Olympics after failing qualification in 1976, and the simple life Malaysians lived back then, but there is nothing more.

I was, therefore, shocked to read about how the movie is supposedly “wrong” and driven by a political agenda in having a player named Ali score the winning goal instead of “Balak” Eric, a player from Sabah.

The complaints on the movie boil down to this, that Eric is supposed to be representing James Wong, who is from Sabah, and Ali is supposed to be Khalid Ali. Wong and Khalid were strikers in the team.

“So, why is Ali scoring that winning goal, when it should be Eric?” is the oft-asked question in the complaints. Some of those complaining are from Sabah, while others are Malaysians living in the peninsula.

Why aren’t those making these lame accusations talking about the fact that Wong was never a reserve goalie as the Eric character is depicted in the movie. Or how about the coach – the real one was German Karl Weigang, but it is an Englishman, Harry Mountain, in the movie.

Then, we have the lead character Chow Kwok Keong, who is the captain. Also nicknamed “tauke” in the movie, he is supposed to represent Soh Chin Aun, the captain of that famous team.

So, did Chin Aun also tap rubber at his family estate, and work in a funfair as in the movie, all while still playing for the national team? Did he quit the team in anger? Most definitely not. If anything, Chin Aun was the cool, collected leader in the national squad. That is the direct opposite of the Chow character.

Oh, by the way, the score in that actual match, as mentioned above was 2-1, but in the movie it was 3-2.What is crazy is that such racist views are being spread and shared, and worse, with the suggestion that the movie should be given a miss for its “wilfully wrong interpretation”.

So, listen up folks… Ola Bola is just a MOVIE, and a damn good one at that. Please, don’t criticise for criticism’s sake.Being racist works both ways. So what if the movie has Ali scoring instead of Eric. They are both Malaysians.

Stop talking about who scored and coming up with dumb non-existent agendas and just enjoy the movie.Racism is definitely prevalent among Malaysians, but I find it very ironic when those who cry victim then speak in a racist tone, or practise prejudice against the same people they accuse, and also on others who are at best, different, and at worse, perceived as “inferior”.

I won’t expand on the “others” here, but just read up anything on Facebook or in online news portals which relates to the number 1.5 million and you will see the ugly Malaysian at their worst.


14 thoughts on “Why the Fuss over Ola Bola?

  1. The hottest issue online is corruption – 1MDB and “donation”- gate but this film clearly shows the Rakyat are aware the problems is race and religion in this country.

    BUT Najib and his team think it’s just a ” business” issue that can be dealt with by scheming further racial and religo- divide.

    Does it not say our politician is underseving of its people? The issues created by them more than its real.

  2. In before looes74 says that Kallang Roar is the better movie! 😉
    I haven’t watched Ola Bola as well, but the thing that struck me about the trailer was the gorgeous scenery. Man, Malaysia is a beautiful country, if not the most beautiful in the world. Pity about its politicians and its government.

  3. The victory was real, but the movie is pure fiction. It s a movie full of political overtones, if I read Anand’s article well.

  4. The movie may or may not deserve all the credit a good movie should. I tune in to radio channels quite regularly. The DJs intermittently make mention of this “Bola” and sing all praise on it and recommend to listeners that this is one movie they should not miss. It is good to attempt to galvanise the people towards a national cause and the DJs seem to discharge their role pretty well as propaganda arm of the Ministry of Information. This is understandable given the thoroughly negative perception of the Government as seen by the general public.

  5. Haizzzz……….again, I have decided not to watch it because it’s kinda rip off from Kallang Roar the Movie. I have mentioned before while I admire the Malaysia national team comprising of Arumugam, Chin Aun, Super Mokh and others, I have strong affinity with Singapore.

    At least the coach was a singaporean, the famous Uncle Choo Seng Quee. He did coach Malaysia team before. Fact : Tunku allowed Uncle Choo to return to Singapore to coach Singapore team.

    As for banana kick………haizz……….Do you know who Rajagopal is……….

    Watch Kallang Roar the Movie first. Take note quite a number of facts is not correct, generally the message is still ok.

    Read this……..


    Sounds familiar!

  6. K. Anand, can write that defence of the movie. Hey, its his privilege and he gets paid for the job.

    Its was heavily promoted by DJs on Radio stations as a Malaysian story, of races coming together in unity and so on. All very good, until suggestion is made of the movie is based on the famous win by the national team against South Korea in an Olympic qualifying match in 1980.

    If based on true life events, by gum, stick to the real events in the story flow.

    The national greats who were playing at the Olympic match against South Korea Hassan Sani and James Wong, came out both to praise and to critic the fact that it did not keep to historical facts.

    Sorry, hype not good enough. Deeds matter. It matters more than ever today.

  7. I’m surprised that people go overboard trying to read into the movie.

    I would just sit back, enjoy the movie and let tears flow reminiscing about a period and occasion when we all feel like Malaysians.

  8. The tagline “You will believe again” invites the question, believe in what again ?

    In others words we are asked to recapture our belief – again in what ? our diversity ? comradeship ? sense of nationhood ? – by watching a fictional narrative based on real life events.

    I don’t know about anyone else but there are plenty of inspiring historical examples that exemplify themes of solidarity, nationhood and diversity.

    But I doubt those narratives will ever be big budget (in the Malaysian context) films.

  9. Ola Bola is political propaganda by “you know who”. What would we expect the radio DJs to say but to praise the movie? They have to cari makan and their bosses cannot afford the “you knos who” to cancel their broadcasting license.

  10. Din

    I really enjoyed those old video clips, thanks. I remembered watching those with my fellow friends in our Kampong, the days when we would play sepak takraw together, and back then, I was never asked to balik tongsan no matter what disagreements we had. Then, Malays were our brothers and we share whatever cents we had on kopi O, teh tarik and pisang goreng, and who would have then foresee that Malaysia after 50 years would have resulted in divide and conquer at the expense of social integration for self benefit. LKY saw it coming, we did not.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.