KUALA LUMPUR – Malaysians on Thursday celebrated their first win in more than two decades of regional football tournaments, prompting the prime minister to declare a public holiday.
Malaysia won its first ASEAN Suzuki Cup on Wednesday by beating Indonesia with an aggregate score of 4-2 for the first and second legs of the Southeast Asian championships finals in Jakarta.
The country last won the biennial Southeast Asian Games at the 1989 Kuala Lumpur tournament and had never taken the ASEAN Cup, launched 14 years ago.
The success dominated the front pages of almost all local papers, with the influential Star daily declaring “The Cup is ours” and the New Straits Times plastering a picture of the victorious players across its front and back pages under the headline “CHAMPIONS”.
Premier Najib Razak declared Friday a public holiday to mark the victory, according to state media.
“This is the greatest night in Malaysian football. The team had done us proud and we must build upon this success to propel Malaysian football to greater heights,” he told the Bernama news agency late Wednesday.
An aide to the premier confirmed the announcement and comments Thursday, adding: “The team is expected to depart Jakarta and fly into Kuala Lumpur at 2:30pm (0630 GMT) today and we are expecting a large crowd to welcome our returning heroes.”
Social microblogging website Twitter was abuzz with comments over the win, with the tag of national goalkeeper Khairul Fahmi Che Mat, #Khairulfahmi, taking the number five spot of trending topics on Wednesday, the Star reported.
In the final's second leg, held in Jakarta's Gelora Bung Karno Stadium, Indonesia beat Malaysia 2-1 but it was not enough to overcome the 3-0 scoreline in Malaysia's favour from the first leg in Kuala Lumpur last Wednesday.
Losing the ASEAN Suzuki Cup tournament was a bitter pill for Indonesia to swallow after beating Malaysia 5-1 in a qualification match earlier this month.
Last week's first leg was marred by incidents in which fans aimed laser beams at Indonesian players during the game.
Channel News Asia