Ola Bola review (no spoilers in your comments please): Just watched Ola Bola, laughed and bawled my eyes out from the rubber-tapping scene onwards. Contrived, clichéd, predictable in parts — but what a tour de force of nostalgia.
It reminded me of football — playing it and watching it with the family on the black and white TV and cheering for Selangor and Malaysia, and Leeds United on Sundays. I remember the Tango ball of 1978 and how we diehard World Cup fans of Form 2 in St John’s, saved our allowances and all pitched-in to buy it. We then stayed back after school to rumble on the field, soiling our shirts and muddying our pristine white Bata shoes. I remember on one occasion breaking my collarbone, for which I received an angry reprimand from mum, after a visit to GH. I remember Christopher Lim Lean Chai was our own ‘taukeh’ playmaker/defender. He didn’t join the school team, despite his talent, because his parents refused to let him.
I remember Soh Chin Aun, Santokh Singh, M Arumugam, M Chandran, Shukor Salleh, Isa Bakar, Khalid Ali, James Wong and Mokhtar Dahari as clearly as the 1975 Hockey Team, or the All England or Thomas Cup badminton players of the 70s and 80s. They were our childhood idols and we as a nation gravitated to them as we did to Ali or Elvis or Bruce Lee. They were all our heroes once.
The movie captures the fact that commonfolk among us could rise above their dire circumstances and become extraordinary — for just one day.
Today we look to Nicol, Chong Wei, Pandelela and Azizulhasni to remind us that there are still those bearing the torch for us on the international stage, who make us proud, even as our political leaders shame us everyday with their false patriotism, corrupted commitment and warped sense of integrity.
I cried for all the humanity we lost as a nation in that era. And for our chidren who now live in times of unlimited access, who look to violent, wise-cracking superheroes as their mentors and idols and who believe the game of life can be played over and over again with no repercussions to those you hurt with your attitude, rage, extremism and intentional meanness.
Ola Bola, for all its flaws in the acting department, racial stereotyping and manipulative storytelling, still holds a mirror up to what we left behind. It holds a flickering candle up while others try to darken our history and negate our place in this country. Drenched in patriotic fervour with fellow Malaysians in that cold theatre, it warmed my heart. And I’m sure, if you were a child of the 70s, it will warm yours too.
When the going gets tough, the weak point fingers. World Cup fans have heard it all before. But here’s a list of excuses — some old, some new — now that the tournament is over for 16 of the teams and the blame-game has begun.
10. The vuvuzelas
Some players have criticized the vuvuzelas for interefering with communication on the field. Argentina’s Lionel Messi said they make his job harder. French captain Patrice Evra blamed a disappointing tie with Uruguay on the vuvuzelas. “We can’t sleep at night because of the vuvuzelas,” he said. “People start playing them from 6am. We can’t hear one another out on the pitch because of them.”
9. The pitch
Coaches of Slovenia and Algeria have blamed the pitch for the lacklustre performances in the Group C match at the Peter Mokaba Stadium, which features an artificial turf containing millions of synthetic grass fibers woven between and beneath the natural grass.
8. The referees
The USA blamed referee Koman Coulibaly of Mali for a disallowed goal for no apparent reason after the 2-2 draw with Slovenia. Coulibaly has since been blamed for 10 other great blunders (click pic)
Coulibaly was dropped by FIFA for the next round of matches much to the relief of the Americans who made it to the last 16.
7. The manager/coach
Outgoing French coach Raymond Domenech will likely take the most flak for the French team’s petty internal squabbling off the pitch and poor showing on it.
To his credit, Italian coach Marcello Lippi who earlier blamed the “altitude training and fatigue” for the Azzurris poor showing has come clean for their early exit.
“I take all responsibility, all responsibility for what happened. If a team turns up at such an important game like tonight with terror in their heart and their legs, and is unable to express its ability, it’s because the coach didn’t train the team as he should. I failed to train the team well enough, they weren’t ready for such an important match. For an hour and 15 minutes, for psychological reasons I think, nothing worked.”
6. Egos and Fatigue
Highly-paid “foreign” players are often the target for their egos, poor teamwork and lack of loyalty and commitment for their country. The six biggest egos of the World Cup came under scrutiny and will likely be blamed when their teams lose.
Fatigue from busy domestic schedules prior to the World Cup is the same excuse strutted out every four years. “The players play too many games during the [insert professional league] (ie. Premier League/La Liga/Serie A/Bundesliga/FA Cup/etc) that they are too exhausted to perform during the World Cup.” Ho hum.
England’s goalless striker Wayne Rooney turned to cameras after the 0-0 Algeria match and blasted English fans for booing the team for their dismal performance. “Nice to see your home fans boo you. That’s what loyal support is.”
4. Fumbling goalies and the ball
English goalie Robert Green’s fumble cost him dearly and he was replaced by David James, who has a reputation for doing the same. By the way, the Jabulani ball doesn’t seem to be giving the Japanese any probs after two “inch-perfect” freekicks.
3. Their own players
Evra blamed “the traitor among us” after the infamous Anelka-Domenech bust-up in the locker room was reported in L’Equipe. “The problem of France is not Anelka, but the traitor among us. We must eliminate the traitor from the group, because he wants to hurt the team.” Domenech left Evra out in the last game presumably because he was still sniffing around for the rat.
2. The media
Brazil coach Dunga furiously blamed journalists from his country for spreading “fantasies” about players in his team being injured. He was angry for the media taking unauthorised photographs during a closed section of a training session and reporting that Gilberto Silva and Julio Cesar were injured, something he and team doctor Jose Luiz Runco denied. He said: “The press creates certain fantasies and causes panic. They should apologise to Brazilian fans.”
1. Goalkeeper’s girlfriend
Spanish football fans blamed their shocking World Cup defeat to Switzerland on their keeper’s stunning girlfriend. Apparently Iker Casillas was distracted by the presence of TV presenter Sara Carbonero, who stood on the sidelines throughout the match, barely meters away from her beau as the much-touted favourites lost 1-0.
After the match Carbonero, pulled no punches and landed the ultimate blow by asking her shattered boyfriend on live TV: “How did you manage to muck it up?”