HISTORY was created and the national anthem Negara Ku was played once again, albeit the last time, when the men’s goalball team dethroned five-time ASEAN Para Games champions Thailand 9-5 in the final at the Malaysian International Trade and Exhibition Centre on Saturday (Sept 23).
Tears of joy rolled down the cheeks of the Malaysian players, who went in as underdogs, at the final whistle at 12.45pm. They had after all put up a brave front against the indomitable Thais who were dominant in the sport since 2005. The gold medal came after a 12-year wait as the Malaysians have for long played second fiddled to the Thais.
Malaysian player Husnaini Samsudin said, “For 12 years we have waited for this glorious moment and we had to wait until the last hour to celebrate. We are all excited with this victory as we have shown that nothing is impossible.”
For the record, goalball players compete with their eyes covered with a piece of cloth, relying solely on their hearing senses to attack and defend.
“Every player in the team had pledged to break Thailand’s domination by claiming the gold for the first time in 12 years and they kept good of the promise. These players are made of steel,” said Malaysian coach Abdul Kabdir Raham.
It was also the 90th and last glittering gold piece won by the Malaysian contingent in the Games precisely eight hours before the closing ceremony of the 9th ASEAN Para Games by Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister YAB Datuk Seri Dr Zahid Hamidi at the National Stadium in Bukit Jalil.
The defeat, however, did not go down too well with the Thais who were in a state of daze and shock. All hopes rested on the shoulders of Husnaini Samsudin, Muhammad Amirul, Muhammad Haiqal, Muhammad Hasmawi and Muhammad Nor Amin to ‘dismantle’ the growing confidence in the Thai camp led by Chonlathi Sukchum, Danuporn Suksom, Kitsada Thanyawanitphong, Noppadon Poosrisom, Siwarin Phonphirun and Tanapong Wangthongjitr And they did it in style, winning the gold medal after an hour’s duel. Muhammad Amirul and Muhammad Haiqal scored early goals as the host led 5-2 in the first half but Noppadon Poosrisom and Siwarin Phonphirun closed the gap on resumption. And at the final, it was the Malaysians who rejoiced by posting 9-5 victory.
In the playoff for the bronze medal, Laos defeated Indonesia 17-12.
The Thais, however, scripted a happy ending when their women’s team won gold following a 5-0 win over Laos in the final whilst the Malaysians took bronze.