Suddenly, all attention were on Marcelo Bielsa and his well-oiled machine that saw off the challenge of West Brom and Brentford with their brand of high intensity, slick football that was uniquely consistent throughout the season. Millions of football fans paid tribute to the Yorkshire club, including a close-knit support from Malaysia.
? THE MOMENT! pic.twitter.com/L4T33JxsQs— Leeds United (@LUFC) July 18, 2020
Let me tell you how it was to be a Leeds supporter from this side of the world. After relegation from the Premier League in 2004, watching The Whites live in action would become a huge challenge.
In a time where social media had not hit its peak, information on live Championship matches were scarce and you had to be extremely resourceful to follow the team. In some ways, it was a blessing, because a movement to discover a Leeds United fanbase in Malaysia was just beginning.
In 2005, Sidek Ahmad, founder of Leeds United Supporters Club Malaysia, decided he had enough supporting the club alone and decided to seek out others who wore the same crest, lost in the wilderness.
“I knew it was not an overnight thing, but if I was alone, there has to be others who share the same fate in Malaysia,” he recalled. So he started his quest through Friendster (remember that??) and emails in 2005.
He soon discovered more like-minded fans, and through sporadic meet-ups whenever Leeds featured in an FA Cup or League Cup match, the group slowly started growing.
It was still painful being a Leeds fan, because there were more downs than ups. I remember in 2012, we gathered in the now defunct Asia Café in Subang Jaya for a wee hour Leeds showdown vs Chelsea in a League Cup match. The boys were battered 5-1, but the bond in this group was only just beginning as we sat until morning reminiscing about the good old times.
When Bielsa got the team playing scintillating football and dominating the league last season, we thought this is it, we’re finally going up.
I had scaled Mount Kinabalu the night before the second-leg semi-final playoff against Derby, and was hoping for a similar high as Leeds held a 1-0 lead at home against the Rams. It did not happen, as for some inexplicable reason, goalkeeper Kiko Casilla decided he would also play as centre-back to orchestrate Leeds’ downfall.
But there was a silver lining. A year later, against the same opponents last Sunday, Leeds crushed 3-1 to celebrate the Championship title. The Leeds United supporters in Malaysia, gathered at a dining outlet in Kuala Lumpur, celebrated for more reasons than one.
Being back in the big league means not having to search for online live streams that do not work most of the time, or being consigned to reading live matchday blogs or commentaries. We will have unadulterated, quality high-definition viewing, on Astro of course.
More importantly, it will allow these Malaysian Leeds support to create a bigger movement in the country, which Sidek couldn’t have described better: “I consider them not as associates but as families; families that are united not by blood but by our passion and love for Leeds United.”
Thank you Bielsa for a fantastic job with the team, thank you Andrea Radrizzani for believing in the dream. We are Marching On Together to bigger and greater things indeed.