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Sport Weekend Extravaganza
Rating:  ( 4.8 ) ( 21 votes )

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Oct 05, 2003 24:00

Friendly, Kind, Honest People
Cons: none

Sat 4th Oct - Feeling hungover but we decide to take a short tour of the museums before the game tonight. Have a banana leaf curry breakfast round the corner from the guesthouse and get accosted by a lovely Malay bloke who loves England! Finally get away and head to the National History Museum, which bores us stupid (except the historical maps of South East Asia). The Textile Museum has moved (!) so we go to the Central Market then to McD's for a choc shake and lime quench!!! A quick detour to buy L some new glasses before meeting Angel and Giles to head to the Malaysian Footie Cup Final. We've chosen to support Sabah (the underdogs) who only have 10,000 fans whereas Selangor (MPPJ) have 50,000. M has bought a red "Rhinos" T-shirt (Sabah's official fan club) and the rest of us are wearing red. Packed in like sardines in the LRT we arrive to a celebrity welcome! We buy some headbands then walk the steps to the stadium surrounded by people applauding US (!!) and screaming "SABAH, SABAH"! People come up to us all and shake our hands and we finally realise we're the only westerners here!! Groups of guys swarm round us all and some of the guys get a bit too friendly with L and Angel. We manage to get away from the crowds for a while and kill some time before the match kick-off at 8.45pm. Next thing we're being photographed for the "Sabah Times"! In the 100,000-seater stadium the atmosphere is "electric" and we join in with the "Sabah" chants. The team finally arrives and the crowd get even more ballistic (is this possible?). On kick-off thousands of red and white balloons drop from above the stand where we are and rockets are fired into the air. Against the run of play (Qe? - L), after 15 minutes Sabah concede a penalty which is converted by Selangors Argentinian striker. Unfortunately, early in the second half Sabah go down to 10 men after their star player is shown the red card after supposedly diving in the box. Selangor sneak a second goal mid-way through the second half before Sabah have a second player sent off with 10 minutes to go! Selangor round it off with another goal just before the end and Sabah end up losing 3-0. More fireworks and drinks are thrown onto the pitch by disgusted Sabah fans and we manage to leave the stadium in one piece (just!). An amazing experience that we're so glad we went to...........

Sun 5th Oct - Up early in order to get good seats at the fourth and final day of the "KL Grand Prix" International Show Jumping. It is the first time an international event like this has been held in Asia. After a McDonalds breakfast, we catch the LRT train to Bukit Jalil for our fourth day running! Arrive at 9.30am and choose our seats from the thousands of unoccupied ones. Watch the arena being set up for the first event, which is the Young Riders Final. We are really impressed by the organization of the whole event and the standard of the riders, who mainly come from South East Asia and Europe. Next up is the Senior Competition, which involves British legends, John and Michael Whitaker and Geoff Billington and Europe's elite from Germany, Netherlands and Sweden. Between them they have won numerous Olympic medals and currently hold most of the top ten world rankings. Unfortunately Geoff Billington takes a nasty fall into one of the fences early on, but walks away okay. There are a lot of clear rounds, so there is jump off against the clock, which is really exciting, nerve racking and won by the current World number 1.

In between events, the organizers put on various horse-related entertainment to keep us amused. Two teams of Malaysian pony-riders play a game of fast-moving horse ball, which is similar to basketball on ponies. Then we are treated to a pony race, where the riders gallop frantically round the arena, loving every minute of it! By far the best is the gymnastic display on the young horse, trained only three days previously by the Algerian trainer. The trainer lunges the horse in a six-metre circle whilst the two gymnasts perform amazing manoeuvres, leaping on and off the horse whilst it is walking, trotting and cantering.
After lunch we catch the second half of the Team Trophy, where two riders times are added together to be placed against other teams. The last competition is for big bucks (or Malaysian Ringgit). This is where the standard of the Worlds top-class riders really shows through on a course designed to be physically and mentally challenging to both horse and rider. The event is watched by none other than Dr M, the Malaysian PM, who retires at the end of October after twenty successful years of office. His grand entrance delays the event. There are ten clear rounds, so the jump off is even more exciting than the previous events. Despite our loud cheering, John Whitaker comes a very close second to the only Saudi Arabian rider, who ends his round with eyes closed as the horse is going so fast!! A long medal ceremony follows and the PM has a song sung to him by the crowd in appreciation. Once back at the guesthouse, we go to a local Indian cafe and crash out whacked.

Lucy, Martin and Poli

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