Malaysia showed their generosity in Darul Makmur, on and off the pitch on a night when the Malayan Tigers welcomed Palestine for a charity match.
Tonight’s match was set to be a friendly affair, with the proceeds shared evenly between the two countries who are each in a conflict of their own. Palestine have been facing the Israeli occupation four decades, while Malaysia are fighting off an incursion by a group of Philippine rebels in the Bornean state of Sabah.
The start of the match somewhat reflected this charitable manner, with both sets of fans mingling together before the match and Palestinian fans circling the stands to show their appreciation to the home fans. Some members of the fiercely-partisan Ultras Malaya were even seen donning Palestinian scarves as a show of solidarity.
Malaysia started brightly by threatening the Palestine penalty box, and Khyril Muhymeen almost opened his account in the 10th minute after Amri Yahyah put him through with a brilliant pass, but he lost his balance, fell and the opportunity dissipated.
But this did not mean that Palestine were content on keeping quiet. They responded through counter attacks, capitalising again on the shoddy defending of the Tigers.
Khaled Salem almost broke through the defence in the 12th minute, but Faizal Muhammad stopped him in the penalty box with what looked like a foul, but the referee simply waved away the challenge.
The match then was reduced to midfield mediocrity, and again the national captain Syafiq Rahim’s performance is called into question. His passes went astray and his free kicks and corner kicks were nowhere near the intended target.
The Malaysian defence, once again, were in disarray when an attack by the visitors forced Farizal Marlias to come out, only to knock the ball into the path of Imad Zatara in the 33rd minute. But he only managed to put the ball into the side of the net, much to the visible consternation of the whole Palestinian bench.
The on-form and on-fire Mahali Jasuli was brought on for the ineffective K. Reuben four minutes later, and Stadium Darul Makmur erupted when the announcer called his name.
However, against the run of play, it was Palestine who scored just minutes later when Khaled was inexplicably left unmarked by Faizal Muhammad at the last moment to strike an acrobatic volley into the Malaysian goal.
His failed attempt to slide on the coarse pitch in celebration of the goal provided a somewhat comical sight in a lacklustre match up to that point, and he subsequently required some mending by the team physician for the cuts.
At the start of the second half, Norazlan Razali was brought in as a replacement for Farizal, and Manaf Mamat was brought in for Amri.
The Tigers almost equalised in the 59th minute when Fauzi Rozlan’s glancing header from a corner kick could only be struck by Fadhli Shas onto Manaf Mamat.
Despite several more substitutions made by head coach K. Rajagobal afterwards, Malaysia failed to properly threaten the Palestinian goal.
Five minutes before the end, Palestine doubled their lead to bury the hosts with a freekick by Ashraf Nu'man.
It was unfortunate for Harimau Muda B goalkeeper Syihan Hazmi to be brought in just before the freekick was taken, and to concede a goal without having even touched the ball yet.
However, he made amends just a minute later when he managed to palm away a penalty kick that was given after Amiridzwan Taj fouled a Palestine player.
The match finished 2-0 to the visitors.
It is safe to say that when the charity match was first announced, the home fans had not expected that their team would also be charitable on the pitch, as evident by them leaving the stadium even before the final whistle was blown.