By Cesare Polenghi
Some might say it is "only" street football, but the street football tournament organised by Tiger Beer was a great occasion for fans in Asia to get together and a success for the continent, at least for two reasons.
First of all, the passion of the Vietnamese supporters was incredible, with thousands on the stands cheering for the their local teams. But on the pitch, the team that embodied the 'Asian Dream' were the sliver medalists Equal FC from Melaka, Malaysia.
The 'miracle' happened in the first game of the qualification round, as they were rallying three goals behind Brazil, but incredibly managed to bounce back: with four late goals they had the best of the South American giants.
Equal FC are a very well balanced team, strong technically and tactically mature both in defense and attack. The star of the team is undoubtly the captain, Jamaludin Alias, who was possibly best player of the tournament and who clinched the prize as top scorer, with an impressive tally of 17 goals.
"It was incredible, the best moment of my life!" said the 36-year-old, pouring with joy after the game. "This team has been together a long time, we worked very hard to make it to this result."
Equal FC went on to win all games in the qualification round, and the semifinal against the best local team, Dat Vinh Tien by repeating the dramatic comeback they showed against the Brazilians earlier. Down 4-1, the Malaysians managed another incredible 5-4 victory to land themselves a place in the final.
Despite the loss in the championship game, that was won 7-2 by the Brazilians, Jamaludin did not lose his smile. "It was great to be here, we are proud of our achievement. Being in the final was fantastic, surely winning would have been a bonus, but we're happy anyway."
Truth to be told, Equal FC was playing the final on... equal terms with the Brazilians, until a controversial decision by one of the referees deprived them of their goalkeeper. The experience and the skill of the South American team did the rest, but still, it was a glorious day for the Malaysian team and their captain, who also managed to impress the tournament's ambassador, Edgar Davids.
"That Malaysian's player skill... Hmmm, he was very, very good! I am happy to see how Asian players are passionate and keep improving" said the former Dutch international of Jamaludin.
The appointment is for 2013, Equal FC and the other Asian teams have one year to prepare to challenge once again the South American masters, and the feel is that the gap is shrinking.