BY ZULHILMI ZAINAL Follow on Twitter
Premier League side UiTM FC are flying high. Having not been given much hope by observers and fans alike at the start of the season, they have instead defied expectations to occupy the fifth place in the standings currently, separated by just four points from the promotion zone. On top of this, they also recently qualified for the Malaysia Cup for the first time in their history.
Despite all their recent success, in their round 12 league match at home against PDRM on Friday, a crowd of only 252 turned up for the match. The reason for the small turnout was rather peculiar.
UiTM FC are a university side, representing the public tertiary institution MARA University of Technology (UiTM) in Shah Alam, Selangor, who play at the UiTM Stadium located inside the university compound. Due to this, they are supported mainly by students of the institution, as opposed to by residents of the city.
But after their 1-1 league draw against PKNP FC on April 25, a result which clinched them the fifth spot and a place in the Malaysia Cup, the mid-semester break began, and the normally bustling university was almost deserted as the undergraduates, the team's usual supporters, returned to their hometowns.
With almost all of the students and supporters at home, UiTM FC faced off against PDRM on Friday at an almost empty ground.
But out of the handful of fans that still turned up, the antic of one supporter caught everyone's attention.
The club's social media team shared the photos of a lone home fan, standing in a section that is usually occupied by their singing fans, chanting and cheering his team on throughout the match.
And for the loyalty and passion that he showed, his club rewarded him with a nervy 4-3 win over PDRM, to stay in the fifth place.
But that's not all that was rewarded to the fan, who was later identified as Muhammad Afiq Imran, a 22-year old film undergraduate student at the university. The whole team came towards him right after the match to shake his hand, show their appreciation for his support, and pose for photos.
Sweeter still, UiTM FC star, Nigerian forward Akanni-Sunday Wasiu, who scored one goal in the match, handed Afiq the same jersey he wore in the match as souvenir.
The photos have since gone viral, having been shared by 1,464 Facebook users at the time this article is written.
"Unlike the other undergraduates, I came back from my break early as I had a programme.
"So I decided to take the time to attend the match, just for fun," said Afiq when interviewed by Goal.
According to the first-year student, the team came up to him after the match without him calling them.
"They simply came up to me, showed their appreciation and Sunday gave me his kit.
"I'm definitely keeping the shirt as memento," explained Afiq.
When asked about his hope for UiTM FC this season, the young man said he wants the club to win promotion to the top division.
"I hope the team continue their momentum and win promotion to the Super League, and produce upsets in the Malaysia Cup," he continued.
But as valiant and admirable as Afiq's one-man support is, UiTM FC will not have to depend on him alone for long. The break is set to end this weekend with classes set to continue again next week. That means the undergraduates will soon be returning to the campus, and their supporters will flock to the ground again in their next match.