Debate: Harimau Malaya vs Harimau Malaysia

A lot has been said and done about the nickname of the Malaysian national football team, but the issue continues to linger around the local football scene
Just a week ago, I was sitting in a coffee shop, wondering about what 'Arrested Development' was all about, I overheard a conversation, which later turned into a debate about the nickname of our Malaysian national team. I had always thought that this was no longer an issue, but it appears that the matter is still being discussed by people in this nation.

In 2011, right after Ong Kim Swee inspired his men to the Southeast Asian games title, a debate was sparked in the online world with regards to the nickname of our national football team. We have always been known as the Malayan Tigers, and this apparently did not bode well with people from East Malaysia.

Now to understand their point of view, one must initially remember the history of Malaysia. When the nation gained its independence in 1957, it was known as Malaya, and was only converted to Malaysia when Sarawak and Sabah joined the nation later in 1963. Thus, referring to the national football team as the 'Malayan' Tigers appears to them as being 'non-inclusive'.

Some might lament that this is after all, just a nickname. Why debate over it? But when it comes to sports, and particularly football, nicknames do mean an awful lot. It represents the masses, it symbolises national pride, but most importantly, it provides a sense of belonging.

So which is a better nickname for the national team? Malayan Tigers or Malaysian Tigers? Here we go!
The Malayan Tiger, as of 2008, is an endangered species (Photo: Wikimedia).
Changing the nickname of the national team is really quite pointless on two substantives. First, the national team's name was not derived with the intention of being non-inclusive, and this is a fact that people have to fathom. Our national team's nickname was derived from the species of Tiger called Panthera tigris jacksoni, or better known as the Malayan Tiger. The Malayan Tiger is known to be a pretty ferocious species, and it was meant to represent the spirit within the national football team.

Secondly, This nickname has been part of our traditions for ages now, since the glory days of Mokhtar Dahari and Datuk Soh Chin Aun, and traditions are meant to be preserved. We saw the backlash in Cardiff City FC when Tan Sri Vincent Tan changed the colours of their emblem and kit to red, despite them being known as the 'Bluebirds' all these years. We also saw how the Newcastle United faithfuls reacted when the St. James' Park Stadium was renamed as the Sports Direct Arena temporarily, all in the name of commercialization.

When questions were raised in Benin, on the nickname of their national football team (which is Squirrels), quite a number of supporters were against it, claiming that their nickname should be honoured while suggesting that more attention should be paid towards the performance of the team instead. This is precisely the spirit that we should uphold in Malaysia.
The Football Association of Malaysia's logo depicts a Malayan Tiger (Photo:
We have to understand that nicknames serves the purpose of national pride and unity. That being said, everything is understood about the origins of the Malayan Tigers nickname. However, there appears to be no real harm in changing the nickname to Malaysian Tigers either.

As said, nicknames are uniting factors, and they are part of the very essence of the game here. But when a nickname appears to be non-inclusive to a certain group of people, then it doesn't serve its purpose does it? While it is important for us to respect the historical tradition behind the Malayan Tigers, its also equally vital for the nickname to reflect the current nationalism.

The Indian national team was at one point refered to as the Bhangra Boys, and this name was born during India's famous tour of England in 2000. Approximately 13,000 fans attended their friendly game against West Bromwich Albion at the Hawthorns, and most of them were there with the traditional drums to show their support to India. Hence, the Bhangra Boys.

There is no denying the fact that Bhangra Boys represented the Punjabi culture, and not the entire Indian traditon wholely. Soon enough, a campaign was launched on social media networks on selecting a new nickname for the Indian national football team, with the term 'Blue Tigers' being prefered by many.

This clearly shows that while traditions are important, unity and national pride takes precedence. We should ultimately take pride in the current and that is why Malaysian Tigers is a better option for the nation.
Doesn't matter what you call them, just as long as you show your support to Malaysia (Photo: FAM).
I stand totally neutral in this one, which is why I decided to shed some light on both sets of arguments. There is justification in both arguments to a certain extent, but I do not think that this is a case of 'do or die'. Compromisation can be brought into this particular circumstance as well.

Because in my humble opinion, people should be entitled to call the team with a name that is close to their heart. That, hollistically creates the sense of belonging, which is what we want from this entire debate. Even nations like Brazil have a variety of nicknames. Some call them the Selecao, while some hail them as the Canarinho. It all depends on what is closer to your heart.

Per contra, we can continue to debate about the national team and its nickname all we want. True enough it is important, but ultimately not as important as your support for the national team. Harimau Malaya, or Harimau Malaysia, what matters is that you guys continue spurring on the Tigers!