KUALA LUMPUR – The thrill and pride of donning the national jersey are still fresh in the mind of former national football skipper Datuk Soh Chin Aun, although he last played for Malaysia more than 30 years ago.
It was not easy to make the national team back then because Malaysia was a force to be reckoned with and much feared by the likes of even Japan and South Korea, especially when they competed in Asia’s oldest competition — the Merdeka Tournament.
“It was not easy to (be selected) to represent the country. (We) had to work hard and sacrifice a lot to secure a place in the team. It was a proud moment every time you put on the national jersey… with the national badge on your chest, you had goosebumps, it’s an unforgettable feeling,” the 70-year-old national football legend told Bernama.
Chin Aun, or ‘Tauke’ as he is more popularly known for his astute and firm leadership on and off the field, was instrumental in helping Malaysia qualify for two Olympic Games — the 1972 Munich Olympics and the 1980 Moscow Olympics. He holds the unique distinction of having represented Malaysia in two Olympic outings in football.
In the 1972 edition, the then 22-year-old player from Alor Gajah, Melaka helped the national team beat the United States 3-0 in their second Group A match.
However, a 3-0 opening loss to host West Germany and a 6-0 defeat by Morocco in their third Group A game saw Malaysia finish 10th among the world’s 16 best teams at that time.
Chin Aun went on to lead the national squad to qualify for the 1980 Moscow Olympics — the last time Malaysian football qualified for the world’s biggest multi-sport Games. However, Malaysia boycotted the Games in protest of the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan.
Chin Aun, who represented the country from 1969 to 1984, also guided Malaysia to clinch the bronze medal at the 1974 Asian Games in Tehran, Iran.
That feat matched Malaysia’s achievement at the 1962 Asian Games in Jakarta, where it won the country’s first Asiad bronze.
Sharing his journey as a national footballer, Chin Aun said the national team was all about unity and playing for the pride of the nation back then.
He added that they did not have much in those days and even had to work to support themselves while playing at the same time.
“Training allowance as a player was only RM10 a day, while the income from our job was not much (full time) about RM200-RM300, but it was enough because the cost of living was low then.
“I hope young players these days will work hard and have a fierce fighting spirit to uphold the country’s dignity on the international stage,” he said.
Chin Aun, who skippered the national squad from 1975 to 1984, also said that racism was not an issue back then and that they were all more united.
After all, apart from Chin Aun, the team which qualified for the 1972 Munich Olympics was made up of the likes of Namat Abdullah, (the late) M. Chandran, Shahruddin Abdullah, V. Krishnasamy, Wong Kam Fook, Wong Choon Wah, Harun Jusoh, Ali Bakar, Looi Loon Teik, Lim Fung Kee, Rahim Abdullah and Bahwandi Hiralal, to name a few.