Thursday, April 22, 2010

Former Tampines Stags @ Malang

Alerted to this piece of informative article of others which i thought many like me might have missed if we arent TNP readers. It was published earlier in the week. Just to share:

Singapore fever hits Malang

Arema Indonesia's unlikely rise to the top of the Indonesia Super League table has captured the imagination of its fanatical supporters. But it also propelled Singaporeans Noh Alam Shah and Ridhuan Muhammad to rock star status, way beyond their wildest dreams
PASSION (top left): The Arema fans know their football - and they like what they see in their Singapore imports Noh Alam Shah and Muhd Ridhuan.

GET SHIRTY (top right): Players know they've made it when vendors start selling jerseys with your names on it. PICTURES: BH

AT FIRST, there was uncertainty.

Employed by an overseas club for the first time in their career, Singapore footballers Noh Alam Shah and Ridhuan Muhammad were hoping for the best, but prepared for the worst.

Soon, they realised that they need not have worried at all - the duo hit the ground running in the Indonesia Super League.

These days, the two Arema Indonesia players cannot walk around in Malang without being mobbed.

Keychains, T-shirts and caps bearing their names and faces are snapped up like hotcakes at souvenir shops.
Short visits to the shopping malls almost always turn into impromptu meet-the-fans sessions, where fans are quick to take the opportunity to have their photos taken with their idols.
So, they often disguise their themselves by wearing shades, caps, or by pulling their sweatshirt hood over their heads.

Celeb girlfriend
If you think that's getting a little absurd, wait till you hear Ridhuan's confession that he has been dating an Indonesian celebrity for the last four months.
Life doesn't get any better for the duo.

Said 29-year-old Noh Alam Shah: 'I just came back from the mall. I was standing at the centre, taking photos with the fans. After almost 15 minutes, I could see that my wife was beginning to look a little unhappy.
'In the end, I had to excuse myself. Otherwise, it would never end.
'I seldom step out of the house nowadays unless necessary. But it feels much better than being not recognised anywhere I go.
'If you think it's bad for me, wait till you speak to Ridhuan.
'When we board the team bus on match days, the school girls would rush towards Ridhuan and start screaming until some would actually start crying. '
Indeed, Ridhuan's celebrity status has skyrocketed since his arrival in Malang, which has a population of almost 1.2 million people.
Still only 25 and single, his has more than 7,500 supporters on his Facebook fanpage. He is used to returning home to see about 10 fans waiting for him at his doorstep.
He loves the attention, but laments about the loss of privacy. He sometimes wishes he could go shopping with his girlfriend without being stopped so often - he is dating a 21-year-old Indonesian TV station sports presenter.
Said Ridhuan, who declined to reveal the identity of his girlfriend of four months: 'It's difficult to go out on dates like that, you know.
'She's from Bali, but studying here in Malang. She's also a sports presenter for ANTV.
'Some of the fans will follow me home. They will follow me in a car, like stalkers, and then take photos of me from the outside. Some will also ask for my phone number.
'The last time I checked my Facebook account, I saw more than 1,000 outstanding 'friend requests'.
'I enjoy it. But sometimes, they can go overboard.'
Such attention has its dangers.
Ridhuan knows only too well that he must keep his feet on the ground.
He said: 'It's an experience which will live with me until the day I die.
'But I tell myself this: I may be very popular here but one day, when I go back to Singapore, it will be back to square one.
'So, there is really nothing to be big-headed about.'
In any case, he has Alam Shah watching over him like an elder brother.
Arema coach Robert Alberts has entrusted Alam Shah the task of making sure Ridhuan remains humble.
Alam Shah said: 'It's normal for a young player like Ridhuan to enjoy it. Alberts wants me to take care of him.
'I am doing my best. If he is playing badly, I will tell him so.
'I call him at 10 pm almost every night to check on him. But he has been behaving, lah.'

The things fans do for love
MALANG may be more than 1,400km away from Singapore, but you can still see a Singapore flag at the Kanjuruhan Stadium in every Arema Indonesia home game.
This gives you an idea of the affection the Arema fans feel for their two Singaporean players, Noh Alam Shah and Ridhuan Muhammad.
Said Alam Shah: 'Everytime I score, I would run towards the Singapore flag at the stadium and salute the flag.
'Yes, the fans actually wave a Singapore flag during our games. It measures about five by three metres.
'Actually, it used to be an Indonesia flag. The fans stitched a crescent and five stars on it to turn it into a Singapore one.
'Although Singapore and Indonesia are fierce rivals on the South-east Asia stage, the fans have accepted us.'
Ridhuan, who holds his own in the popularity stakes, also recalled a harrowing incident.
In a frenzy to buy a copy of the newspaper which contained a pull-out poster of him, a pregnant woman slipped while running out of the bathroom.
He said: 'She already knew that there was going to be a poster of me in that day's newspaper.
'But she was showering when he heard the newspaper vendor doing his round.
'So, she changed into her clothes, and as she ran out of the bathroom, she fell. She was sent to the hospital and delivered her baby the very same night.
'What a relief they are both okay.
'What's funnier is, the patient's wrist tag which she was wearing while in her ward bore my name instead of hers.'
Getting to the stadium on match days can be a scary experience.

Police escort
The team bus is always escorted by the police to cut down the travelling time. Even then, it doesn't stop fans from getting close to the team bus to catch a glimpse of their idols through the windows, or even snap photographs - not an easy feat since most of them travel on motorcycles.
Said Alam Shah, who had to stop to control his laughter as he recounted the incident: 'We were on the team bus, and this pillion rider on the motorcycle was right next to our bus.
'I waved to him and he was really thrilled. He in turn said something to the rider, who turned to look at me.
'In all his excitement, he lost control of his motorcycle and rammed into a tree.
'After that, they just picked up the motorcycle like nothing happened, caught up with us again and gave me the thumbs up.
'It was amazing.'
Even travelling on a lorry doesn't guarantee safety, as Alam Shah was quick to warn.
He said: 'On another occasion, I saw these guys on an open-top lorry, waving Arema Indonesia flags.
'The guys were looking out for their favourite players in our bus.
'But just as they were doing so, the lorry braked quite sharply. All of them fell and piled up in a heap at the back of the lorry.'

GARY LIM (TNP - 19/4/10)
1) Indonesia has a different football culture with us, i do think that they are more die-hard than european fans, probably more comparable to South American ones. Not a topic i like to dwell on too much actually as I think the focus here is to get the crowds off their couch, to stadiums and support the teams (not in a fanatical way for a start..)
2) If he is doing so well at Arema, then why cant Ridhuan turn it on when he dons the Lions shirt?

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