Yesteryears football stars in Sabah for Malaysia Day tourney

KOTA KINABALU: Some of the former footballing greats in the region will converge in Sabah to play in the inaugural three-day SMJ Cup Pesta Bola Sepak Merdeka Sabah tournament, held in conjunction with Malaysia Day from Sept 16.

Among the names to put on their boots once again in the tournament are Malaysian ex-players Yap Wai Loon, Shahril Arsat, Azman Adnan and Julius Ating, Singapore legends Fandi Ahmad and Malek Awab as well as former Indonesia internationals Bambang Pamungkas and Elie Aiboy.

The tournament, organised by the Chief Minister’s Department in collaboration with SS90 Sabah Football Club, will be held at Likas Stadium.

Co-organising chairman Datuk Peter Anthony said Chief Minister Datuk Seri Hajiji Haji Noor is expected to officiate at the opening ceremony on Sept 16.

“It will be the biggest tournament that we have ever held, we had organised tournaments in the past but not as huge as the upcoming SMJ Cup Pesta Bola Sepak Merdeka Sabah,” he said in a press conference to announce the tourney here on Thursday (Sept 8).

“The tournament will certainly provide an avenue and opportunity for football enthusiasts in Sabah to watch their favourite ex-footballers in action,” he added.

Also present at the press conference were co-organising chairman Datuk Abdul Kassim Razali and deputy organising chairman Henry Saimpon.

Anthony said eight teams have confirmed their entries and the draw would be conducted next week.

The teams are Sabah, Sabah SMJ, Sarawak, Johor, Selangor, Indonesia, Singapore and Brunei, where they will be vying for the SMJ Cup challenge trophy as well as RM358,000 in total cash prizes.

The champions will take home RM120,000 in prize money while the runner-up RM70,000 and the third placed team will receive RM50,000.

The fourth to eighth placed teams will not go home empty-handed as they will receive RM30,000, RM24,000, RM23,000, RM21,000 and RM20,000 respectively.

Besides that, awards such as the Most Sporting Team, Top Scorer, Best Goalkeeper and the final Man-of-the-Match will also be given out by the organisers.

Each team can register players aged between 40-44, 45-49 and above 50 while the goalkeeper must be above 40 years old.

For the 40-44 age group players, only two are to be fielded at any time and six from the 45-49 age group. Substitutions too must be according to the same age brackets.

As for the above 50 years old, there will be no limit on the number of players on the field and can replace players from the younger age group.

Anthony invited the public to come in droves to support the tournament including during the opening ceremony, where the opening game will be played thereafter.

“Entry into the stadium is free and there will also be lucky draws,” he said.