My experience last night changed my life, it unearthed a hole in my heart that I didn’t know was missing. Until I went to the Bukit Jalil Stadium and that is togetherness.

People will question what does that mean? what is this Australian talking about? When Australia is famous for its comradery and mateship born from the days of the ANZACS arm and arm in Gallipoli.

However, do Australians really understand their identity and togetherness within Sport?

As your average Australian has the perception that sport depicts who you are, whether you are Australian, if you play Australian Rules, Cricket or Rugby.

This limiting belief is ubiquitous, that the world game in Australia just reflects an ethnic demographic is challenging. Australia should not let the environment control how Australia wants to be viewed as a nation.

Australia has an opportunity to change the destiny of its future through football.

I have a deep cultural football awareness that it should not matter whether you have Italian, Scottish, Jordanian or any other lineage.

This should deem that you are Australian, our cultural backgrounds have to be embraced with acceptance for every Australian.

Football can be used as a unifying tool to believe that I am you are, we are Australian, following in the footsteps of Malaysia.

Malaysia is a world leader in the field of accepting cultures with a multi-religious and multi-cultural differences, having trilateral groups of Malay, Chinese and Indian.

This uncovered to me, Malaysian football is a hidden gem in world sport with sending a strong message of harmony.

Football is a powerful way to educate by bringing people together through simply the love of the beautiful game. In the process nullifying racism by empowering Malaysian people to respect all religions.

This enhances the pride of the Malaysian national football team, the Harimau Malaya (The Malaysian Tiger), is an uncontrollably contagious symbol of Malaysia.

I am currently a New Colombo Plan recipient in Asia, and I wish all Australians had a moment in their life to experience.

This emotional and unconditional love Malaysians have for each other at the Bukit Jalil Stadium.

Malaysians understand something that Australia doesn’t want to believe and that is the game impacts your international standing in Asia.

The Harimau Malaya may not have the resources to compete with the heavyweights of China, Saudi Arabia, Japan and Australia in Asia.

Although, something that stuck out in my mind during the game was a discussion, I had with legendary football manager Claudio Ranieri at Craven Cottage in January.

A man famous for his heroics at Leicester City & Cagliari Calcio, the poignant thing he said to me was “passion is the most important thing”.

This is something Malaysia so undeniably possesses, and this passion is a vehicle for the development of youth football in Malaysia.

In conjunction with youth players having the opportunity to gain minutes in the Malaysian Super League.

This can only supplement the Harimau Malaya, taking Malaysia one day closer to the heights higher than the
hill of the Bukit Jalil.

In front of an 80,000-seat crowd, the Bukit Jalil is an amphitheatre of world sport. The stadium exudes an unparalleled, unscripted raw beauty of stadia with drama at every turn.

This is complemented by Malaysia’s unrivalled fanaticism in Asia and is comparable with any major derby in Europe.

I have been so blessed to witness football in many of the iconic amphitheatres around the world.

However, nothing compared to the enthusiasm and intensity of Malaysian Football on exhibition last night.

The Ultras Malaya’s active support was unreal, the hours of dedication to design the famous Tifo exhibited during the national anthem.

The words of “one soul” on the Tifo depicting the love Malaysians have for the Harimau Malaya is always present in the soul of all Malaysians.

This experience is not present at a national level in Australia but at a club level with Melbourne Victory and Western Sydney Wanderers.

However, the experience for Malaysia to play their neighbours in a derby that emanates a social and political derby with Indonesia was special.

The Italian saying is that football is more than an emotion. This couldn’t be more evident in the spirit that was imparted within every person that attended last night’s game.

I knew I left with an indelible mark in my heart of Malaysian football and the people.

The constant chanting, choreography and the Malaysian tidal wave of yellow support. This has given me an insatiable appetite and self-fulling prophecy that Australia will one day achieve this level of support.

Malaysians fans willingness to travel from everywhere as many Malaysians do for their national team from Penang, Sarawak, Kedah.

All to the holy grail of the Bukit Jalil with the one goal of supporting their nation for ninety minutes.

Australia can take a leaf out of Malaysia’s book, that everyone was together, despite your race, colour, religion or background.

This was showcased to me that Malaysian Football is a driving force that unites.

The feeling of the unexpected anticipation of an important World Cup Qualifier on the road to Qatar 2022 was palpable.

Malaysians are so fanatical, obsessed and consumed by the game, they were sitting in the park discussing intently the potential tactics of revolutionary coach Tan Cheng Hoe.

This is unheard of in Australia, as four hours before the game a sea of yellow engulfed the Bukit Jalil.

Malaysian’s shopping in the market stalls, this is one-way Malaysia has found the perfect conduit of interconnecting people. This is by keeping the game local in terms of commercialization.

The current consensus in Australian sport is it has become so commercialized and privatized. It has lost its connection to the people, the ones who invest their finances, support and time back into the game.

An hour before the game there was no room to move, people were boisterously marching into the stadium.

They were singing for their country, wearing their hearts on their sleeves. This is the intensity of support and the mountain Australia has to climb to be akin to Malaysia and the Ultras Malaya.

My favourite moment was a seminal one, it was when Safawi Rasid scored the second goal. I felt I was in a true spiritual home of football in the Bukit Jalil.

The stadium illustrated to me that there was no better way to immerse yourself by experiencing a culture of a country than through football.

The locals bestowed whatever your temple, cathedral or mosque the rich tapestry, diversity of Malaysian football is omnipresent for the world to see.