ASTRO BRINGS BACK THE PRIDE, PASSION AND DIGNITY OF THE MERDEKA TOURNAMENT IN KUANTAN, PAHANG
KUANTAN (23 AUGUST 2013): In conjunction with Malaysia’s 56th Independence Day, Astro, the leading integrated consumer media entertainment group in Malaysia and Southeast Asia is pleased to announce the return of one of Asia’s prestigious football events – the Merdeka Tournament.
The stakes are high as the stage is set for a grand fiesta in the Merdeka Tournament, which has a rich vein of history, as four Southeast Asian countries battle for supremacy from Sept 7-14 at the Darul Makmur Stadium in Kuantan, Pahang.
The National Under-23 teams of Singapore, Thailand, Myanmar and Malaysia are set to entertain fans in an enthralling encounter over eight days in the 41st edition of the Merdeka Tournament.
Lee Choong Khay, Head of Astro Sports Business, Dato’ Sri Subahan Kamal, the Vice President of the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM), FAM General-Secretary Dato’ Hamidin Mohd Amin, ProEvents International Managing Director, San Boon Wah, and Malaysia’s National Under-23 coach Ong Kim Swee were present today at the launch of the Merdeka Tournament at Hyatt Regency Kuantan Resort.
The unveiling of the Merdeka Tournament official logo was officiated by FAM Deputy President Tengku Abdullah Sultan Haji Ahmad Shah.
Tengku Abdullah, who is also the Merdeka Tournament Organising Committee chairman, said football fans should take this opportunity to witness an exciting encounter between the four teams – all of whom have an incredible history of success since the inception of the tournament in 1957.
“This is a concerted effort by FAM and our partners, Astro and ProEvents, in the revival of the Merdeka Tournament which was inaugurated 56 years ago, and for many years beyond that remains to capture the hearts of fans in Asia as the most prestigious event in the history of Malaysian football,” said Tengku Abdullah at a press conference.
“It was last held in 2008, and after a five-year break, we have managed to put the Merdeka Tournament back on the map, largely thanks to Astro’s support for coming on board,” added Tengku Abdullah.
As the coveted trophy goes up for grabs on Sept 14, so will be a rich purse of USD50,000 in prize money to the champions, and USD30,000 to the runners-up. The third and fourth-placed teams will stand a chance to win USD20,000 and USD10,000 respectively.
“Astro is honoured and proud to be associated with the Merdeka Tournament, which is the pride of the nation, drawing a capacity crowd of almost 35,000 fans in every match during the era of 1960s, 70s and 80s,” said Choong Khay. “Our aim is to elevate the ‘Merdeka Tournament’ brand in the Asian region, as one of Asia’s most prestigious football events, in honour of our Independence Day.”
“Apart from preserving the importance of the Merdeka Tournament, Astro’s involvement is more than just being a broadcaster. Astro is committed in supporting the development and improvement of Malaysian sports, both locally and internationally. We aspire to promote the Merdeka Tournament in the region and our efforts are transformed with the hope the Merdeka Tournament is here to stay,” said Choong Khay.
While the stage is all set for an exciting showdown in Kuantan, the bitter rivalry between the four teams is set to continue on the pitch with another round of trial and tribulations.
Kim Swee shares the sentiments expressed by his counterparts from Myanmar, Singapore and Thailand as the Merdeka Tournament will be an ideal platform in their preparations for the December SEA Games in Myanmar.
“The players selected for the Merdeka Tournament will most probably be drafted into the SEA Games squad. The pressure is on us to defend the gold medal in the Games. It is very important that we play up to the mark well in Kuantan to boost our confidence level,” added Kim Swee, who returned recently with the squad after a five-month training stint in Europe.
“The European stint was a good exposure for the players. We had some tough matches but the whole idea of the stint was to expose the players with lots of matches before they compete in the Merdeka Tournament, and the SEA Games,” he added.
Singapore coach V. Sundramoorthy, who guided Lions XII to the 2013 Malaysian Super League title, said though he is familiar with the Malaysian players, the Merdeka Tournament will give him an insight into the quality of Myanmar and Thailand teams.
“We are pumped up for the Merdeka Tournament after our success in the MSL,” said Sundramoorthy. “The Merdeka Tournament is a different ball game altogether and that makes it very exciting and challenging,” said the 47-year-old coach.
The Thais, who are expected to pose a serious threat with their dazzling speed and ball skills, just as Myanmar, prefer to play down their chances for now.
“It is a good tournament for us and the other three teams as all of us will also feature in the SEA Games. There’s a lot that we can learn by competing in the Merdeka Tournament,” said Thailand’s head coach Kiatisuk Senamuang. “We are also in the process of developing this team.”
Discounted tickets for two games on match days at the Darul Makmur Stadium are priced at RM30 (South & North End free seating); RM38 (East Terrace free seating); RM54 (East Stand reserved) and RM102 (Grandstand reserved) while season passes are available at RM148 (East Stand) and RM280 (Grandstand).
Tickets for the Malaysia v Thailand match at Darul Makmur Stadium, on Sept 11, are priced at RM22 (South & North End free seating); RM30 (East Terrace free seating); RM35 (East Stand reserved) and RM68 (Grandstand reserved) and tickets for the Myanmar v Singapore match in Temerloh on Sept 11 are priced at RM22 (free seating) and RM30 (Grandstand).
Discounted ticket prices are valid from Aug 24 until Sept 5, 2013. Ticket prices will revert to normal figures from Sept 6 onwards.
Tickets can be purchased from Ticketpro’s telephone hotline, +6(03)7880-7999 or www.ticketpro.com.my, and at Ticketpro’s outlets across Malaysia.
Sept 7 (Saturday): Malaysia v Singapore (5.30pm); Thailand v Myanmar (8.45pm)
Sept 9 (Monday): Thailand v Singapore (5.30pm); Malaysia v Myanmar (8.45pm)
Sept 11 (Wednesday): Malaysia v Thailand (Stadium Darul Makmur, 8.45pm); Singapore v Myanmar (Stadium Temerloh, 8.45pm)
Sept 14 (Saturday): Third-fourth placing playoff (5.30pm); Final (8.45pm). Both matches will be played at Stadium Darul Makmur.
ABOUT PESTABOLA MERDEKA
The Merdeka Tournament or Pestabola Merdeka, is a football tournament held in honour of the Malaysian National Day. While the tournament had been held annually from 1957 to 1988, it has been held only seven times from 1989 to 2008.
The first edition of the Merdeka Tournament was held in August and September of 1957 with Hong Kong emerging inaugural champions. However, from then on it was purely dominated by Malaysia, South Korea, Myanmar, Indonesia and a host of other countries, including South American and European clubs.
Malaysia lifted the trophy nine times since 1957, emerged runners-up on eight occasions, and shared the winner’s rostrum twice with South Korea (1960 and 1979), while the Koreans won it seven times. Indonesia, Taiwan and Myanmar also had their fair share of the accolades.
The other champions were Czechoslovakia Olympic team (1987), Austria’s SK Admira Wacker (1991), Buenos Aires XI (1983), Hamburger SV (1988), Morocco (1980), New Zealand (2000), Santa Catarina XI (1982) and Uzbekistan (2001). Brazilian clubs – Sao Paulo XI, Minas Gerais XI, and America FC Rio de Janeiro finished runners-up together with Japan and India in the 56 years history of the tournament.
ABOUT ASTRO MALAYSIA HOLDINGS BHD
Astro Malaysia Holdings Berhad is a leading integrated consumer media entertainment group in Malaysia and Southeast Asia with operations in four key areas of business, namely Pay-TV, Radio, Publications and Digital.
With a customer base of over 3.58 million residential customers or approximately 53% penetration of Malaysian TV households, Astro offers over 170 TV channels, including 37 HD channels, delivered via Direct-To-Home satellite TV, IPTV and OTT platforms. Astro provides HD, 3D, PVR, VOD and IPTV services through Astro B.yond and Astro On-The-Go. Fulfilling its promise to bridge the digital divide for all of Malaysia, Astro introduced NJOI as an entry-level DTH satellite TV service and is the country’s first non-subscription based satellite TV, offering 22 TV and 20 radio channels.
The People’s Choice, Astro was awarded the Putra Brand Awards Gold for the Media & Entertainment Category for 4 consecutive years. The award is in recognition of Astro’s efforts to exemplify innovation, quality and strong corporate social responsibilities.
Released by Shekhinah PR on behalf of Astro & ProEvents.
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