What Is All This Hoo-Ha About Manipulating History And Racist Propaganda In 'Ola Bola'?

IMHO, some people are making a big deal out of things that are not even there in the first place.

Cover image via Astro Shaw

'Ola Bola' has been THE must-watch movie in Malaysia for the past few weeks. Thanks to its uplifting storyline and values every Malaysian can relate to, viewers' response to the movie has been pretty positive all around.

Look how long our 'Ola Bola' movie tickets were!

Image via SAYS / Rev Asia

As of 16 February 2016, the movie - directed by The Journey's Chiu Keng Guan - has crossed the RM12 million mark in the box office.

However, some pointed out that the movie has drastically changed history by altering the scoreline and events leading to the winning goal, criticising the filmmakers for misleading viewers and the younger generation

The Malaysian football team celebrates after beating South Korea 2-1 at Stadium Merdeka on 6 April 1980.

Image via CH Loh / The Star Archives

The score for the final match in the movie, where Malaysia played against South Korea to qualify for a spot in the 1980 Olympic Games, is 3-2. In reality, it was 2-1.

Football fans have also taken to social media to express their disappointment that the winning goal in 'Ola Bola' was scored by Ali instead of Eric Yong, who is widely believed to be inspired by Sabah-born James Wong

Ali, played by Luqman Hafidz, scored the winning goal against South Korea in the movie.

Image via Astro Shaw

In the movie, Ali (played by Luqman Hafidz) scored Harimau Malaya's third goal after receiving a pass from Eric Yong (played by Eric Teng), winning the team a spot in the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow.

In the history books, the winning goal was actually scored by striker James Wong, who hails from Kota Kinabalu, Sabah.

Striker James Wong, a Chinese Sabahan, celebrating after netting in the winning goal against South Korea during the Group 3 Asian pre-Olympic qualifying tournament in Kuala Lumpur.

Image via The Star Archives

While those are legit concerns, some have taken it too far by accusing the filmmakers of intentionally rewriting history to cater to a particular demographic i.e. political propaganda and urging others to NOT watch the movie because of that

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To that, I only have two things to say.

Firstly, 'Ola Bola' was never marketed as a historical documentary nor was it said to be "based on a true story". In fact, the pre-Olympic match only served as an inspiration for the script.

As K. Anand from The Malaysian Insider put it, "'Ola Bola' was, from the very beginning, a movie about a period from Malaysia's past when we had a good football team. It is also about Malaysians coming together behind a team that was as diverse as the population."

After all, the characters bear fictional names with fictional personalities and backgrounds despite certain similarities such as jersey numbers and nicknames with real life Harimau Malaya players.

Moreover, anyone who's seen the movie in the cinemas would've noticed the disclaimer at the beginning and end of the movie stating that 'Ola Bola' is a fictional story and the characters are not based on real life people... in three languages.

Secondly, what is the point of highlighting race and coming up with conspiracy theories when you miss the whole point of the movie? The Malaysian team won! #KitaMenangSamaSama #KitaKalahSamaSama #teamwork

Image via Astro Shaw

Ironically, those who can't stop griping about "Chinese guy score one ma, why become Malay guy one?" turn out to be those who get super angry when a politician puts out a racist statement. Get your principles right, man.

At the end of the day, what really matters is that a Malaysian scored the winning goal and propelled Malaysia to the 1980 Olympic Games. Not Indonesia or China or India. MALAYSIA.

Image via Astro Shaw

But if it's history you're looking for:

Loved the movie? Check out some mind-blowing before-and-after photos and cool trivia from 'Ola Bola':

This story is the personal opinion of the writer. Share a story or your opinion in our IMHO column by emailing us at [email protected]