Johor football returns to its glory days


REJUVENATED: Thanks to the efforts of the state FA’s new president, Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim, Larkin Stadium is once again filled to the brim

IN 1964, a piece of land along Jalan Dato Jaafar in Larkin, here, was identified as the ideal location for building the state stadium.   The multipurpose stadium was named after Tan Sri Hassan Yunos, who was Menteri Besar from 1959 to 1967.

Born in 1907 in Muar, Hassan was the first elected Menteri Besar. He was also an Orang Tujuh, being the seventh man who signed a memorandum of protest to the Sultan for agreeing on formation of the Malayan Union, a federation of the Malay states and the Straits Settlements of Penang and Malacca meant as a successor to British Malaya.

The Tan Sri Dato Haji Hassan Yunos stadium is also popularly called Larkin Stadium. The stadium initially had a capacity of 15,000 when it opened in the mid-1960s. Managed and owned by Johor Stadium Corporation (Jcorp), the stadium underwent several expansion works, renovations and also upgradings, since 1991.

With more than RM50 million spent to upgrade the stadium in 1991, it was expanded and now has a capacity of 30,000.

The stadium has played host to numerous sports events locally, nation-level and also international, such as the 1992 SUKMA Games, 1997 FIFA Youth World Cup, among others.

It is also the Johor Football Association's (Johor FA) home ground and the stadium have been booked for the 2019 Rugby World Cup

About a year ago, Tunku Mahkota Johor Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim took over the post of the president of Johor FA.

The state football team then was ailing with numerous problems, including allegations that the players were on take and had dealings with bookies. There were problems too with the association, when players claimed they were not paid their salaries.

When the Tunku Mahkota Johor became Johor FA president last February, the first thing he did was to reform Johor football, starting with its name.

He made a promise to bring Johor football back to its glory days of the 1980s, when the stadium was filled to its brim with fans.

He called on the fans to come out and give their support to the state football team.

The result is today, the Tan Sri Dato Haji Hassan Yunos aka Larkin Stadium looks nothing like it used to.

The Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) is the international governing body of football, and those in FIFA are the people who set rules of the game.

Among the rules is one on floodlights for night games. For international games, FIFA recommends 3,500 lux for horizontal lighting and 4,200 lux for vertical lighting. In the case of national games, the requirements go down to 3,400 lux and 2,500 lux respectively. Lux measures luminous flux per unit area.

However, FAM has set a minimum illumination of 1,000 lux for the Malaysian Super League games while for international games, a minimum of 1,200 lux is a must.

Larkin Stadium's floodlights, however, can reach a maximum of 1,600 lux. This upgrading was carried out recently.

Besides the floodlights, the stadium's seats were also replaced and the facilities improved, including the toilets. One unique addition to the stadium, the first in the country, is its reserve players' bench. The bench is fitted with imported bucket seats like as the ones used in the English Premier leagues.

For the 2013 Malaysian Super- League season, Johor Darul Takzim played host to Perak on Jan 11, at the Larkin Stadium.

Though the game saw a 1-1 draw, the atmosphere at the stadium which was filled to the brim with over 30,000 fans in the state flag colours of blue and red, was just amazing.

The well-behaved Johor fans, obviously disappointed that Johor Darul Takzim was unable to maximise on the nine-men Perak due to red cards, maintained their composure.

Of course, as in other sports, there were cases of unsportsman-like behaviour among fans who booed the Perak player when he took a deliberately slow walk out of the pitch, yet no untoward incidents occurred.

Johor Darul Takzim played host to Angkatan Tentera Malaysia on Jan 18, again at its home ground Stadium Larkin, recording another draw 2-2.

This time around, the crowd got a bonus, when the Sultan of Johor Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar graced the stadium with his presence.

The normally hyper-loud Johor football fans became slightly quieter compared to previously. This is the specialty of Johoreans, who always display the highest form of respect to their rulers and leaders.

Sultan Ibrahim and his sons Tunku Jalil and Tunku Abu Bakar were seen enjoying the match from the grandstand, while his eldest son Tunku Ismail, was at the reserve players' bench with coach Fandi Ahmad and the players.

Stadium Larkin was again filled to the brim with fans in blue and red. The 49-year-old stadium looked perfect from every angle.

A new stadium with state-of-the-art facilities is currently being built at Nusajaya in Kota Iskandar, here, but Tan Sri Dato Haji Hassan Yunos Stadium will serve many more wonderful years.

The Johor Darul Takzim football team’s first 11 players at the Larkin Stadium which is their home ground. Pix by Hairul Anuar Abd Rahim

Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim sharing a light moment at the reserve players’ bench.

Johor’s football fans, both male and female, showing their fervent support for the home team playing in Larkin Stadium.

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