Director of Ola Bola, Chiu Keng Guan spent a year researching on the story. Pic by Hasriyasyah Sabudin

KUALA LUMPUR: The filmmaker behind the country’s best-selling movie The Journey, Chiu Keng Guan brings moviegoers the “ultimate Malaysian football movie”, out in January or February next year.

The Batu Pahat-born said Ola Bola (literally Hello, Football) is a heart-warming cinematic journey that charts the trials, tribulations and triumphs of the Malaysian national football team, Harimau Malaya, in its glory days of the 1970s.

The 111-minute movie with dialogue in English, Bahasa Malaysia, Tamil, Mandarin, Hokkien and Cantonese, is a production of Astro Shaw and Woohoo Pictures.

Chiu said it is a celebration of what it means to be Malaysian, and is an inspiring journey of everyday Malaysian heroes.

“Ola Bola follows the journey of dedicated and passionate young footballers of the Harimau Malaya team - Chow Kwok Keong a.k.a. Tauke, Ali, Muthu, Eric Yong, Abu and Ong Tiam Chai among others - as they train hard to bring glory to the country in the beautiful game.

“Malaysians will get to follow the ‘boys in yellow and black’ as they face formidable Asian football teams such as South Korea and Japan and defeat them with pure dedication, hard work and the team spirit,” he said, when met at the launch of Ola Bola at Staidum Merdeka here yesterday.

Also present was Astro Shaw executive producer Najwa Abu Bakar.

Chiu said while the characters in the story are all fictitious, they bear some resemblances to real-life football legends of the country who are household names today.

“Ola Bola is not merely a story of football, it is a story of how the spirit of 1Malaysia shined in the 1970s and early 1980s, and inspired the country’s multi-racial sports team to triumph against the odds and grow from strength to strength.

“Viewers will root for the players, who struggle to overcome personal and collective hardships, in order to bring glory to the nation and honour to the sport.

“In short, Ola Bola is an inspiring journey of ordinary Malaysian heroes who grow from zeroes to heroes,” said Chiu who had spent a year researching on the history of Malaysian football’s glory days, and interviewed several veteran footballers including Datuk Soh Chin Aun.

Filming took 50 days in April and May, and a lot of computer graphics was used to recreate scenes of Kuala Lumpur and its majestic Merdeka Stadium during the 1970s.

“Ola Bola is close to my heart since I served as a striker for my school’s football team as well as when I was in university studying film at the Beijing Film Academy in the 1990s.

“I’ve got a surprise for fans. Some prominent figures who contributed a lot to the success of Malaysian football will have cameos in the movie. But that’s about all I can reveal for now."

The only major name in the cast is award-winning Bront Palarae who plays a sports commentator Rahman.

Others include Chee Jun Cherng, Luqman Hafidz Fauzi, Saran Kumar Manokaran, Eric Teng, Taufiq Hanafi, Lim Jian Wen, Marianne Tan, Katrina Ho and Daphne Low.

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