“You will believe again.”. Simple yet a powerful tagline. Ola Bola is a film that has re-instilled a sense of pride, belief and hope among Malaysians whereby Malaysia was once united over a common goal, and that common goal was ensuring the Malaysian football team qualified for the 1980 Olympic Games. Malaysia is probably facing one of its darkest time due to the current economic and political climate, and this film is a good remedy to combat these dark times. Regardless whether the film has resonated with you on a personal or patriotic level, Ola Bola has shown us that we can draw on lessons from our past and create a better tomorrow.
1) Never Give Up on Your Dream
This is one of the film’s main theme and focuses on the team of Malaysian footballers who wanted to compete in the 1980 Olympic Games. All the football players had their unique personal stories and sacrificed a lot in order to realize their dream. One of these footballers was Muthu, who despite strong resistance from his father and the fact that he had to work multiple jobs to support his family, stayed on with the team in the lead up to the final match of the 1980 Olympic Games qualifiers.
2) Local Pride Beats International Allure
Personally, I have witnessed many people who migrate overseas for better opportunities or for greener pastures. Whilst nothing is wrong in doing so, but in certain cases, if one could achieve success in our own country then surely that would carry a greater sense of pride for the individual. In the film Ola Bola, the team’s captain, Chow Kwok Keong actually gave up a lucrative move to play football in England and instead, decided to stay in Malaysia and lead Malaysia into the 1980 Olympic Games. To Kwok Keong, no amount of money in the world can buy the sense of pride in achieving success in his own country.
3) Success = Hardwork
Many of us craves for success without knowing that there is a lot of hardwork involved. Whenever we watch famous football players such as Lionel Messi, Neymar or Ronaldo, one thing that is clearly noticeable is all of them make it look so easy to play football. In reality, the only reason they can make it look so easy is because of the hundreds and thousands of hours that they have been practicing to achieve a high level of competency. Similarly in Ola Bola, the goalkeeper Muthu made the crucial penalty save in the final match due to the countless number of hours of practice that he did late at night. Despite being tired from training and working as a rubber tapper, he still made it a point to practice late at night as he wanted to succeed badly.
4) Teamwork Trumps Individual Brilliance
A constant theme that appeared in the early parts of the movie was that all the players wanted to show the Coach their skills and individual brilliance. One scene in particular was when Ali refused to pass the ball to his fellow striker, Eric despite Eric being in a better position to score. This is because Ali thought he was better than Eric. However, the turning point in the movie was when the Coach sent the entire squad to a military training, whereby they were shown and taught the importance of team work. That event changed the players’ mindset and they started to believe that teamwork does triumph individual brilliance.
5) Fail Before Succeeding
In any thing you do in life, you will frequently encounter failure before hitting success. Chow Kwok Keong encountered this too. Trying to impress the new Coach and wanting to stamp his authority as the captain, he failed several times and even cost the Malaysian team a few games. One particular instance was when he instructed Mohammad Abu to play in a different position and hence going against the coach’s instructions. This led to the team losing the match. In the latter part of the film, Kwok Keong embraced his failures and with a renewed determination, he did redeem himself and led the team successfully.
6) Always Belief in the Impossible
The Coach, Harry Mountain, took over a team of players that were in shambles and even their own supporters didn’t believe the team could win a game, yet alone reaching the 1980 Olympic Games. However, Coach Harry had different ideas. He had an unshakable belief that the team had true gems and all the team had to do was believe in themselves and each other. Through constant encouragement, innovative tactics and even publicizing in the media that he has a whole squad of great players, the players eventually did the impossible and won the final match of the 1980 Olympic Games qualifier.
Ola Bola has left the nation in frenzy and for all the right reasons. It showed us the great moments in the past that was founded on the grounds of unity, togetherness, harmony and belief. As a nation, we must believe in the saying “kita menang sama-sama, kita kalah sama-sama” (translated as “we win together, we lose together”) and Ola Bola will certainly make you believe in that again.