MOVIE REVIEW: Ola Bola (2016)

By Danielle Sendou Ringgit
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Muthu (by Saran Kumar) is the best goalkeeper in the national team but his football ambitions have caused a rift between him and his father.

Muthu (by Saran Kumar) is the best goalkeeper in the national team but his football ambitions have caused a rift between him and his father.

When I went to the premiere of Ola Bola on Jan 27th, I was slightly annoyed to have been seated behind two middle-aged men chatting rather loudly about football throughout the whole movie as they would point to the screen from time to time.

But as I listened to their conversation (unintentionally, as they were quite loud), it made me think that for football enthusiasts living in the 70s and 80s, Ola Bola was like walking down memory lane as it brought them back to the heyday of some of the greatest football players Malaysia has had.

Now, I am not going to pretend to know all the technical terms about football just after watching one football movie, but Ola Bola is one of those movies that opens your eyes to sports history and makes you appreciate the legendary players we had.


The players have to overcome their personal struggles and their egos to learn how to advance together to the play-offs as a team.

Directed by Chiu Keng Guan ( who also directed ‘The Journey‘), Ola Bola is loosely based on the events leading towards the Olympic Games as the national football team trains hard to qualify after what was a let-down in 1976.

FUN FACT: There were actually two Sabahan players on the national team for the 1980 Olympic Games qualification – James Wong and Hassan Sani.

Narrated by now-retired teammate, Sabahan Eric ‘Balak’ Yong to Marianne, a TV producer disenchanted with Malaysia and determined to complete what she thinks will be her final film project before she moves on to the UK,
Ola Bola is a journey of self-discovery for its team members as they overcome personal struggles and their egos before they can advance together as a team.

Given that all the actors know how to play football, you really have to give credit to them as the matches seem like they are really, really living the part rather than acting.

Each move is well-choreographed and beautifully executed.


Hot-headed and passionate team captain Taukeh finds himself at crossroads in the beginning half of the film, at odds with his sister and his teammates.

Made up mostly of acting newcomers such as JC Chee as the hot-headed captain Chow Kwok Keong, otherwise known as ‘Taukeh’, Saran Kumar as Muthu who is torn between the responsibility to his family and his passion for football and Luqman Hafidz as Ali who has to fight against his own ego to earn the number 10 jersey, they manage to portray raw emotion in both heartwarming and intense scenes.

The emotion is clear as the conflict further intensifies with the arrival of a new coach Harry Mountain (Mark Williams), a quarrel in the locker room after the team loses a match as well as confrontations between them and family members who clearly don’t feel the same way they do about their passion.


Muthu comforting competitive and arrogant forwarder Ali, who dreams of earning Samsul’s coveted Number 10 jersey.

Aside from that, Bront Palarae who brilliantly portrays rookie sports commentator Rahman is both humorous and undeniably enjoyable to watch as it seems that he enjoyed his role as the fast-talking witty commentator, describing each kick and pass with loving detail.

While it’s clear that Bront has undeniable onscreen charisma, as the core of the story centers around the football players, it becomes a bit exasperating to see Rahman’s storyline overwhelming those of the main characters at times.

FUN FACT: Thanks to the assist from Hassan Sani, James Wong scored the winning goal in the 1980 Olympic games qualification against South Korea with a 2–1 score.

While the movie also highlights the main characters’ personal lives such as the heavy responsibility that Taukeh has to carry as team captain and Muthu’s guilt for following his passion instead of staying back to help his father, there are some gaps that need to be filled.

Since Malaysia boycotted the Olympics in 1980, bringing the football team’s victory to an abrupt halt, did Taukeh finally move on from his dream of leading his team to the Olympics?

Did Muthu finally get his father’s full blessings to continue his passion?


Coach Harry Mountain (sitting) putting the team through rigorous training.


As the movie brings the audience deeper into the personal aspects of the main characters throughout the movie, the movie does not give a full picture of each character.

It is also infuriatingly intriguing that the movie did not explain why Eric insists on speaking only in Mandarin when he is first introduced to the viewers until very close to the end when we discover that he actually can speak English.

Setting these aside, Ola Bola is a heart-warming movie reminding people of the simpler times when sports did not center around brand endorsement and multi-million deals but on how football can bring people of different backgrounds together.

More than just chasing after a ball in a big field for glory, it touches on the most important qualities such as empathy, teamwork and passion.

As the movie is inspired by true events and based on real characters as well, does it also not make you feel proud to have legendary players in our country?

Title : OlaBola
Genre : Drama
Executive Producers : Astro Shaw Sdn. Bhd.
Golden Screen Cinemas Sdn. Bhd.
Multimedia Entertainment Sdn. Bhd.
Production House : Woohoo Pictures Sdn. Bhd.
Director : Chiu Keng Guan
Languages : Malay, English, Mandarin and Tamil.
Release date : 28 January 2016
Format : DCP
Duration : 113 minutes

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