26 year-old Dane and professional football player with a desire to travel, Phillip Lund, has settled in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, with hopes of a breakthrough in the world of Asian football. “It was a chance I could not miss out on”, he says.
Danish footballers seldomly spent their career outside of Europe. Phillip Lund is a little different. Since beginning his professional career in Vejle a 100.000-city in Denmark, he has been on contract in Seattle and Oklahoma in the States and most recently at B36 Tórshavn at the Faroe Islands.
So the change of scenery was almost as extreme as possible when Phillip Lund signed a contract with Malaysian Premier League club, DRB-HICOM FC, and moved to Kuala Lumpur with his girlfriend. Kuala Lumpur’s population alone is over 1.7 million, which is around 35 times more than the total population at the Faroe Islands.
“We were investigating the opportunity for me to play in Asia and gain a foothold in the Asian market. Foremost because I have the idea that football is really growing in the region and I wanted to become a part of that. Moreover because we wanted to experience something completely new”.
Getting into the Asian market
So how do a Danish footballer that just won the Faroe Islands league title end up in Malaysian football, as the second Dane in history? Where do you even start? It is actually pretty simple, Phillip Lund tells:
“I contacted an agent, talked about what I wanted and he sat up some trials in the region and then I just jumped on a plane”. Phillip Lund had his first trial at DRB-HICOM FC in the beginning of December 2015 and had another one at Tampines Rovers FC in Singapore the 1th of January 2016.
The trials didn’t result in a contract right away. DRB-HICOM FC was looking for another type of player and they wanted to search the market they said, but Phillip Lund kept calm. After heavy considerations DRB-HICOM FC finally called the Danish striker and on the 24th January he signed a one-year contract with the Kuala Lumpur-side.
“It was pretty hectic with papers back and forth and the time difference”, he recalls and as it often happens in football things move fast. By the beginning of February Phillip Lund and his girlfriend were on their way to begin their Asian adventure.
They arrived in Kuala Lumpur 1st of February and Phillip Lund was officially presented in the club with jersey nr. 11 the 4th of February. The club housed them in an apartment in Kajang 30 minutes outside of City, where the three other foreign players in the club also lives.
“It all happened so fast. We didn’t even have the time to sit down and think about what to expect for this”, Phillip Lund says, adding that he didn’t have any significant knowledge about Kuala Lumpur and Malaysia before he suddenly was there.
Settling in Kuala Lumpur
Acclimatizing from Tórshavn to Kuala Lumpur hasn’t been the biggest challenge for the Dane. “I liked Tórshavn but prefer Kuala Lumpur to be honest. The sun is shining all day, you’re happy when you wake and just grab some light clothing. It’s very simple”, he says.
The daily life is slowly taking form in the metropole and it is “100 percent committed to football” he says, especially because he needs to get on the same level as his teammates.
“I missed the preseason and I’m coming back from a heavy injury. So I haven’t seen a lot of the city, my schedule is tightly caught up in training and restitution. There’s no time to be a tourist right now, but there’ll be time for that in the future”, Phillip Lund assures.
While the Malaysian attractions are still to be explored, Phillip Lund and his girlfriend are fully confronted with the Malaysian culture in their everyday life – and enjoying it.
“We really like it here so far. Even though Kuala Lumpur is a huge city it is very relaxed in some way. There’s an attitude saying “oh well if we won’t make it today, we’ll do it tomorrow”. I think it’s just the way of life, people don’t get stressed over things here and we really felt for that”, Phillip Lund explains, but admits in his down to earth Jutlandic manner that “it can be frustrating to remind people to run an errand for the third time”.
“Even though I’m fully focused on becoming the best footballer I can possibly be, there’s also life outside of football and it’s important for me to spend this life in a place I like”, he summarizes.
“I believe you become a better person when you travel and experience and learn to understand different cultures”.
The state of Malaysian football
Now let’s talk football. How is football in Malaysia and what can it be compared to?
Phillip Lund reports of a higher level of football than he personally expected and compares it to the second best leagues in USA and Denmark, where he has been playing. “It is slightly better than at the Faroe Islands”, he says. Biggest surprise for the Dane though has been the dedication and culture outside of the pitch.
“We played away in Borneo and it was wild. People were crazy. There were pyro and bangers, 30.000 people and a lot of noise. At one point I was scared, they would overrun the pitch, because we won”, He recalls. “It’s almost South American conditions”.
For a newcomer or an outsider to Malaysian football this may sound overwhelming. But what is the general status? ScandAsia has been in touch with Manogaran Rethinam, Editor and Journalist at Star Sports in Malaysia. He reports:
“Football has always been big here in Malaysia and it has always attracted attention and interest”. Malaysian football and especially the national team had its golden years in the 70’s and 80’s. Manogaran Rethinam is not sure if the level of football is getting better but some changes can be mapped he tells: “The amount of money being poured into the game has grown and yes, the game is more glamorous now, thanks to the live telecast and marketing ploys. But if you ask me if the game has improved by leaps and bounds, then I’d have to say no”.
As mentioned Phillip Lund is still trying to come back from an injury but nevertheless he has had a fairly impressive start in his new club. So far he has played 5 full matches and scored 1 goal.