THE paper did more than just sports reporting; it managed a football team with help from Kuala Lumpur FA.
Malay Mail FC was the first Klang Valley club to play in M-League’s Division Two.
From the 1970s, it played under then parent company’s name, New Straits Times Press (NSTP).
In 1987, its name changed to Malay Mail for branding purpose.
Initially, the team was actively involved in inter-company games, competing against Straits Times Singapore in annual match-ups and friendlies.
Regional media meets involving teams from Straits Times, Bangkok Post and South China Morning Post were also a regular feature.
Following the rebranding, MMFC crossed over from Selangor to play in the KL Dunhill League (premier division in the city league).
The team comprised employees of NSTP group — NST, Malay Mail, Berita Harian and Harian Metro.
Over the years, it evolved from a company set-up to a club outfit and finally a semi-professional force, competing in the M-League.
MMFC offered opportunities to young players with the bonus of employment in NSTP group.
It did not take long for the team to stamp its mark.
Two years after finishing 1989 KL Dunhill League runners-up, against all odds, the side, then known as Sharp Malay Mail, defeated hot favourites City Hall FC by a solitary goal.
City Hall’s team was virtually the KL Malaysia Cup side and their goal was manned by national goalkeeper Rashid Hassan.
MMFC, aided by former KLFA president and mayor, the late Tan Sri Elyas Omar, had three players loaned from KL — goalkeeper M. Pavalamani, defender See Kim Seng and striker K. Kannan.
The Dunhill League victory saw MMFC
An invite from the Philippines FA to compete at the inaugural Philippines Cup in 1991 in Iloilo City and Bacolod City got the ball rolling.
MMFC played against national teams of Philippines, Cambodia, Brunei, Taiwan and Singapore youth.
In the final, MMFC held Taiwan scoreless for 120 minutes but bowed out in the penalty shootout in front of 20,000 at Panaad Stadium in Bacolod.
MMFC went on to win more plaudits locally, emerging Dunhill League runners-up twice — 1993 and 1996 — and 1992 KLFA Cup champions.
They also qualified for the FAM Cup (national competition for clubs) in 1997.
After three attempts at qualifying, they finally featured in the 2000 M-League Division Two, together with their FAM Cup finalists, Kelantan JKR.
They played in Division Two for three seasons before going back to the FAM Cup.
After surviving almost 15 years on a shoestring budget, the team was forced to disband at the end of 2004 due to lack of sponsors.
What kept it going was the officials and players’ passion for the “beautiful game”.
During its lifetime, more than 200 players passed through MMFC, several going on to secure contracts with better teams.
In 2009, past players formed X-Mail FC veterans’ team.
In October, a group of 22 were in Bacolod and Iloilo again — the team had maintained its relationship with the Philippines following the first trip 27 years ago.
X-Mail played at the 1st NOFA Masskara nine-a-side tournament in Bacolod and a friendly in Iloilo.
The team was there for a week and Peter Moss — Malay Mail’s first foreign journalist in 1957 — joined in Bacolod.
With X-Mail, the team’s legacy is set to live on.
TONY joined Malay Mail in 1979 and left as Sports Editor in 2006. He also served as Consulting Sports Editor, Specialist Writer and columnist at different times from 2013 to last year.