Cools: I feel as much Malaysian as I do Belgian

A little over a year after we introduced him to Malaysian football fans, Belgian-Malaysian footballer Dion-Johan Cools talks to us again in an exclusive interview...

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Cools lets out a big sigh and shakes his head as he focuses on a few pictures in his hands. Our colleagues at Rojak Daily have just handed him three pictures of iconic buildings in Malaysia and asked him this question: Which picture is the Kuala Lumpur Tower? It is an easy question for any regular Malaysian, but not necessarily for the Club Brugge defender, who was born in Kuching, Sarawak but has spent most of his life in Belgium. His Belgian father Hans and Malaysian mother Xylina, standing on the side of the room, could hardly contain their laughter as they watch their son struggle.

“… This one?” he answers hesitantly after contemplating for a few good seconds. The picture he has chosen is the Telekom Tower. It is not the right answer, but considering that it is the only one he has got wrong out of eight questions related to Malaysia posed to him, he has done well.

As you read this, you might be thinking: why is this tall and handsome-looking chap answering random questions and what is he doing in Malaysia? (We might have paraphrased what you’re thinking a little.) For the first part of the question, it is for a YouTube segment for Rojak Daily, and for the second, he has come home for holidays after the 2015-16 Belgian football season, a trip he has been looking forward to for a long time. “Even though I have lived in Belgium my whole life, I always look forward to coming back to this amazing country,” Cools says. “I used to return every year, but after I started school and then began playing football, it became less frequent. I think this is my first time in five years.”

"I'm back!"

And while at that, the half-Malaysian is here to do an interview with FFT, who first brought the attention of Malaysian football fans to Cools in April last year, increasing his profile in the region immensely. To date, the interview published on has remained one of our most-read articles, which shows the level of interest the locals have in him. In fact, such is the enthusiasm over Cools the fans often barrage his Facebook and Instagram accounts.

“In hindsight, maybe we shouldn’t have done the interview!” he jokes. “But seriously, I have to thank you guys for the interview and informing the people in Malaysia about me. They always ask questions like ‘When are you coming to Malaysia?’ and say things like ‘Please come to Malaysia’. Well, here I am,” he smiles.

A little over a year has passed since that first interview with him and a lot has happened. The then-defender of Oud- Heverlee Leuven, also locally known as OH Leuven or OHL, went on to help his team gain top-flight promotion, join Brugge, play against Manchester United, and win the Belgian first division title among other things. But still, not much is known by Malaysians about him, especially if you rely solely on the short interview we did and his Wikipedia page at the time of writing. Let’s rectify that, shall we?