IT’s a love affair that began with a flag some 18 years ago. A couple bought themselves a Jalur Gemilang and went to the velodrome in Manchester where they started shouting the hearts out for Josiah Ng.

The love affair has blossomed. Since then, Liz and Dave Rodgers have never failed to catch up on the exploits of the Malaysian track cycling team whenever they have a chance to go on overseas trips.

They always make it a point to try to catch up with the cyclists. The best part is: they are not Malaysians. They are British citizens.

It’s no wonder then that the track cycling team have shown their appreciation for their No. 1 supporters outside of Malaysia by featuring them in the Malaysian Track Cycling Facebook page.

The two can easily be spotted with the Malaysian flag at the spectators’ seats and are even considered a lucky charm for the team as the cyclists have gone up to the podium several times in their presence.

The couple have no children but live in Nottingham with lots of pets.

“I work in the legal profession while Dave is a transport engineer.

“We have been to Malaysia many times and usually our trips are anything from one to three weeks in duration.

“Unfortunately, we have not visited in the last three years. We both love George Town, Penang, but there is no place in Malaysia that we do not like, ” said Liz.

On how they ended up supporting the Malaysian team, Liz said it started when they bought their first flag over 15 years ago.

“We were in Malaysia for Merdeka and wanted to celebrate the national day so we bought a flag. Then, we took the Malaysian flag to the velodrome for the Manchester Commonwealth Games in 2002. We have bought many flags since then.”

“We have been to so many events at velodromes in the United Kingdom, Europe and even Hong Kong, so it’s impossible to say how many competitions we have been to.

“The atmosphere in the velodrome can, if the crowd is very partisan, be daunting. We wanted the Malaysian competitors to know that their sporting achievements were recognised by others outside Malaysia, ” she added.

The Rodgers couple also described themselves as sports fans in general.

“We watch a lot of sports and attend many events. In the UK, we go to football matches to support (English championship side) Wigan Athletic. We also like American football and Formula One.

“We have been to Europe for road cycling events – the Giro d’Italia and the Tour de France.”

The two of them used to cycle a lot and do charity rides in the past.

“Dave still does cycle regularly and has done some long distance road trips. I have an injured knee, so I can’t cycle currently.

“Besides sports, our main hobby is gardening as we have a large piece of land where we grow most of our own vegetables and fruit. We also keep chicken.”

What are the best memories the couple have of Malaysian cycling?

“It was just Josiah when we started but now you have Azizul. Watching Azizul win his Olympic bronze medal while we were at a bar in UK wearing the Malaysian flag was memorable. Most of all, we were in Hong Kong the year (2017) Azizul won the rainbow jersey (world title).

“We have met up many times with the team members since then – John (coach Beasley), Vicky (his wife), Azizul and Chee Lee Ming (exercise physiologist with National Sports Institute) have all been hospitable when we visited Melbourne and spent time with them.

“We really want to see Malaysian cycling continue to grow and to be successful.”

There are questions now over the Tokyo Olympics, but you can be assured that when Azizul and teammate Mohd Shah Firdaus Sahrom get on their bikes to race, the Rodgers will be cheering in front of a television set, with the Jalur Gemilang draped over their shoulders.