Malaysian fans call for boycott of Premier League 'circus'

Malaysian fans call for boycott of Premier League 'circus'
Manchester United’s Rio Ferdinand (left) tussling for the ball with Mohd Amri Yahyah from the Malaysian XI team in 2012.

Malaysia's money-spinning fixtures against English Premier League sides Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool are nothing more than circus matches, according to a local supporters' group who have called on fans to boycott the games.

A Malaysian XI will play Spurs on May 24 and Liverpool on July 24, which has led to local top flight matches being re-arranged to accommodate the English sides.

The Spurs match comes less than two weeks before Malaysia try to win gold at the Southeast Asian Games in June, which is followed swiftly by the start of the joint qualifying campaign for the 2018 World Cup and 2019 Asian Cup.

Alfadli Awaludin, a senior member of the Ultras Malaya supporters group, said the Premier League giants would be better off playing each other in Kuala Lumpur rather than disrupting local football. "It is not that we hate Liverpool coming, Spurs, Arsenal or even Manchester, Barcelona whoever coming, we don't hate them, its just the concept is not right," he told Reuters on Wednesday.

"The timing. We should be focused more on the more important games like the World Cup qualifying. Why do we need to focus on something that does not give us benefits at all? "Just imagine we are playing Spurs and three of our players are injured, what would happens in World Cup qualifying?"

The Selangor fan said he and many other supporters of the club had paid for flights to watch the side play against Sarawak, only for the fixture to be postponed to accommodate Liverpool's arrival. "What happens to our tickets, do we buy a new one or pay extra to change the dates?" he said, adding the rescheduled away match had been moved to a midweek date making it harder to attend.

FRUITLESS MATCHES

"Why do you put this circus match higher than your league game?"

"It is ridiculous to me. It is not for us to follow their schedule. Is it just that they are from EPL and we have to bend down? That is another pride issue I talk about. This is our league, we don't bend down to others." Malaysia have hosted several Premier League sides in recent years, with Arsenal, Liverpool and Chelsea winning back-to-back matches against a Malaysian XI in 2011 days before the country were eliminated from the World Cup by arch rivals Singapore.

With Malaysia currently 164th in the FIFA rankings, their lowest ever position, Alfadli wants what is best for his national team.

He believes the years of matches involving a Malaysian XI bearing the national flag on their shirts against European opposition have proved fruitless.

The hashtag #SayNoToCircusGame was prominent on Twitter on Wednesday as Ultras Malaya ramped up their campaign, with Alfadli urging fans to boycott the Spurs and Liverpool fixtures. "I don't think 100 per cent people will stay away. We are just sending out the message that we don't want this happening in 10 years time or 20 years time," he said.

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