PUTRAJAYA: The Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) will face a worldwide ban by FIFA if the Government decides to suspend it over a security breach at the Malaysia vs Saudi Arabia match.
Sports Commissioner Datuk Zaiton Othman served FAM a show-cause letter yesterday demanding an explanation on the incident within 14 days.
Fireworks, flares and smoke bombs were thrown onto the pitch by a group of unruly fans during the World Cup Asian Zone Group A qualifying match at the Shah Alam Stadium on Tuesday.
The game had to be stopped in the 88th minute and was eventually called off.
The culprits are believed to be a group of die-hard football fans known as Ultras Malaya.
FAM could be suspended or de-registered by the Sports Commissioner if it fails to answer or if it does not provide an acceptable explanation.
If that happens, FIFA will ban FAM from competing in all international tournaments.
The international body does not take government interference in national football associations lightly.
It suspended Indonesia's football association for that reason in June.
The threat of this did not prevent Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin from instructing the Sports Commissioner on Wednesday to send the show-cause letter to FAM.
He said the incident was "the final straw" because it threatened public safety.
"Under our Sports Development Act, the Sports Commissioner has the authority to instruct associations to provide information when public safety is threatened," he told reporters here yesterday.
Khairy said the Sports Commissioner could take action, including de-registration or suspension, after receiving FAM's reply.
He said he was aware of the long-term consequences of a FIFA ban, "but you know, we cannot not act just because we are concerned about international sanction".
"When it comes to the stage that we have to intervene, we have to. Our embassy in Saudi Arabia has received an objection letter and wants answers. This incident has strained diplomatic ties," he said.
The minister also said that he was not taking the show-cause letter lightly.
"We will have to go through due process and it begins with FAM answering the letter," Khairy said.
He holds both FAM and Ultras Malaya responsible for the incident.
He said many Malaysians excused the actions of Ultras Malaya because they believed the group was venting its frustration following Malaysia's 10-0 thrashing by the United Arab Emirates in Abu Dhabi last week.
He said many felt that the incident was understandable because the group was angry with FAM.
"Everyone is angry with FAM, including myself, but they cannot do such a thing.
"I'm embarrassed by the 10-0 defeat but I'm also embarrassed by what these fans did.
"Through their actions, public security was jeopardised and our nation humiliated. I was there with my son and I saw how dangerous it was," said Khairy.
He said FAM was also to blame because it lost control of the fans on its own turf.
FAM had been warned about security issues but did not do much about it, he said, and so "FAM must take responsibility for what happened".
"I'm not exerting power here or restructuring the leadership at FAM. I cannot do that because they are democratically elected.
"But as the sports minister, it is my responsibility to look into the administration of FAM," Khairy said.