Fans will not skip the final

Fans will not skip the final
A young Terengganu fan was injured in the head after he was hit by a hard object after the semi-final match in Kuala Terengganu.

The LionsXII could have plenty of Singaporean support this Saturday in the Bukit Jalil Stadium when they take on Kelantan in their first-ever Malaysian FA Cup final - with fans saying they are not deterred by the ugly scenes in the semi-final in Terengganu.

According to a Football Association of Malaysia's (FAM) Facebook post yesterday, 30,000 tickets have been allocated for the LionsXII fans at the 90,000-capacity arena in Kuala Lumpur.

The progress of Fandi Ahmad's charges to the final - on the away goals rule after the aggregate score was tied at 4-4 - was marred by crowd trouble after the game ended, with rioting in and outside the stadium.

An ambulance was even torched and buses were attacked.

But veteran tour operator Akbar Hashim reveals that he will still be bringing the biggest group of fans to Malaysia since he started chartering buses for LionsXII's away matches in 2012.

He said: "I have arranged 30 coaches. I hope we can have at least 2,000 fans travelling up together for the match."

Yesterday, the Football Association of Singapore held meetings with its Malaysian counterpart to decide on what precautions it hopes to have in place for the final with regards to the safety of the fans.

Saturday's incidents in Kuala Terengganu - where the fans were in part incensed by the sending off of two Terengganu players towards the latter part of the game - has sparked off calls in Malaysia for punitive action.

The country's sports minister Khairy Jamaluddin has called on the FAM to act swiftly.

"I wish to stress that rioting cannot be accepted.

"Those responsible cannot use the referee's decision as an excuse," he was quoted as saying by Malaysian newspapers on Monday. According to the Malay Mail, the police have arrested 25 football fans.

"Two of the 25 arrested tested positive for crystal meth," said Kuala Terengganu district police chief ACP Idris Abdul Rafar. "They will be remanded until Wednesday to facilitate investigations.

"There were no reports of serious injuries but four of my men received outpatient treatment after they were hurled at with stones." The Terengganu FA can expect to be hit by sanctions.

In 2012, the Sarawak FA was fined RM29,500 (S$10,930) by the FAM for similar crowd troubles after a 1-0 defeat to the LionsXII.

Despite the fracas last Saturday when Singapore fans could return to their hotel only in the wee hours of the morning, LionsXII fans tell The Straits Times that they are still eager to attend the final.

Mohammad Raziff is one supporter who has already arranged to head across the Causeway with 15 of his friends and family. "I am not afraid of any potential crowd trouble," said the 61-year-old.

"I have been to an away game against Kelantan earlier this season and the Singaporean fans had to sit beside the Kelantan supporters.

"The Kelantan fans were very friendly and I am sure the FAM will be more careful after what happened in the semi-final." Akbar has this piece of advice.

"Importantly, travel as a group and whatever happens, remember that we are there to support the LionsXII, our countrymen. "Don't react to what the opposition do."

This article was first published on May 19, 2015.
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