KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia's sports minister apologised on Monday after home fans attacked Vietnamese supporters during a Suzuki Cup semi-final, in ugly scenes that resulted in five arrests.
Khairy Jamaluddin said he personally witnessed assaults at Malaysia's cavernous Shah Alam Stadium, where Vietnam beat the hosts 2-1 in the first leg on Sunday.
"I saw with my own eyes, the Vietnamese supporters were assaulted by a group of Malaysian fans at Shah Alam stadium," the minister wrote on his Facebook page.
"There is no excuse for this violent behaviour. These violent fans do not represent Malaysia. My sincere apologies on behalf of Malaysia for the actions of these small number of irresponsible thugs," he added.
At least one Vietnam fan was injured in clashes at the end of Sunday's rain-soaked match, a police official told AFP, adding that five people were arrested.
The biennial Southeast Asian championship carries high stakes for regional fans, whose teams struggle to qualify for the Asian Cup or World Cup.
Vietnamese fans were urged not to carry out reprisals on the group of about 1,000 Malaysians who are expected to attend the second leg in Hanoi on Thursday.
"They are not extremist. Don't take revenge against them," said Tran Song Hai of the Vietnamese Football Fans Association, according to state-run VTC news.
Nguyen Xuan Gu, vice-president and spokesman of the Vietnam Football Association, added that Sunday's incident was "unfortunate and it was caused by some extremist fans".
Former Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) vice president Subahan Kamal said football hooliganism was becoming a worrying trend in the country.
"Honestly, hooliganism and violence is a worrying thing in Malaysia. The authorities must act fast to prevent such incidents," he said.
Last week, the Asian Football Confederation fined FAM US$10,000 (S$13,200) for the behaviour of Malaysian fans during a friendly against the Philippines in March.
In September, a Malaysia Cup match between rivals Sarawak and Perak erupted into a riot when 2,000 Sarawak fans smashed cars and fought police after the game.