Malaysia's shame game


Last week, Malaysian football was embarrassed on the field. On Tuesday, the shame extended off it.

Following shocking scenes at the Shah Alam Stadium, where fans rained flares on the pitch, the Tigers' interim coach blasted supporters for causing Malaysia's World Cup qualifier against Saudi Arabia to be abandoned.

Ong Kim Swee told The Straits Times yesterday: "It (the crowd trouble) is definitely not a good thing for Malaysian football. We should not resort to such ways to voice out your dissatisfaction.

"At the end of the day, Malaysian football will be damaged."

Ong was speaking after Malaysia's footballers and fans appeared to take turns to play the shame game in the qualifiers.

Last week, the Tigers suffered a 0-10 hiding by the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

On Tuesday, some Malaysian supporters threw flares and missiles onto the pitch with the Tigers trailing the Saudis 1-2 with two minutes to go. The game was then abandoned.

Malaysian media reported yesterday that 11 fans had been arrested following Tuesday's trouble.

The incident left Ong frustrated after he had galvanised the team, only to see the crowd trouble undo his good work.

"Based on the (players') performance, we showed that we can match whoever we play, with proper planning and attitude," he said.

"It is not easy getting thrashed and coming back to play days later, but we showed that we can compete with the top countries of the region with the right support."

The 44-year-old tactician was handed the reins last Saturday after Dollah Salleh quit in the wake of the record defeat by the UAE.

Against the Saudis, Ong's men were tactically disciplined, taking the lead in the 71st minute through captain Safiq Rahim.

But the visitors scored twice - through midfielder Taseer Al Jasim and Mohamed Al-Sahlawi - in a six- minute spell to seize the initiative.

Unable to stomach further humiliation after earlier Group A matches ended in a shock 1-1 draw against minnows Timor Leste and a 0-6 loss to Palestine, a group of black-clad fans, known as the Ultras Malaya, let their anger show.

The match was attended by 10,000 fans who were managed by a security force of 530 personnel, although police did not confirm if those arrested were Ultras.

"Of course, they are not happy after losing 10-0 to UAE. We understand that," said Ong.

"And the FAM (Football Association of Malaysia) is not happy but the public has to do it (express anger) through the proper channels.

"Security has to be firm in the future and everyone has to learn their lesson. I believe we will be suspended, fined or banned from playing at home," he added.

Ong was not alone in his dismay.

The country's Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin tweeted: "FAM lost control of their own stadium. Fans throwing flares were wrong. Both at fault tonight."

Asian Football Confederation (AFC) president Sheikh Salman Ebrahim Al Khalifa did not mince his words in a statement yesterday.

"The AFC is extremely disappointed with the events which took place on Tuesday and we stress that we take such matters seriously.

"The incident in Kuala Lumpur does nothing to enhance the image of the game across not only our continent but also the rest of the world," he said.

The incident left Tigers goalkeeper Khairul Fahmi Che Mat, who conceded four times against the UAE last week before he was substituted after just 29 minutes, disappointed.

He told the Malay Mail: "I am ashamed of the fans' wild actions and (they cast) a negative image on our team as hosts."

FAM deputy president Mokhtar Ahmad called Tuesday's flashpoint the "most embarrassing" in Malaysian football history. He blamed the Ultras for the ugly scenes.

He told The New Straits Times: "I don't know what their motives are. Is 'Ultras Malaya' a registered body or a loose alliance of fans?

"FAM must engage them and settle matters.

"I am dumbfounded as despite the tight security outside and inside the stadium, fans still smuggled banned items.

"It is best for the police to come up with an explanation.

"Did the fans hide the banned items inside the stadium days before the match? It is something the police must investigate.

"There were only 10,000 fans in the stadium but yet the security could not control them."

With the Malaysia Cup kicking off this weekend, there are concerns that the trouble could continue.

But LionsXII coach Fandi Ahmad, whose Singapore outfit will meet Kedah, Terengganu and Johor Darul Takzim II in the group stage, remains unfazed.

In May, the team were stranded in a stadium in Kuala Terengganu for five hours after they had beaten Terengganu in a Malaysian FA Cup semi-final.

Fandi said: "It's just one of those days that these things happen. I'm not too concerned because it's a common thing.

"Their fans bring flares and use lasers (to distract the players).

"We are already used to it."

This article was first published on September 10, 2015.
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