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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Suzuki Cup 2010 Finals: The Ugly and Unsportsmanlike side of Malaysians

by Syed Nadzri @www.nst.com.my

IT almost turned into a night of shame at the National Stadium in Bukit Jalil on Sunday, when sharp rays of light shot from laser pointers in the spectator stands disrupted play and almost caused the first leg of the Suzuki Cup football final between Malaysia and Indonesia to be abandoned.

And this is something those dim-witted fans responsible for that dumb act should know — they were not doing the Malaysian team any favours by trying to blind Indonesian goalkeeper Markus Harison with the laser pointers each time he was up against a set piece.

The offence, plus the discharge of firecrackers at one stage, seemed to have been forgotten and eclipsed by the euphoria of Malaysia’s 3-0 win. But it cannot be denied that the consequences of the fans’ misbehaviour could have been fatal to the team.

In fact, the match was on the brink of being abandoned when referee Toma Masaaki of Japan stopped play not long into the second half following repeated protests from the Indonesian bench over the laser nuisance.

And if the match had been abandoned then, Malaysia and FAM, its governing football association, would have landed in a lot of trouble, risking a ban and a hefty fine on top of having to concede the match to Indonesia.

To the fans who flashed the laser pointers, it was a stupid thing to do and you should have just stayed at home. Not only did it show the ugly and unsportsmanlike side of Malaysians, it could have turned the emphatic victory, which I thought the young Malaysian side fully deserved, into a hollow one. The Indonesians, I’m quite sure, will be quick to claim that the six-and-a-half-minute stoppage by the referee following the disruption had affected their concentration, thereupon causing them to concede the three goals which incidentally came not long after.

True enough, an Indonesian fan from Jakarta was on Twitter immediately after the final whistle, declaring that Malaysia had won the match through dirty tactics.

It must also be remembered that the Suzuki Cup Southeast Asian Nations final is, quite uncommonly, over two legs with the return leg due in Jakarta tomorrow (December 29, 2010). Malaysia is, therefore, still not the conclusive winner despite having a three-goal advantage.

So, we can definitely expect a hot and intimidating reception in Jakarta with the anticipated capacity crowd at Gelora Bung Karno Stadium. They await the Malaysian team’s arrival and, at this stage, have not ruled out Indonesia overturning the deficit. After all, the team beat Malaysia 5-1 in the preliminary stage last month.

In sports, Jakarta has given Malaysia hostile reception on many occasions before. Remember the 1967 Thomas Cup final at the Senayan Indoor Stadium?

There was almost a riot when Malaysia took the lead. Play was halted on so many occasions when the crowd heckled the Malaysian team led by Teh Kew San and started flashing their camera bulbs when Malaysian players were about to receive a serve. In the end, the match was abandoned and Malaysia was declared winner with a 6-3 scoreline.

Sunday’s gaffe in Bukit Jalil almost came to that. But we all hope it will not happen again in Jakarta tomorrow in the spirit of sportsmanship. Still, the big questions remain about Sunday night: Why was security so lax? Why was no one hauled up when Indonesia first protested as early as in the first half?

The worst part was that firecrackers were also ignited and thrown towards the pitch in the heat of the incident. We saw it happen in some of the Malaysia Cup matches earlier and though Sunday’s disturbance was not as bad as the one that erupted in the Selangor-Kelantan match recently, it should have been menacing enough to make FAM sit up and do something.

Maybe it was too difficult, if not logistically impossible, to frisk all 85,000 people at the turnstiles. But, at least, the presence of security men in all sections of the stands could have minimised the risk.

But in the final analysis, the ball is at the fans’ feet. If they come to see a good game, they should know better. Shout Malaysia Boleh by all means, but keep the firecrackers for the Merdeka celebrations and the laser pointer for your power-point presentations in the office.

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