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Friday, October 30, 2020

Sabah DCM steps in as tempers flare over football ouster

 

Sabah head coach Kurniawan Dwi Yulianto (in red jersey) in one of the training sessions for the Tambadaus in Kota Kinabalu previously. (Sabah FA pic)

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah Deputy Chief Minister Bung Moktar Radin has urged football supporters in the state to remain calm after their team was denied the chance of competing in Malaysia’s top two competitions due to strict travel restrictions.

This came after scores of fans took to social media to vent their frustrations, with some calling the decision by the Malaysian Football League (MFL) as “unfair” and others pointing out that other states facing Covid-19 situation were still able to compete.

Bombarding the MFL Facebook page, netizens questioned why the decision was made at the last minute. Some also charged that it was better to cancel the Malaysia Cup if safety and health were the main concerns.

Sabah’s season came to a premature end yesterday after the National Security Council (MKN) turned down a request for an exemption to the travel restrictions to enable the team to compete in their final Super League game and play in the Malaysia Cup.

Bung said he was also disappointed over the matter but that everyone should respect MKN’s decision as Sabah was one of the states that had been hardest hit by the pandemic.

“Obviously, MKN was thinking of the safety of not only the players and officials, but also the spectators,” he said, when contacted.

“My advice to all Sabah supporters is not to be too disappointed because once the pandemic subsides, the state will come back. We will ensure the team is one of the feared sides around.

“Maybe there is something good to come out from Sabah not competing because safety and health are the priorities now,” he said, adding the MKN and health officials would know better about the situation on the ground and hence the decision.

Bung, however, said the MFL should consider preparing its own SOPs so that teams like Sabah, also known as the Tambadaus, could take part next time.

“They should notify teams, especially those far away from Sabah and Sarawak, in advance so the teams can come earlier and fulfil the 14-day quarantine for them to play,” he said.

MFL CEO Ab Ghani Hassan yesterday said the final league game between Sabah and UiTM FC could not proceed after the MKN turned down the team’s request for the travel exemption. The game had already been postponed twice previously.

He said competing in the Malaysia Cup was also impossible as the required 14-day self-quarantine, even if the squad had arrived in Kuala Lumpur yesterday, meant that they would still not be able to play the first round matches scheduled from Nov 6-8.

‘If MPs can be quarantined, why not the Sabah team?’

Former Sabah youth and sports minister Phoong Jin Zhe was however unapologetic, saying it was unfair to the state players.

“If Sabah MPs can be quarantined for 14 days prior to the Parliament sitting, why can’t the Sabah team? Can you imagine Sabahan MPs barred from attending Parliament?

“I’m speaking about equal treatment here.

“MFL postponed the (Super League) match two times before. So, they could have informed the Sabah team to arrive earlier to fulfil the quarantine requirements,” he said.

He shared an example where the National Basketball Association (NBA) league in the US gathered all competing teams in Orlando and only used one stadium for the remaining games in the season.

Phoong said all the teams were not allowed to leave the designated area and no one was allowed to enter either, with all players and teams arriving 14 days before the first game, undergoing quarantine before the competition started.

“I’m sure the sports ministry would have many modules and examples to learn from other major sports tournaments … disqualifying a team is disgraceful.”

Fan Club Tambadau Sabah president Liawas Barukang also believed the authorities could have done better with the SOPs.

“I am in total agreement with the netizens. The 14-day requirement can be revised in such a way that there is special entry for Sabah to compete in away games in the peninsula or for the teams from West Malaysia to play here.

“However, considering what is happening in Sabah currently, I think the fans can understand the reasons why MFL decided to sideline Sabah from the competition although I am personally unhappy,” he said. - FMT

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