Unruly Malaysian football fans?

Malaysian football fans have been getting their fair share of limelight in the media lately, but for the wrong reasons, writes Tony Mariadass.

Without a doubt, the fan support has increased tremendously throughout the nation in the past few years. It should augur well for the sport, but it has brought about its fair share of problems too. 

One of the main issues is that fans have been accused of letting of fireworks, flares and smoke bombs at matches, besides occasional clashes with opposing fans. The emergence of the passionate-yet-volatile Ultras Malaya fans group all over the country has also given the fan support a new dimension, as their vocal and often out-spoken approach through demonstrations has painted a new picture of Malaysian football.

The Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) have come down hard where incidents have marred matches. Among them is fining the State FA for poor control of their fans and actions of the fans. And last week the FAM’s Disciplinary Committee fined Perak FA RM140,000 and ordered the team to play four home matches from June 14 in an empty stadium over crowd trouble during two of their Super League matches in Ipoh last month.

Certainly this kind of huge sums of money can be put to better use by Perak FA or even the fan club. Perak FA also cannot afford to play to empty stadiums because it is not only loss of revenue, but it will not go down well with their sponsors who will lose out in mileage of advertisement and exposure.

The new trend of demonstration also does not augur well where confrontations happen and dirty linen is washed in the public. Sometimes while fans are justified in their views, humiliating top officials including royalties through banners is certainly not a Malaysian culture, where we have utmost respect for our royalties.

However, the Ultras Malaya must be commended for calling off a demonstration outside the hotel where the 50th FAM congress was held on Sunday. They had called fans to turn up in numbers to demand a change in Malaysian football, but decided against it at the very last minute as the Congress proceeded without incident with winds of change sweeping through the elections.

The FAM and State FAs cannot do without the fan support and should make efforts to join hands and work together to give the game a new and better image.

Maybe, the fan clubs can even have a representative in the State FA councils so that there is better relationship between two and things can be better coordinated for the fan support for big matches. Fan clubs also should make an effort to have better relations with fans clubs from other States so that they meet at venues in a more friendly and sporting manner. In fact, several fans clubs have already started this campaign as seen between fans of Pahang, Johor and Selangor when they met recently.

In the meantime, the new-look FAM should start working immediately to build a bridge between the fans and themselves, so that there can be exchange of ideas and any untoward incidents can be avoided for the future.

One area fans have been complaining is the poor quality of refereeing, which is more often than not the root of discontentment among fans. While fans too should be educated to accept that the referees’ decision is final, the match officials themselves must be competent.

The standard of refereeing need to be addressed urgently, but at the same time the State FAs themselves have to contribute as well by having local leagues to produce more match officials and give them more exposure. It is because of a lack of exposure of match officials at the grassroots level that these officials graduate to become national officials with hardly any proper foundation. Can you blame erring in their decisions?

The game is certainly moving to a different level in Malaysia, and it is about time that a concerted effort is made by all to get things right instead of pulling in different directions to prove that each one is right. For the sake of the beautiful game, let us all unite to make the game entertaining, safe and healthy.

The views expressed by the writer do not necessarily reflect the views of FourFourTwo.

(Photo Credit: Muhammad Muslimi @ www.asiana.my)