Belated Nazmi suspension does little to help FAM’s attempts at a new image
A little over a month ago the Crown Prince of Johor, Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim, spoke at length about the importance of 'perception' moments just after starting his tenure as FAM president.
The national body has been public enemy No.1 for years, largely because of the poor showings of the Malaysian national team and a perceived weak administration. Tunku Ismail was intent on changing that perception.
Answering the pleas of many to come in and save Malaysian football, for the most part the Crown Prince has set the right tone in his first month in charge.
Accusations of favouritism that surrounded the 'Pahang-led’ FAM in the past may worryingly shift down south as FAM president Tunku Ismail is also the owner of JDT.
To say the officiating by referee Zulkifli Ahmad and his four assistants was poor in that FA Cup second leg would be an understatement. Calls were not one-sided, but the standard has generally been regarded as unacceptable.
JDT had a legitimate penalty appeal turned down, while a brawl towards the end of the match did not see even a yellow card being brandished. Even FIFA Referee Instructor Subkhiddin Salleh, who is the FAM Referee Assessor Committee chairman, stated the officials had failed.
The FAM Disciplinary Committee, however, drew flak after Nazmi Faiz Mansor initially escaped punishment for kicking Matheus Alves during the brawl. Instead he was given a warning for unsporting behaviour for walking away from the customary after-game handshake.
Nazmi was given a warning for not greeting the opposition players at the end of the match
Mohamadou Sumareh and JDT’s Afiq Fazail were handed one-match suspensions for their involvement. Sumareh made a reckless challenge on Afiq while the latter retaliated. Alves was seen rushing in to Afiq but he was later kicked from the back by Nazmi.
The first announcement of the suspensions was made on social media late on Tuesday and drew criticism from football followers, many of whom watched the incidents live on television. Videos of the incidents were also circulating on social media.
FAM’s social media account, however, replied: “Read the statement properly and understand the true situation. The one that kicked the opponent is Afiq, not Nazmi. Nazmi was given a warning for not greeting the opposition players at the end of the match.”
On Wednesday morning, however, FAM issued another statement stating detailed analysis showed that "Nazmi was guilty at striking an opponent". He too received a one match suspension and RM3,000 fine.
What about Subkhiddin's explanation then?
Intriguingly, before Tuesday's statement was made, FAM posted an explanation by Subkhiddin just hours earlier, one that incriminated Nazmi, Sumareh, Afiq and Alves.
The well-respected former referee signalled out Nazmi for kicking Alves and said he should have received his marching orders. Subkhiddin felt even Alves should have got red for his involvment in the brawl.
Subkhiddin also drew comparisons to the Rizal Ghazali-Fahrurazi Musa incident in Kedah’s visit to T-Team a fortnight ago and gave his opinion that Afiq had retaliated to Sumareh’s tackle.
He also expressed regret that all officials failed to see the incident, something the proposed video assistant referee (VAR) may resolve. Yet it begs the question if issues like this may truly be done away with, considering the Disciplinary Committee had the liberty of watching replays but still failed to note Nazmi’s lunge at the first attempt.
It doesn't help that perception that it was only after the overnight criticism FAM received that they made a further decision. A simple cross-reference with Subkhiddin's statement may have saved a lot of hassle.
His view showed FAM were transparent as he signalled out JDT players without fear or favour, but the disciplinary commitee and FAM's social media team's handling of the situation didn't do similar justice.