Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Your move, FAM

THE “12th man” is a term affectionately used to refer to football fans of any club or country.

These fans are like the 12th player as they can inspire the team to greater heights or to turn around a seemingly hopeless situation with their fanatical support.

But once they cross the line – by turning violent – then, they are no longer fans ... but plain hooligans!

And that’s what the small but unruly group of fans were after what they did during the AFF Suzuki Cup match between Malaysia and Vietnam at the Shah Alam Stadium on Sunday.

But this is not a new problem. It has been brewing for some time now.

The ugly fiasco on Sunday has certainly tarnished the image of Malaysia. Indeed, it’s a black day in Malaysian football.

So, what happened on Sunday?

It all flared up after Vietnam scored the second goal to lead 2-1 at the hour mark (which happens to be the final score as well).

The 3,000-odd Vietnam supporters celebrated on the stands.

The next thing you know, a group of unruly home fans stormed into the Vietnam section and began to brutally attack the visiting team’s supporters – right in front of the police.

If that’s not defiance, then I don’t know what is.

How could such an incident occur despite the tight security at the stadium? Where was the security?

This has to be the final straw. The Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) have got to stop giving excuses and calling for emergency press conferences to give their side of the story.

The bottom line is that damage has been done ... despite repeated warnings.

What made Sunday’s brazen attack even worse was that women spectators were not spared either.

The ruthless attack left several Vietnam fans all bloodied and the senseless act has even gone viral.

The country has been shamed. All because of this group of mindless minority.

Malaysia used to boast of being one of the best hosts when it comes to organising international sporting events.

The FAM were even known as a “role-model association” once.

About 20 years ago, the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) sent a delegation to Malaysia to study FAM’s organisational structure and administrative set-up. And they were impressed with what they saw.

What has happened, FAM?

Let’s not court disaster, now. FAM have to get tough and stop the rot before a life is lost.

Crowd violence at football matches is nothing new.

It has happened all over the world – even domestically. Only thing is that it has been getting out of hand, lately.

Have we all forgotten the Heysel and Hillsborough tragedies?

In 1985, 39 people lost their lives and some 600 were injured when fans were pinned against the wall due to overcrowding before the start of the European Cup final between Juventus and Liverpool at the Heysel Stadium in Belgium.

In 1989, 96 people died and 766 were injured during the FA Cup semi-final match between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest at the Hillsborough Stadium.

Do we want to see such tragedy at our venues?

Closer to home, two people were killed during a stampede at the 2011 SEA Games football final between Malaysia and Indonesia at the Gelora Bung Karno Stadium in Jakarta. In this incident, counterfeit tickets were sold copiously and this led to more than 100,000 supporters rushing into the stadium.

The Gelora Bung Karno Stadium was once deemed a “high risk” venue. (A venue which is deemed “high risk” requires a higher level of safety and security).

Now, do we want our stadium to become one as well?

Instead of finding scapegoats for the Shah Alam Stadium fiasco, let’s focus our attention on how to solve the problem.

It has to start with FAM.

Educating the public is one way. Increasing security is another.

The police must come down hard on the perpetrators as well and put the fear of the law in those who think they can breed lawlessness.

FAM should also sit down with their affiliates and iron all out the security weaknesses at all the stadiums. It also pays to be vigilant at all times.

This malaise is spreading – fast. So, the authorities had better get cracking.



by Eric Samuel - The Star

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