Is Malaysian football facing desperate times?


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Is Malaysian football facing desperate times?
By Zan Azlee

As superficial and simplistic as it may seem, sports really does play a big role in helping to unite the different people in Malaysia. You really have to agree.

It’s when Malaysian sports teams play in the international arena or our athletes competing against those from other countries that everyone puts aside their differences and cheer together.

I see it happening all the time. I noticed this in 1992 when Malaysia won the Thomas Cup in our own backyard. The spirit of Malaysian-ness was so strong then.

And amid all of the tension that the country is facing in the recent past (and currently), everyone still can gather together and support Datuk Lee Chong Wei and Datuk Nicol David.

Remember the last Olympic Games in 2012 in London? Every single Malaysian supported Chong Wei in trying to get the Gold, and they also came together to console him when he failed.

And then our darling Pandelela Rinong won a bronze medal in diving, the first ever female Malaysian to win a medal, made everyone cheer again.

To a lesser extent, all Malaysians seem to be able to come together to support the Malaysian football team as well, even though they have yet to prove they are of decent calibre.

What happened at the Shah Alam Stadium on Tuesday night was something that many saw as an incident that has shamefully tarnished the image of the country.

The fan group Ultras Malaya who are known for their fierce devotion to the Malaysian national football team threw flares and fired firecrackers on to the field.

And it happened during a World Cup qualifying match between the Harimau Malaya and Saudi Arabia, with the Saudis leading 2-1 at the time.

This followed another match, played in Abu Dhabi last week, between Harimau Malaya and the UAE, where the Malaysian side suffered its biggest ever defeat in a competitive international match, losing by 10 goals to nil.

Of course, resorting to violence is never right. In this case, they put the players in danger and there were also reports in the media saying that they attacked the Saudi Arabian fans.

But, if you look at the context of it all, it would be obvious that their feelings towards the performance of the Malaysian football team is one of frustration and disappointment.

Football is one of the most favourite sports in Malaysia. And here is a team that has been the apple of the eye of the country. But over the decades, they have only gone from bad to worse.

How else can the supporters vent their frustrations? No, I’m not trying to vilify or justify the actions of the group of supporters who did what they did that night.

Let’s just take a look at the example of the street protests and demonstrations around the world (and maybe even in Malaysia). It happens when there is no other alternative for the people.

When there is no proper channel for the people to voice their concerns and be heard, they usually resort to the last option. Some would say, desperate times calls for desperate measures.

So in terms of the Ultras Malaya, they could be dissatisfied with the performance of the team or the way the country’s football administration is handled by the governing bodies.

And when they have feelings that are so strong, is there a proper channel for them to voice their concerns and be heard?

Could this be a case of desperate times calling for desperate measures?

[This article originally appeared at The Malaysian Insider]

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