Hot on the pitch, heat on the grounds
Johor football fans say they were mistreated by security officers at Jalan Besar Stadium
They came from across the Causeway to enjoy a football match.
But the 150-odd Johor Darul Takzim (JDT) supporters who travelled to Singapore to watch their team's Malaysia Super League (MSL) match against the LionsXII at the Jalan Besar Stadium on Tuesday, claim that overly-stringent security officers turned their trip into a farce.
Most of them ended up watching a portion of the match on their mobile phones outside the stadium, JDT fan Zaman Nuri Hassan, who runs the "Luaskan Kuasa Mu Oh Johor Ku" Facebook fan page, told The New Paper yesterday.
Five Malaysians - a woman and four men - were arrested before the match for disorderly behaviour. They are out on bail and investigations are ongoing.
Mr Zaman said many JDT supporters were agitated when security officials at Jalan Besar told them to stay inside their buses even after they arrived late at the stadium.
He said the fans, who were in five buses, had left Larkin Stadium at 3pm, but were held up for almost two hours at the Woodlands Checkpoint as their buses were inspected.
After arriving at the stadium at 7.45pm - the kick-off time - they were made to wait even longer.
"We were already late, but they still wouldn't let us get off the bus," said Mr Zaman.
"The doors of the bus were opened, but they didn't let us go anywhere. We couldn't even leave the bus to pee.
"There was a mixture of security officers, some in all-black attire, some in yellow vests and some people in plainclothes taking pictures of us.
"Some of us saw it as provocation. For 30 minutes, we were forced to sit in the bus and just wait."
In response to TNP's queries, a police spokesman said: "The buses arrived at Jalan Besar Stadium late. The arrangement was for the buses to take turns to drive to the 'away' fan gate for alighting (and) the away fans would then be facilitated to enter the stadium to watch the match.
"The fans waiting in the buses were advised not to leave the buses as this would have caused further delay to the drop-off process.
"There was a delay that night for the fans to enter the stadium as the liaison from the away fans were sorting out the ticket arrangements."
Mr Zaman claimed he was among the first busload of JDT fans to be allowed into the stadium.
By then, it was the 35th minute of the match, which JDT eventually won 3-2 through a controversial refereeing decision.
But that was not the end of the drama.
During the second-half, a large number of JDT fans began streaming out of their designated area at the stadium.
"At that point, we heard that three busloads of our supporters were not allowed into the stadium despite having tickets," Mr Zaman said.
"So we decided to boycott the game as a form of protest and to show unity with our fellow JDT fans.
"All of us left the stadium, and we watched the game on our mobile phones on the Astro On The Go website."
The Football Association of Singapore (FAS) said the Malaysian fans who were turned away "were not holders of tickets to the rightful and appropriate fan seating sectors". (See report above.)
At this point, some supporters became unruly after being denied entry.
In one video that has been making the rounds on social media, some fans can be seen aggressively shouting offensive words at Cisco officers outside the stadium, with one screaming "kecut" (cowards in Malay) at them.
In the same video, another fan is heard shouting in Malay: "We need to pee! We're hungry! Thirsty! Why are we here?"
Security officers can be seen boxing the supporters in with white rope, which incensed them further. Mr Zaman said it made the fans feel "like animals".
"The rope was used by Cisco as part of their crowd-control plan," a police spokesman said.
"The police officers were helping to maintain order among the fans who were walking to the stadium without any tickets while their liaison was sorting out the tickets. The fans were advised to go back to the buses to wait as they would not be able to enter the stadium without tickets."
It is understood that some of the JDT fans had tickets, but they were for seats outside the designated area for away supporters.
A local football fan, who declined to be named, told TNP: "This type of strict security is a one-off. I have many friends from Malaysia who I sit with at LionsXII games, and there's always no problem."
Referring to the away supporters who became unruly, he said: "I think it's just a case of the JDT fans getting upset at being unable to enter after buying tickets meant for Singaporeans."
TNP: Johor Darul Ta'zim (JDT) fans alleged there was no police escort, which caused them to arrive late. They claimed they were escorted last year. Can the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) clarify the arrangements for Malaysian fans coming to Singapore?
FAS: The FAS would like to clarify that no such arrangements were made for JDT fans who travelled to Singapore to attend last year's match. It is not the FAS' policy to provide police escorts for Malaysian fans travelling to Singapore to attend football matches.
TNP: JDT fans claimed they were not allowed to leave the bus for 30 minutes after they reached Jalan Besar, and were forced to sit in the buses. Is this true?
FAS: We wish to iterate that this is untrue. As there were five coaches carrying JDT fans, the disembarkation process may have taken slightly longer than usual for some of these fans because of the stringent security checks and measures in place at the Away Fans section of the stadium.
TNP: JDT fans claimed three of their five busloads of fans were denied entry despite having tickets. Is this true?
FAS: A number of Malaysian fans of JDT were denied entry as they were not holders of tickets to the rightful and appropriate fan seating sectors.
TNP: JDT fans said they were not allowed to bring drums inside, while these were allowed in last season. Can the FAS clarify?
FAS: As part of our stadium security considerations, organised fan groups may be allowed to bring selected musical instruments, if prior approval had been obtained from the FAS.
This had been communicated officially to JDT. A number of JDT fans were unable to bring their musical instruments in on Tuesday night because they did not possess the necessary clearance from FAS.