Another ban for Balestier's Zulkiffli
Balestier Khalsa winger Zulkiffli Hassim will not turn out for his club any more in the 2016 season.
The Football Association of Singapore (FAS) Disciplinary Committee (DC) has found him guilty of making derogatory racial remarks.
The incident occurred in Balestier's 2-1 loss to Geylang International in a Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League match on Aug 25, with the 30-year-old allegedly making remarks of a racial nature against assistant referee Y Sathyakumar in the 90th minute.
This is not the first incident Zulkiffli has been mired in that saw racial undertones. He was hauled up for a similar incident four years ago.
In April 2012, the DC threw the book at Zulkiffli, after he pleaded guilty to charges of making racial remarks against Woodlands Wellington's Trinidadian defender Fabian Lewis.
He was banned for five games and received a suspended fine of $1,000.
This time around, he could see graver punishment.
Balestier, of their own accord, have suspended him without pay from Sept 8, and will hold a hearing of their own tomorrow.
Zulkiffli has not turned out for Balestier since Aug 25, missing one game - last week's 1-1 draw with Warriors FC - and will play no part in the Tigers' last four league games of the season.
He will also sit out Balestier's play-off for third place in the RHB Singapore Cup on Oct 29.
"Racial abuse has no place in the S.League and in Singapore, and for a club this is an extremely serious issue that is not to be treated lightly," said Balestier chairman S Thavaneson.
"We don't want to pre-judge him, but we decided to suspend him pending his DC hearing, and in that letter to him told him that the club reserve the right to take (further) disciplinary action against him.
"The first time (Zulkiffli was found guilty for a similar offence) we were sympathetic but firm, and told him that the club would not tolerate any form of racial abuse, against a player, official or fan. He agreed and realised the seriousness of his undertaking."
Balestier stood by their man in 2012, pointing to the fact that this was the first instance of such an offence, and while it would not be tolerated, was an isolated incident that happened in the heat of the moment in a match.
But, with the club hauling him up for a hearing of their own this time, the signs are not good for Zulkiffli.
"We want to follow due process, but the message must be clear and it must go down not just to players of Balestier, but to everyone," said Thavaneson.
"Racial abuse can lead to uglier things, and there is no place for it here."
A contrite Zulkiffli told The New Paper that he has missed being involved with his team.
"I regret what I did, it was in the heat of the moment, and I couldn't control my anger then," he said, revealing that he has been going for runs, and playing social football on weekends to stay in shape.
"I have to apologise to the club and my team. We don't have a very big squad, and with some of the players out injured, I really feel guilty that I cannot help them out on the pitch."