Dark times for Malaysian football as fans turn ugly
World Cup qualifier abandoned as Ultras unleash fiery protest
Malaysia's football reputation took another huge hit last night when the national team's Asian Zone World Cup Group A qualifier against Saudi Arabia was halted after angry fans hurled flares on to the pitch at the Shah Alam Stadium, forcing players and officials to take cover.
With Malaysia 2-1 down in the 88th minute, fans, incensed after last week's record 10-0 defeat by UAE, lit and threw fireworks which filled the arena with smoke.
Players and team officials were escorted to the changing rooms and Saudi supporters were seen leaving the stadium.
The match was later abandoned.
"Match stopped because fans threw flares onto the pitch," said a Malay-language Twitter update by the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM).
About a dozen flares trailing orange smoke - as well as loud fireworks - were let off by home fans and unconfirmed reports said two Saudi supporters had been attacked.
Saudi Arabia manager Bert van Marwijk hauled his players off the pitch as the threat of fan violence grew.
Some fireworks even reached the grandstand where fans were seated, causing them to run for cover and Saudi supporters could be seen running to the exits.
Malaysia led 1-0 when Safiq Rahim scored in the 70th minute, but Saudi Arabia equalised three minutes later through Taisir Al-Jassim and then took the lead after 76 minutes when Mohammed Al-Sahlawi scored.
With the visitors completely in control, a group of fans known as the Malaysian Ultras launched their flares and fireworks, apparently protesting against the FAM after the record defeat in Abu Dhabi last week.
Malaysian Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said on his twitter account that the
Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) lost control of their own stadium.
"Fans throwing flares were wrong. Both at fault tonight," he said.
Interim coach Ong Kim Swee had earlier urged fans not to disrupt the game in protest and FAM president Tengku Abdullah Ahmad Shah had also said he would slowly relinquish control of the national body.
Malaysia are rock bottom of Group A, after they were held 1-1 at home by East Timor and lost 6-0 to Palestine, before the humiliation at the hands of the UAE.
Dollah Salleh resigned as coach upon returning to Kuala Lumpur on Friday after the debacle in Abu Dhabi and the FAM appointed former international midfielder Ong as caretaker.
Amid calls for the heads of the FAM bigwigs, Malaysia's Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin had said he would hold a special meeting with the top management after the match with Saudi Arabia, where he would discuss the poor performance of the national team.
After the abandonment last night, the minister said on his twitter account that the FAM lost control of their own stadium.
"Fans throwing flares were wrong. Both at fault tonight," he added.
The latest incident will heap even more pressure on the FAM, and also raise questions over the security arrangements at the stadium.
And the FAM will wait nervously for the reaction from Fifa, who have in the past meted out substantial fines, docked points and also ordered teams to play matches in an empty stadium as punishment.
- Wire Services.
FAM lost control of its own stadium. Fans throwing flares were wrong. Both at fault tonight.
— Malaysia's Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin in his tweet last night