Fam plea to fans: Give us a chance

Embattled association drafts plan to return to 'glory days' after UAE and Saudi debacles

KUALA LUMPUR • Malaysia's embattled football body yesterday appealed to be given a chance to take the country back to the "glory days" after a fan revolt halted a World Cup qualifier, triggering a Fifa probe.

Fury over last week's record 0-10 defeat by the United Arab Emirates, the worst in a series of poor results, boiled over in Tuesday's game against Saudi Arabia.

The match in Kuala Lumpur was abandoned when fans fired flares onto the pitch.

Tengku Abdullah Ahmad Shah, the president of the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM), has already promised to step down "in stages". But no further resignations were announced after an executive committee meeting yesterday.

"We know football fans are disappointed with what is happening to Malaysian football and the incident (at the qualifying match)," FAM deputy president Afandi Hamzah told reporters.

"Hence, at this meeting, we decided that we need to bring Malaysian football back to its glory days."

The plan is to focus more on developing grassroots talent, enhancing local leagues and improving the FAM itself. A task force would meet next week to look into the matter, he added.

BLUEPRINT TO ENSURE PRESTIGE

At this meeting, we decided that we need to bring Malaysian football back to its glory days.

AFANDI HAMZAH, deputy president of the Football Association of Malaysia

It remains to be seen how his announcement will be received by critics, including increasingly impatient and assertive fan groups.

Malaysian football was competitive in the region in years past, winning the Asean Football Federation Suzuki Cup in 2010.

But experts say it is suffering from decades of inadequate efforts by the FAM to develop the game.

Abdul Mokhtar Ahmad, another deputy president, appealed to fans to "give us a chance" to make things right.

"We listen and hear you that there must be changes," he said.

The FAM has faced intense pressure after the loss to the UAE. That result cost coach Dollah Salleh his job, with former international midfielder Ong Kim Swee taking over as interim coach.

Earlier embarrassments included a 1-1 draw at home to East Timor and a 0-6 rout by Palestine.

With Asian powerhouses Japan having previously hired the likes of Brazil great Zico, Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin was asked if Malaysia would consider following in their footsteps.

But he dismissed the need for a foreign coach as the team does not deserve a big-name manager, reported the Malay Mail.

"I said if the car is second-hand or third-hand, even if we put a (Formula One) driver there, the performance may be a little bit better but at the end, that is what it is," he said on Thursday. "So it's better that we focus on the future."

Football is Malaysia's most popular sport but the national team are now 169th in the world in Fifa's rankings, just one spot above an all-time low of 170 in 2008.

As Malaysia trailed Saudi Arabia 1-2 in the final minutes of Tuesday's game, home fans vented their rage by lobbing flares onto the pitch, filling Shah Alam Stadium with smoke and forcing the game's cancellation.

It is unclear what actions Fifa may take against Malaysia, but these could include fines or ordering them to play behind closed doors.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 12, 2015, with the headline 'Fam plea to fans: Give us a chance'. Print Edition | Subscribe