Football: AFC officials 'extremely disappointed' by Shah Alam crowd trouble

Malaysian police try to control the crowd after play was suspended during the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifying football match between Malaysia and Saudi Arabia on Sept 8, 2015.
Malaysian police try to control the crowd after play was suspended during the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifying football match between Malaysia and Saudi Arabia on Sept 8, 2015. PHOTO: AFP

Reuters - Asian soccer officials have condemned the crowd disturbances that forced the abandonment of Tuesday's World Cup qualifier in Malaysia and vowed to help the sport's world governing body Fifa with its investigation into the incident.

The match, between Malaysia and Saudi Arabia at the Shah Alam Stadium in Selangor, was called off less than three minutes before full-time after local fans launched flares and fireworks from the stands.

Players from both teams fled the pitch as thick smoke began filling the ground. They did not return and the match was later abandoned and a report on the incident was sent to Fifa by the match commissioner, Rufus Prince of India.

"The AFC is extremely disappointed with the events which took place on Tuesday and we stress that we take such matters very seriously," Asian Football Confederation (AFC) president Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa said in a strongly-worded statement on Wednesday.

"Football in Asia stands for fairness and integrity and the incident in Kuala Lumpur does nothing to enhance the image of the game across not only our continent but also the rest of the world.

"This sort of behaviour is deplored by all those who seek to protect the best interests of football in Asia and help us in our aim to be the game's leading confederation."

Fifa has not yet announced any sanctions but typically takes a dim view of crowd disturbances, often handing out punishments including awarding 3-0 victories to the away team, issuing fines to the host nation and insisting future matches be played behind closed doors in empty stadiums.

"The Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) will wait for the results from Fifa on the matter and make an appropriate announcement soon," FAM deputy president Haji Afandi Hamzah said in a statement.

"The association looks at this incidence seriously, especially when it comes to the security of all parties including the spectators, players and securities in the stadium."

Saudi Arabia were leading 2-1 in the Asian Group A qualifier when play was stopped in the 87th minute after the trouble began.

Malaysia have slipped to 169th in the latest world rankings and are already bottom of the group standings after suffering a record 10-0 loss to United Arab Emirates, infuriating some local supporters who had threatened to protest during the match.

Dollah Salleh resigned as coach after returning to Kuala Lumpur last Friday and the FAM appointed former international midfielder Ong Kim Swee as caretaker.

In the lead-up to Tuesday's match, Ong pleaded with disgruntled Malaysian supporters not to disrupt the game and local media said hundreds of extra police had been deployed in case there was any trouble.

Malaysia's state news agency Bernama, citing police, said on Wednesday that "up to 11 people have been remanded" over the incident.

The Star Online said police were surprised at how the fans managed to get the fireworks into the stadium.

"Based on how we conducted checks on those entering the stadium, it is quite impossible for them to bring in the items without anyone noticing," a police spokesman told the Star Online. "Maybe the items were smuggled into the stadium earlier."