13 questions to ponder as violent attacks leave Malaysian footballers, officials reeling in fear

The fear is real. The questions keep flooding in. This was not the start of the new, exciting Malaysian football season that footballers, officials, sponsors, and even the fans had in mind.

A series of attacks became the talking point ahead of the 2024 season. On May 2, Akhyar Rashid, who plays for Terengganu FC, was allegedly “robbed” and assaulted outside a condominium in Kuala Terengganu.

On May 5, Selangor FC’s Faisal Halim was splashed with concentrated sulphuric acid, shocking Malaysians, even as news of the incident hit headlines worldwide.

And on May 7, “attackers” were brave enough to break the rear windscreen of Johor Darul Ta’zim player Safiq Rahim’s Honda City near the club’s training grounds in Sri Gelam, Johor Bahru.

Police are still investigating all three cases. Two suspects were nabbed in the acid attack but they have since been released.

On May 11, Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Razarudin Husain had reportedly said the Bukit Aman Criminal Investigation Department would prepare a photo-fit of a suspect linked to the acid attack, “soon”.

Footballers, especially those in the Selangor FC camp, admit they are still fearful that such an attack could happen again. Even officials are afraid to speak, some downplaying the alleged “threats” they received. They don’t want anymore trouble.

This scenario is not new; there has been a fear of speaking up for decades. In the past, players or officials who spoke their minds were hauled up under Article 88 of the FA of Malaysia’s (FAM) constitution. After much criticism, the regulation was amended in 2013. Yet, players and officials remain fearful of other repercussions.

It remains unclear if the series of attacks had anything to do with Caltex Malaysia cancelling its May 7 press conference “to unveil a significant sponsorship partnership encompassing both the Malaysian Football League and the prestigious FA Cup”.

The episodes have also sparked a series of questions. They include:

1. Why were the three players attacked?

2. Are the attacks connected?

3. Who are those behind the attacks?

4. What other punishment will be meted out to Selangor FC for not playing in the Charity Shield match?

5. What is the update on the incident involving a fan who was allegedly attacked during the FA Cup final last year?

6. Why hasn’t the Youth and Sports Ministry followed up on the alleged attack on the football fan, and the alleged assault against Selangor assistant coach Ramon Marcote during another FA Cup match in June last year?

7. The Crown Prince of Selangor, Tengku Amir Shah, in a July 28, 2023 letter titled ‘Lack of fair play, sportsmanship and hooliganism: A plague in our game’, raised concerns about the security and safety of footballers and fans. The letter was copied to the Youth and Sports Ministry, among others. Is the ministry and other stakeholders working to address the prince’s concerns?

8. The Sultan of Selangor, Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah Alhaj, who is also the patron of Selangor FC but who has never been seen associating himself with the affairs of the club, expressed his disappointment with MFL for rejecting Selangor FC’s request to postpone the Charity Shield match last week in Johor. Is there more to this than meets the eye?

9. Selangor FC chief executive officer Johan Kamal Hamidon claimed he and several other Selangor FC officials were warned that they too could be the next targets. Johan lodged a police report regarding the matter. Why aren’t the other officials speaking up?

10. Have the other Selangor FC officials also lodged reports regarding the alleged threats? If not, why?

11. Should Malaysian footballers and officials just keep mum, and continue to live in fear?

12. Will these questions be answered?

13. Or will silence prevail and everything soon be forgotten?

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