AFC gen sec: Guidelines followed, Bukit Jalil field was fit for 9pm Bahrain-Malaysia clash

There was no need for the Bahrain-Malaysia Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Asian Cup qualifier match to be delayed for 30 minutes as the field at the National Stadium in Bukit Jalil was fit for play.

AFC general secretary Datuk Seri Windsor Paul John explained that the referees and match commissioner made the decision based on the guidelines set.

Sadullo Gulmurodi from Tajikistan was the match referee, while match commissioner was Iraqi Govand Abdul Khaleq Masood.

“I went down to the field 30 minutes before the match started and asked the match commissioner what was his plan. He said he spoke to the referees and they would have a look at it,” John told Twentytwo13 this morning.

“There are three criteria to kick off a match. Firstly, the ball can move on the ground in the majority of the field area, and that’s for the referee to decide. Secondly, the field markings must be visible, and that too, is the referee’s call. Last but not least, there must not be lightning.”

“If there is a security concern outside the field, then it is for AFC and the national governing body (in this case, the FA of Malaysia) to decide. A kick-off is based on a referee’s decision, not the organiser or AFC, unless of course, if the referee has concerns, then it is for us (AFC and the governing body) to decide if the match should be delayed.”

He added delays are never encouraged, unless there is a ‘risk factor’.

John also highlighted that all six venues hosting the qualifiers used only one stadium.

Malaysia Stadium Corporation (PSM), in a statement yesterday, said it had told AFC to delay the match for 30 minutes due to the downpour in Kuala Lumpur. PSM even showed a video of water gushing into the drains, saying there were no issues with the drainage system, but that it just needed time for the water to clear the field.

PSM also took issue with the actions of several individuals who had used dustpans and brooms to sweep away water from the rain-soaked football pitch, adding that such actions would only further damage the field. It remains unclear who had instructed the individuals to do so, or if PSM would take action against them.

The National Stadium will host the remaining Asian Cup qualifiers tomorrow. Bahrain will play Turkmenistan at 5.15pm, while Malaysia will face Bangladesh at 9pm.

The stadium, which was built ahead of the 1998 Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur, has hogged the limelight, all for the wrong reasons, since 2002, mainly due to its poorly maintained field.

The field is expected to be re-turfed, yet again, early next year.