John Lennon once sang, ‘Give peace a chance’.
And this is something some of the national football fans should take to heart ahead of Indonesia’s visit to our shores for the 2022 World Cup/2023 Asian Cup qualification campaigns on Nov 19.
The unruly scenes at Gelora Bung Karno Stadium yesterday – before, during and after Malaysia’s 3-2 victory in Group G – has seen many fans calling for retribution. Stadiums should rightfully be a safe place for all to enjoy football but that didn’t happen in Jakarta last night.
Many of the cretins who caused the havoc in Jakarta are unlikely to be at Bukit Jalil for the match.
And lest we forget, we have seen unruly behaviour in Malaysian stadiums too. Remember the scenes at the 2014 AFF Cup semifinal against Vietnam? Many Vietnamese fans were left bloodied and bruised after being attacked as local police sought 15 Malaysians to help in the investigations.
Let’s just enjoy the wonderful victory that has somewhat drowned weeks of negativity and toxic views.
Malaysia came back twice from a goal down to secure a win – four years and a day after its most humiliating 10-0 hammering by United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Goals from Mohamadou Sumareh (37th, 90th+7) and Syafiq Ahmad (66th) cancelled out Beto Goncalves’s brace (12th, 29th) to give coach Tan Cheng Hoe a winning start in the qualification campaign.
It was a joy to watch the Malaysians in action and the boys deserved a more handsome win. But all that will count for nothing when UAE come-a-calling on Tuesday.
Much has changed for Malaysia since that fateful day at the Mohamed Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi in 2015. Two Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) presidents have come and gone while Harimau Malaya has its third coach following Dollah Salleh’s resignation.
Malaysia has also accepted the need to have naturalised players – albeit those with some ties to the country.
Beating Indonesia was a belated Merdeka Day gift but scoring three points against UAE will be an early Malaysia Day present.
It won’t erase the painful memories of four years ago but help set up the team for the long road out of this group which also consists of Thailand and Vietnam. Malaysia has a great chance of finishing among the top two as Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia are not as highly regarded as they once were.
What’s at stake?
Well, group winners and the four best runners-up across all eight groups advance to the third round of the 2022 Qatar World Cup qualifiers but more importantly gain direct entry to the 2023 Asian Cup in China.
Malaysia’s goal is to qualify for the Asian Cup and it would like to do so as quickly as possible. Failure to finish in the top two would mean it will have to endure another qualifying campaign.
With so much at stake, it would be better for the fans to get behind the team and be at their best behaviour throughout the campaign. Let’s set an example to those who created a mess last night on how to behave and enjoy football. Be the bigger and better fan.
We know how support by the local fans can help Harimau Malaya roar.
Main image: Muhammad Syafiq Ahmad celebrates scoring Malaysia’s second equaliser against Indonesia, Malaysia won 3-2. – Photo by Hazrin Mohd Zaidun/asiana.my