By Roshan Narayan
The number 88 is meant to be lucky for the Chinese community. It is supposed to signify fortune and good luck. And it is what many of my Chinese friends tell me too. In this day and age of text and instant messaging, the number 88 now means "bye-bye" in Chinese chat language. This is because it simulates the sound of the English language term.
How apt that the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) have numbered one of their statutes metaphorically.
So far, everyone that has been charged under Article 88 has had to say 'goodbye' to their post in the FAM. The most recent victim of this 'article' is of course, the Malaysia head coach for the men's national football team, Datuk K. Rajagobal.
Just because he dared to mention the obvious.
Apparently he can't. Even as national head coach.
He wasn't criticising a particular person, organisation or ruling. He was merely answering a question by a journalist and mentioned a current situation in the national league.
Just like how Roy Hodgson would have done for England. Or Joachim Leow for Germany. Or Vicente Del Bosque for Spain. Or Luis Felipe Scolari for Brazil. Just imagine how many times Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger would have been hauled up by the FAM disciplinary committee.
For those who are unaware of what Article 88 is all about, in summary it states that no FAM employee (from tea lady to national coach to Vice Presidents, I suppose) is allowed to make statements with regards to the FAM or it's organisational structure, except the President and Secretary General.
So, why not just place a gag order on all their employees, the minute they're hired? "Making a statement" is such a generic description. Whatever any employee has to say to the media can be considered a statement or criticism, depending on who hears it and how it's been (mis)interpreted.
Why not just ban all press conferences by the national head coach? I'm sure Datuk Raja would appreciate less work in facing the Malaysian media each time something as catastrophic as the country's FIFA rankings is revealed.
What's the difference between that and impinging on someone's freedom of speech?
Why are the FAM so sensitive towards comments and criticism?
How do they expect to progress and grow if they don't listen to other people's opinion?
Do they know how this reflects on their image, by appearing to be some dictatorial organisation that won't stand for any of their underlings to voice their opinion?
It reminds me of back in the day when kids are meant to be seen and never heard.
Now, here's the clincher - we're also told there could be a conspiracy to kick Datuk Raja out.
Gasp! You think? Talk about stating the obvious.
So if it is a suspected intention already, then why not give him the benefit of the doubt? Why is there still, in the name of transparency, a disciplinary hearing against the man? Is he merely another pawn made out to be an example?
Malaysian football fans don't need any more examples. They've already seen several state FA presidents and a former national coach get the same treatment.
More so, since some of the committee's evidence will be based on media reports. With all due respect to my fellow media peers, but does the committee know how misconstrued unreliable media reports can be? Have they not played Chinese Whispers before?
For a man who has been shortlisted as a nominee for the Asean Football Federation's (AFF) Best Coach in 2012, can you imagine how damning even being hauled to a hearing will be to his credentials? Forget about being innocent till proven guilty. If you're innocent to begin with, what's the point of the accusation?
And to quote something said by the secretary general himself, as reported in the local press, if one really "must have credentials to speak about the sport", somebody better give the bigwigs at FIFA a call, now!