By Khalis Rifhan
LionsXII fans were treated to a comedy of horrors over the weekend as they watched their team start with nine men on the pitch for the rescheduled Malaysia FA Cup first round tie against Selangor PKNS FC.
The original match scheduled on Friday was abandoned due to heavy rain.
Before the team left the stadium on Friday, match commissioner Jalaluddin Khamaruddin had informed both coaches that any cards picked up during the abandoned match will be carried forward to the rescheduled game.
Well, that is fair enough. But it soon turned into a mockery for the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM), as Jalaluddin then informed the coaches that they had to field the same starting line-up as the day before.
It might have been funny for FAM but it was definitely akin to more than just watching a horror movie for LionsXII coach V.Sundramoorthy as his captain Shahril Ishak and Faritz Hameed had returned to Singapore due to family matters and National Service commitments respectively.
LionsXII started the game with only nine men but thankfully PKNS graciously kicked the ball out of play in the opening minutes to allow the visitors to make a double substitution and bring on Faris Azienuddin and Izzdin Shafiq into the game.
Add to that the unusual decision to stop the game for a few minutes, half-hour into the match when the Islamic call to prayers was heard, something that was never written into the rules of the game or even that of the FAM.
But one question remains, 'why was the rescheduled match played a day after it was abandoned?' I can’t remember anything like this happening in professional football, except in amateur Sunday leagues or kick-about session in the street soccer courts, where rules are applied in accordance to the law of the jungle.
The question goes unanswered when a local newspaper tried to clarify matter with FAM and as usual, what they got is an answer to a different question.
So amidst this mystery, LionsXII went a man and a goal down before the break, but kept their heads high and displayed a brave yet unlucky performance in the second-half.
So, there goes one silverware for the season. But fret not, as it might be a blessing in disguise to the team.
With the team out of the competition, they are able to focus their energy towards the Super League and the Malaysia Cup, scheduled to start after the end of the league campaign.
From day one, there have been many obstacles and a not-so perfect journey for LionsXII and Sundram, with players unavailable for away matches and not to mention suspension and injuries.
But the players should not see this as something negative but instead as a challenge set upon them in their quest for a bigger catch at the end of the year, the South-East Asian Games in Myanmar.
The road may not be smooth, no one said it was easy, but it is lessons like this that will toughen the players up, and turn their sorrow into cries of happiness once they see results coming their way.