Fan Speak: Not the proudest moment for both Sarawak and LionsXII

Long-time Sarawak fan Cyril Dason who was in attendance at the Sarawak State Stadium for the fateful match that became infamous for fan unrest recalls the events
By Cyril Dason | Malaysia

As expected, a thrilling match was played in Kuching last Saturday with the game televised live from the Sarawak State Stadium. 

Fans were excited as the last live game televised from the State Stadium was in 1992, and the home team, known as the Crocs, didn't disappoint their fans as they dominated the game.

Tucked away opposite the main grandstand were about 50 supporters of LionsXII. Clad in white and red, the supporters hung a medium-sized Singapore flag at the stadium fence.

There was no obvious barrier between them and the Sarawak supporters, but a few security forces were there just to keep things safe. The game was dominated by Sarawak, but the LionsXII did have their moments.

Unfortunately, in a massive turn of events, LionsXII, who were no danger except when it came to set-pieces, were awarded a penalty which they converted and won the game. 

There was no replay for those at the stadium and so everyone felt it was dubious how a penalty could be awarded. 

But they didn't misbehave. A few items making its way to the pitch - far from the pitch - is common in Malaysian football. 

You know it, I know it. 

In fact, most Sarawakian fans are unhappy if they find out someone had thrown an object onto the pitch.

Post-match | Some Sarawak fans stayed behind after the match to voice their unhappiness

When the game was stopped due to laser pointers being directed at LionsXII goalkeeper Hyrulnizam Ismail, the fans booed the person responsible with many asking the police to catch the person.

However, decisions made by the man in the middle after the penalty-kick never seemed to favour the home team, and this caused dissatisfaction, particularly when many saw what was an obvious handball turned down for the home team. 

When the whistle blew, bottles flew, targeting one man - the person deemed to be biased in his decisions.  He was making his way out of the field.

Substituted and unused substitute players of the LionsXII were seen to have taken shelter under their bench while the Sarawak players crowded the referee. 

The crowd chanted 'Referee rasuah' as verbal abuses were directed at the referee. 

The LionsXII players at this point were on the pitch moving towards their supporters at the other end to show appreciation for their support.  Except for probably the usual verbal abuses, no object was hurled at them as their fans cheered when their players came close.

The situation was different at the main grandstand where the referee had to be protected by the riot control police, Federal Reserve Unit (FRU), due to objects being thrown at him. Some of the LionsXII players chose to walk with the referee, hence seemingly making them look like targets when they weren't. 

"Biased refereeing in favour of teams opposing Sarawak is not uncommon in Malaysian football"

The situation in the stadium calmed down after the referee entered the tunnel, but some Sarawak fans chose to gate-crash the grandstand in search of the referee. In the process, they vandalized the main gate and a bus which was said to ferry the match officials.

The fans gathered at the grandstand area, chanting 'Referee rasuah' again, and continued to sing patriotic songs.  One man came up, shouting 'We will wait for the referee!'.  As a precaution, all players and officials were asked not to leave until the FRU came to disperse the crowd.  When the FRU came, they broke the crowd up and the eventful night ended.

Biased refereeing in favour of teams opposing Sarawak is not uncommon in Malaysian football with the Crocs having experienced it countless times. The worst happened in 1989 resulting in Sarawak FA pulling out of the Malaysian Football Association(FAM). The tragedy was resolved when FAM sent their Deputy President to settle the issue but poor refereeing decisions continue to plague the Malaysian league with history only making Sarawakians even more emotional when it continues to happen to their beloved team.  

Hostilities seem to be imminent as Malaysian press outside of Sarawak continue to show favouritism over Peninsular-based teams in their reviews and reports while downplaying the Borneo team's ability in football. 

A win for Sarawak would be greeted with little coverage by these press or with some claiming that Sarawak was 'lucky' while still claiming the defeated team was controlling the game despite live coverage showing otherwise. 

Commentators on live-telecasted matches are also seen to be more inclined to comment on the ability of the Peninsular-based teams, while bringing up issues which will downgrade Sarawak's ability.

To say that Sarawakians are sore losers would be indeed misguided as the fans didn't react in such a manner when they were defeated 1-0 by Terengganu in their second home game this season, and when they lost to Kelantan last season, a match that saw a crowd of 35,000 fill the stadium.

Updates on the incident fast became news on social media with photos and captions portraying Sarawakians as hooligans.  Many chose to believe these publications and gave their two cents on the whole incident despite not being in the stadium physically.

"However, the racist remarks seen online, coming from fans in a country deemed by many as 'first class' is even worse, if not equal."

With that said, the incident at the Sarawak State Stadium last Saturday is indeed not the proudest moment for Sarawak football because we could really do away with such incidents.

However, the racist remarks seen online, coming from fans in a country deemed by many as 'first class' is even worse, if not equal.

The final score of the game will stay, but the damage caused by the Sarawakian fans will cost the Football Association of Sarawak (FAS) and as such, so will the online abuses which will go on to shame the team these abusers support.