Kelantan FC owner Zamsaham on the warpath

Norizan, Ramalingam, Ghani, threewayKelantan FC, MFL

The rumours of Malaysia Premier League side Kelantan FC's new head coach have finally been settled a few days ago with their owner himself, Norizam Tukiman announcing the appointment of Italian trainer Marco Ragini.

Unfortunately, this piece of news was eclipsed by a series of exchanges involving the club, the owner, and Malaysia's football administrators.

It all began last Wednesday, when the Malaysian FA's (FAM) status committee instructed the Red Warriors' previous operators, Kelantan FA (KAFA) to pay a total of around RM187,000 (USD46,000) in unpaid wages to 11 of its former players.

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Although the Wednesday press statement committee did not specify whether the team's new owner is responsible for the debt, Malaysian new agency Bernama then published a short interview with FAM secretary-general Stuart Ramalingam with the headline that Kelantan FC will have to settle the debts or face league points-deduction.

Stuart Ramalingam, FAMGoal

Stuart Ramalingam 

Norizam, who is also known as Zamsaham, reacted badly to these developments. On Thursday, he made several social media posts condemning FAM's decision and the privatisation drive undertaken by Malaysian professional teams last year. After Kelantan were separated from KAFA as Kelantan FC, Norizam purchased the club for RM6.8 million, along with its numerous debts.

"Pointless privatisation. If KAFA's debts have to be paid off by Kelantan FC, what's the point of privatisation?"

"Malaysia is ranked 153th in the world. Most embarrassing! Who is overseeing the sport in Malaysia?"

The hotel chain owner however posted that KAFA has agreed to take care of the RM187,000 debts.

"KAFA has explained that they will settle the debts. Kelantan FC only want to look ahead.

"FAM needs to assist the privatisation process, instead of telling the press that a three-points deduction will be handed before telling the club and KAFA first. FAM needs to be smarter than they usually are.

"MFL (Malaysian competitions organiser Malaysian Football League) has not even paid off its match broadcasting debts! It still owes referees money!" 

On Thursday evening, FAM published a social media posting defending itself, stating that Stuart never made the remark that Kelantan FC will be made to pay off the unpaid wages. The association even included the audio recording of the interview in the posting.

Things then took an even more bizarre turn, preempted by another Facebook posting by Norizam."I'm a newcomer in football, but please don't bully me."

On Saturday, Norizam partially posted a letter sent by MFL CEO Datuk Ab Ghani Hassan to the club, regarding his social media postings. He did not publish all pages of the letter, but it is implied that the letter was sent with the intention of warning him against speaking out through unofficial channels.

Ghani Ab Hassan, 2020Malaysian Football League

Ab Ghani Hassan. Photo by MFL

In the posting, Norizam retorted by claiming that he is simply upset that MFL has not been communicating with clubs and owners adequately, and that he only wants the Malaysian league to be run transparently and with good corporate governance.

On Sunday, the businessman continues his tirade against MFL, levelling further accusations against it.

"Since I took over Kelantan FC in September last year (2020), the club have not received a single cent from Mycujoo (internet match broadcaster) and MFL online collections. We've inquired about it through e-mails, but have received no answer."

"The reason given by MFL is Covid-19 and the lack of sponsors. But the audience pays cash to watch matches on Mycujoo. So why have the Red Warriors not received its share? We've sent e-mails."

"I was massively shocked to know that clubs have to pay the referees, but MFL hasn't settled the claims in five months. A demand letter has been sent."

"MFL owes the club, yet asks the club to pay the RM25,000 league participation fee. It wasn't easy but we worked on it to make the payment."

"I'm not seeking publicity, I just don't want Kelantan to be bullied. We have to fight for what's ours."