Everything was going swimmingly well from a Malaysian perspective in the preliminary first round of the joint 2022 World Cup and 2023 Asian Cup qualification double header against Timor Leste. Goals were plenty and the matches were played in good spirits with Malaysia reaching the second round of the qualification on a 12-2 aggregate score.
But at full time with the Malaysian team celebrating at the bench, a bright red flare was sparked into life in the crowd and a large smoke began to engulf one section of Bukit Jalil National Stadium. An incident bersmirching what was a good success achieved by Tan Cheng Hoe and his team.
Security immediately rushed to the location and one fan can be clearly seen holding the solitary flare. A 15-year-old boy was then taken into custody for further investigations by the police as surroundings fans who had earlier booed the boy, cheered his arrest.
FAM's general-secretary Stuart Ramalingam expressed his disappointment over what transpired, which took the shine off the success on the pitch. A USD5,000 fine at the minimum is expected from FIFA, with the fear of possible further recriminations to come if the governing body sees fit.
"First of all, FAM are really happy and appreciative of the efforts the fans took to come for the matches despite the on-going Hari Raya celebrations. We know it is not easy for them to put a pause on their festivities to come and support the national team. The numbers are not Suzuki Cup numbers but still a significant number turned up, especially for the second leg.
"On the flare incident, FAM are extremely disappointed with what happened. At the moment, investigations are on-going and it looks like the action of one irresponsible person at one specific moment when everything up to that point had been almost perfect with the result on the pitch as well as the behaviour of other fans.
"Even though this match was classified as a Timor Leste home match, the organisation of the match was still under FAM and as such, the responsibility of everything that happened within the stadium will be on FAM alone. The match commissioner will submit his report to FIFA and we await the outcome from there," Ramalingam told Goal.
It is understood that FAM fear that FIFA will look at the incident as a repeat offence, to the incident that saw the abrupt end of a Malaysia v Saudi Arabia match four years ago. However, Stuart is confident that FAM will be able show sufficient proof that this latest Timor Leste incident as an isolated one.
Stuart also pledged that FAM will continue to work on the education of fans on the right decorum to be had while attending matches while also working to put in place structures and procedures regarding actions that can be taken against future acts of irresponsible fans.
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