BY ZULHILMI ZAINAL Follow on Twitter
Following Bayern Munich's 4-2 defeat to Real Madrid in the second leg of their UEFA Champions League quarter-final tie, the German side's star Franck Ribery took to his social media to express his anger at the match official, who he deemed to have made dubious calls which led to the defeat.
Arturo Vidal was sent off near the end when the match was tied 3-3 on aggregate even though replay showed that the Chilean's tackle was clean. That opened the floodgates, with the homeside scoring three past the visitors, including one Cristiano Ronaldo goal that was seemingly scored from an offside position.
The French star went to town on his Instagram account after the match, mocking the referee and his decisions.
Interestingly enough, his reactions and Goal's story on it elicited strong responses from local football fans in Malaysia, who very recently had experienced a similar incident.
Just before halftime in the match when the home side were leading 1-0 and the visitors were pushing for an equaliser, Red Eagles defender Rizal Ghazali was shown a straight red for physically retaliating against a particularly harsh tackle by Fakhrurazi Musa. However, the Titans man was given only a yellow by the referee Suresh Jayaraman for his challenge, and Kedah players took offence to the decision, which they perceived as biased refereeing. In the second half T-Team scored four more, without reply from a Kedah side who were already without their foreign players Ken Ilso and Liridon Krasniqi due to an injury and a suspension respectively.
T-Team vs Kedah. Photo by T-Team FC
Later on, several Kedah players bashed Suresh on their social media accounts, and shared off-colour edited photos of the referee.
Fans then noticed these responses, and a debate soon emerged on their appropriateness, as well as on the perceived lack of professionalism on the players' part.
After all, players in more established leagues have been fined for speaking out against match officials' decisions, as well as doing so on social media. For example, in 2014 Liverpool then-manager Brendan Rodgers was fined £8,000 for criticising referee Lee Mason after the Reds lost 2-1 to Manchester City in a Premier League match.
Thankfully, M-League organiser Football Malaysia LLP (FMLLP) has stepped in, reminding the players to be on their best behaviour. on social media, while acknowledging the importance of online presence and engagement to modern football.
Malaysian players need not learn from their faraway counterparts who at times can be quite liberal with their feelings when decisions don't go their way. Instead, they need to look no further than their own squad.
Malaysian head coaches often show great restraint when it comes to fielding questions on the referee's decisions. When asked by reporters and journalists after matches, they gracefully sidestep posers on contentious decisions with the standard responses that go along the line of: "Oh, I'm sure the referee saw what happened better, he was closer to the incident than I was."
It also helps that not many Malaysian head coaches have a social media account. You can't be punished for criticising the referee on social media, if you don't have a social media account. Problem solved, perhaps.