On the pitch, Malaysia made a mess of the first leg of the 2018 AFF Suzuki Cup final after only achieving a 2-2 draw against Vietnam that hands the advantage to The Golden Dragons ahead of the return leg on Saturday. But off the pitch, an even bigger mess was made, one that could have huge significance.
After the furore that came with the handling of ticket sales, Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) have another issue to content with - the overcrowding of Bukit Jalil National Stadium. On the website of Malaysian Stadium Corporation (MSC), the National Stadium is stated as a 85,000 seating capacity venue.
The attendance announced midway through the second half on Tuesday was 88,482. With attendance never including working staff or the respective teams, that number itself already revealed the problem on its own. Does that mean fans have bought tickets to stand at the stadium where there are no allocated standing areas like what German clubs have at their stadiums.
Unlikely as it is, what are the chances that some of the fans who slept outside the stadium overnight just to be in the queue to purchase the match tickets were the ones that were left standing throughout the match?
One look, there might even by more than 89k people in attendance with not a single step visible to the eye. Many more are seen around the concourse trying to arch their neck just to get a view of the pitch.
There was also mayhem in the Vietnamese section. Having been allocated 3,000 tickets, the away fans found themselves losing half of their seating area after Malaysian fans spilled over to get seats.
That meant that Vietnamese fans who were supposed to have the upper tier and lower tier allocated to them, only had the lower tier to use. Which meant a huge commotion being created as hordes of fans with valid match tickets kept trying to get into the area.
After being ignored for long periods, the stadium officials finally relented and opened up the media seating area to those fans. Half of the area reserved for the families of the Malaysian players were also taken away to accommodate all of the Vietnamese fans. Even then, a lot of them were still left sitting on steps or just standing.
This means there were no proper barricade separating the home and away fans, with only a line of security personnels manning the divide. Thankfully there were no unruly incidents or else the outcome would have been uncontrollable.
It's okay, I don't need to see the pitch to do my work pic.twitter.com/OIk1oZcnIN— Zulhilmi Zainal❤💛 (@zulhilmibzainal) December 11, 2018
Many suspicious individuals were seen. Within the media section word got around fast that there were even Health Officers present at the stadium. I personally saw the group arrive and went I tried to look at their respective passes hanging around their necks, all of them turned away and quickly hide the passes.
If these individuals are there to ensure that the stadium is smoke-free, they could all stand at the front and face the crowd. Instead throughout the 90 minutes, every single one of them were standing along the barricades with their eyes firmly cast on the action on the pitch.
At half time, I even witnessed a renowned Malaysian rapper who was led in by a his friend and allowed to enter the stadium through the media entrance. The security personnel at the entrance made no effort to even ask for his match ticket. If this artist had a ticket, there would be absolutely no reason for him to be entering through the media entrance.
A major final involving Malaysia will always be in high demand but safety, security and being fair to the fans who made a huge effort to get their hands on tickets must be the first and foremost priorities for FAM. Why are all these additional people allowed into the stadium over those fans who purchased a match ticket?
Staff and security officials should also be reprimanded for allowing people without match tickets into the stadiums. Every fan who bought a legitimate ticket should be able to find a seat in the stadium, no matter what time they arrived for the match. It's as simple as that.
It's high time that FAM come out with stricter control on this to ensure that they don't lose the fans who are getting increasingly frustrated to face scenes like this over and over again. Numbered seatings has to be enforced and that means one ticket, one seat with everyone else being ushered out of the stadium.
2018 and the Malaysian are still suffering from wanting to support their national team. Now is the time for massive changes.
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