As published in Malay Mail on Dec 17
By Haresh Deol
MALAYSIAN football plummeted to an all-time low following the 10-0 drubbing to United Arab Emirates (UAE) during the 2018 World Cup and 2019 Asian Cup qualifiers on Sept 3.
The tragic score line was plastered on the front page of almost every major daily in the country, including Malay Mail.
It was Malaysia’s worst result since losing 8-2 to New Zealand in Kuala Lumpur almost 50 years ago.
National coach Dollah Salleh quit after claiming responsibility for the national team’s pathetic performance.
Harimau Muda coach Datuk Ong Kim Swee was then tasked to take over for the remaining qualifying matches as interim coach.
Ardent supporters demanded key leaders in the FA of Malaysia (FAM) to quit, including its president Tengku Abdullah Shah, who had previously said he would step down if Harimau Malaya failed to make the cut for the Asian Cup.
For the record, Tengku Abdullah, who is also Asian Football Confederation (AFC) vice-president, was voted into the Fifa executive board in April.
Some had demanded FAM be suspended as Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin called the fiasco “embarrassing”.
Fans, mainly from Ultras Malaya, made their voices heard after they launched firecrackers, smoke bombs and flares onto the pitch during the Malaysia-Saudi Arabia World Cup qualifying match at Shah Alam Stadium on Sept 8. The match was abandoned in the 88th minute with Malaysia trailing 2-1.
Following crowd disturbance in Shah Alam, Fifa later sanctioned FAM with fines of RM180,000, Saudi Arabia be awarded a 3-0 win and the Nov 17 match between Malaysia and UAE be played in an empty stadium.
In addressing the national team’s poor run, FAM had in late September set up a task force to assess Harimau Malaya’s performances.
Fans were then given a double blow after Malaysia slipped to their lowest position of 171 in the Fifa rankings in October. Malaysia’s best position was 79 in 1993.
Johor Darul Takzim’s historical win in the AFC Cup meant little to soften the series of disappointments by the national team in recent years.
Will there be hope for Malaysian football? Only time will tell.