Sports Minister Apologises After Blaming Cheering Fans For Causing Harimau Malaya's Defeat

Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Faizal Azumu said that the cheers of the 63,000 supporters distracted the team from scoring goals.

Cover image via New Straits Times

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On 11 June, national football team Harimau Malaya went against Bahrain in the AFC Asian Cup 2023 qualifiers, which took place at the Bukit Jalil Stadium

Unfortunately, our national football team lost to Bahrain by one goal with a final score of 1 - 2.

Malaysians were, of course, disappointed and saddened by the defeat, but there was no doubt that the team had done their best in the match.

In a report by Harian Metro, Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Faizal Azumu told the public during an event on Monday, 13 June, not to point fingers at the players as mistakes were already made.

Ahmad Faizal said external factors, such as the 63,000 spectators, could also be responsible for the defeat.

"Such cheers would cause the players to lose focus, thus the team missed out on scoring goals," he explained.

"When it's said that the reason of (defeat) is 100% due to the players, but in actuality, we spectators can contribute to the players losing focus."

He added that if he was on the field during that time and people suddenly shouted or cheered, he, too, would be distracted and lose focus.

Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Faizal Azumu.

Image via New Straits Times

Ahmad Faizal also commented that it is only natural for competitions to have winners and losers, and hence spectators are reminded to not cheer when the team wins if they are unable to accept the defeat

He made the comment in defence of national goalkeeper Farizal Marlias, who was the target of criticism from netizens, saying, "To me, Farizal has done a lot for us as the national goalkeeper, dedicating his life to the sport, and of course, the match. Certainly, he does not want to fail."

"Mistakes were already made and we ought to learn (from them), not point fingers and ruin the (reputation) of the goalkeeper as an athlete."

Harımau Malaya goalkeeper Farizal Marlias.

Image via New Straits Times

The minister's statement angered netizens, many of whom called him out for not appreciating Malaysian football supporters

Members of the public condemned and questioned Ahmad Faizal's position as the Sports Minister.

According to Berita Harian, UMNO Youth Executive Councillor Datuk Muhamad Muqharabbin Mokhtarrudin said that Ahmad Faizal's statement showed his lack of understanding in football.

"The fans came to give their support, and they did their best to cheer for the national football team from the beginning to the end of the match and boost the team's morale. Why blame the fans?" he questioned.

"You sat on the VVIP bench and cheered too. Why blame the other supporters? If you don't know how to make a statement, keep quiet," he added.

He also praised the supporters who came to watch the game and stayed despite the pouring rain. Muqharabbin added that he admires how the fans continued to cheer and support the team, despite the circumstances.

Former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak also took to Facebook to express his views.

"When you enter a stadium surely you won't sit quietly?" he wrote.

He also sarcastically told netizens prior to Malaysia's match against Bangladesh yesterday, 15 June, "Please be quiet tonight. Be cooperative. The match is in progress."

Following the backlash, Ahmad Faizal has apologised for his statement

"The cheers and support of the support of the fans as the 12th player are very important and very much appreciated. [...] The things I said about football previously were misunderstood. I seek your forgiveness and I apologise for my mistakes," he tweeted.

In a video released by Bernama yesterday, 14 June, he mentioned that what he said was taken out of context, but it's too late to do anything.

"I apologise to the fans, as I am also a fan. What's important now is to keep supporting the football team," he said.

"The mistakes I made, just like the mistakes of others, are bound to happen."

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