(Reports By ERIC SAMUEL, K. RAJAN, RAHIMY RAHIM, AUSTIN CAMOENS, RASHVINJEET SINGH and T. AVINESHWARAN)
PETALING JAYA: A day after bringing shame to national football by disrupting the Malaysia-Saudi Arabia match with flares and fireworks at the Shah Alam Stadium, the diehard national football fans known as Ultras Malaya remained defiant.
On its official Twitter account, the group posted: “Sorry players. Sorry Malaysians. Sorry Saudi Arabians. But it had to be done.”
A senior member of the group, who wished to be known as Freddie Ben, said they had exhausted all the proper channels to express their frustrations with the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM).
“Our protests have been going on for three years. We have gone through all the official channels. Why do people question our supporters who are tired of FAM’s leadership? Who dares to challenge FAM’s leadership?” he asked yesterday.
Ultras Malaya, which comprises fans from various states, boasts a membership of around 15,000.
Asked whether any of its members were involved in attacking the Saudi Arabia fans, Freddie said he had no information about it.
“If I had seen it, I’ll admit that we did it,” he said.
He added that the group did not understand why people were blaming the fans instead of focusing on improving the declining state of the country’s football team.
“We do not care what others think. They keep blaming but they never come down to the stadium to support the national team.
“I challenge them to make the same remarks in front of our supporters,” he said.
Asked to comment on Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin’s remark that the incident had embarrassed the country, Freddie said: “I should ask him, when we were beaten 10-0 to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), did he not feel embarrassed?”
Al Fadli Awaludin, a pioneer member of Ultras Malaya, said they had to take drastic measures to “knock some sense” into FAM.
“We had to hit FAM where it hurts the most. We had to humiliate FAM to get the message across,” he said.
He said he spoke to Shah Alam OCPD Asst Comm Shafien Mamat before the game and told him different people had different ways of expressing their anger against FAM.
Ultras Malaya began as a group of 20 passionate fans to support the national team in 2007 ahead of the Asia Cup, which Malaysia hosted.
The frustration over the national team’s repeated failures to make a mark at the world stage and FAM’s failure to improve Malaysian football led to the group starting its #PresidenFAMSilaLetakJawatan campaign last year.
It was meant to force former FAM president Sultan Ahmad Shah, who was at the helm for 30 years, to step down.
Al Fadli agreed that most people might not be able to empathise with the group’s resentment towards FAM.
“Those who don’t support local football won’t get the big picture of what we are asking. We only want the national team to qualify for the World Cup and Asian Cup by merit.
“We also want the M-League teams to be in the AFC Champion League by merit.”