Say no to racism in Malaysian football

Filepix of Marlon Alex James in action during a FA Cup match

MATCHES can get tense.

When a player loses a match, fans berate him. It can bring him down. But for a professional, it is part and parcel of their career.

Perak’s holding midfielder Mohd Nasir Basharuddin once said: “The fans are entitled to their opinion but they must also know that we are doing our best to win matches.”

However, some fans do go all out in their criticisms. And when that happens, it can be nasty!

One such incident that riled me up occurred during a Malaysian Super League match last year between Selangor and Perak at the Shah Alam Stadium.

Together with my close friends, we sat at the away stand happy to see that Perak fans had packed the stadium.

Chants of “Yeob Kejor Yeob” and “Mara Seladang” were buzzing in my ears throughout. Nevertheless, one incident tarnished the memory of that match.

At the stadium that day watching the match was a young girl together with her father. Before the match kicked off, she was heard shouting all the players’ names and I was really impressed.

However, as the game went on, she called out to one of the players: ‘Woi, Hitam bodoh! Lari je tau, tak pandai bawak bola,” (Hey, stupid Blackie. You can only run, you don’t know how to dribble.)

I was shocked. I stared at her but she went on the offensive. And this time, there were profanities.

Her father just smiled and laughed at his daughter’s antics. It was not funny to me.

How can one allow their child to say such stuff? We live in a multiracial country and all we want is respect for and from each other.

Racism is a recurring theme here. There will always be discussions on it. And there is never a full stop to the issue.

Some parts of the world are working hard to curb racism but in our country, the “tidak apa” (never mind) mentality seems to prevail.

Marlon Alex James, the former St Vincent and Grenadines international who played for Selangor MK Land, Kedah and Armed Forces has said that incidents of racism in the Malaysian league have blemished his career.

“People have called me ‘black’ before. I can’t recall what year it was, when I played against Kelantan, three fans started calling me ‘hitam’.

“They thought I didn’t know what it meant and when I looked at them, the other fans apologised for their antics.

“When we played a pre-season game last year in Perak, I was called ‘monyet’ by some of the fans.  I confronted them but my teammates calmed me down.

“I told the match referee about it but he just told me to play on.

“I just do not want to see this happen to other foreign players. Respect them for their effort. Do not taunt them all the time,” lamented James who is now based in his hometown of Bequia.

Perak’s towering centre-back Thiago Junio Aquino added that racism is an issue that is plaguing the world but that he, at times, understands why people say racist things.

“Football is a very emotional game. When things do not go your way, you tend to shout things and say racist things without even thinking,” he said.

He said he has never faced such situations in Perak but does admit that some players are on the receiving end of racial slurs from fans.

“It is not good for football. I do not like this. Players and people are the same … we are all humas.

“Why do people call the players ‘monkey’? I personally do not like this. Matches can be emotional but fans need to take a deep breath and think wisely,” said the Brazilian, who has played in Vietnam and Denmark.

Even a football official recently felt the need to identify players by the colour of their skin, writing in a post on Facebook that the club’s board had done a lot of research and found the perfect combination of two midfielders and one striker.

He went on to identify the players by their colour (“Black, White, White”), heights (“6’1, 6’2, 6’3.) and ages (“22, 27 and 22”).

To a lot of people racism is a minor issue. However, if things get worse, it will not be good for Malaysian football.

Right now, we are looking at ways to improve our football, we don’t need this bringing us down.

Racism is not a petty issue. And if not handled well, we might not be able to bring in the best foreign players in. Neither would the best local talents want to play football here.

Racism has to stop!
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