THE Asian Football Confederation (AFC) will continue to come down hard on trash talking that take the form of racial, ethnic or politically charged comments.
This warning comes after Malaysia were fined US$$30,000 (S$40,900) on Tuesday after the national team’s fans chanted “dogs” at supporters from Singapore and Brunei during matches at the recent South-east Asian (SEA) Games.
Malaysian supporters also chanted “Brunei dogs should just be killed” during their side’s 2-1 victory over the neighbouring country on August 14 at the Kuala Lumpur-hosted tournament, just two days before they chanted that Singaporeans were “anjings (dogs in Malay)” as Malaysia beat Singapore 2-1 in a tension-filled match.
The AFC’s Disciplinary Committee fined the Football Association of Malaysia US$15,000 for each of the offences.
The AFC also issued a warning to Hong Kong after home fans booed the Chinese national anthem during an Asian Cup qualifier against Malaysia this month.
AFC general secretary Windsor John Paul, in a telephone interview from Kuala Lumpur, says “recent incidents have shown that racism is still a big problem in these more multi-cultural times”.
“It is a global problem that must be effectively tackled by every football continental body. At AFC, we cannot allow any form of racism on the pitch or stadiums and we will come down very hard on trash talking that take the form of racial, ethnic or politically charged comments.”
Former Singapore award-winning coach Jita Singh noted that football racism and violence have decreased considerably during the 1990s through appropriate legislation such as the Football Offences Act (1991) which made racist chanting unlawful.
“But racist chanting has not completely disappeared and much current abuse is linked to Asians, resulting in many still feeling intimidated,” he says. “In my opinion, institutionalised racism also plays a large part in reducing prospects for footballing recruits from Asian communities.”
Jita, who won the SNOC 1981 ‘Coach of the Year’ award and worked with the AFC in the 1990s as a consultant, says that if this problem is not seriously nipped in the bud, “racist abuse from coaches, players and spectators will be a primary common denominator for many Asian footballers leading to feelings of isolation and exclusion from after-training socialising and ritual young male bonding.”
Leading Malaysian journalist Dato’ Fauzi Omar says he was “very embarrassed” by the recent Malaysian racial chants at the SEA Games.
“It is so shameful to talk about it as a Malaysian. These idiots who chanted ‘anjing’ (dogs) should be arrested and from the video clips, it shows that the fans have rehearsed the song for all to join in the sing-a-long. The undercurrents, if allowed to be continued, are very worrying, in the longer-term for regional solidarity,” adds Dato’ Fauzi, the former Editor of The Malay Mail.
SPIRIT OF SPORTSMANSHIP
“This is against the spirit of sportsmanship, hospitality and etiquette expected of a host country for the SEA Games and I’m glad that the AFC have come out with tough measures.”
Jita Singh said African players usually face the worst brunt of racial abuses. “We expressed our concern that the monkey chants, banana peels, and peanuts raining down on African players would continue on the sport’s grandest stage,” he says.
“If we don’t tackle this international menace, it seems racism will always continue to emerge from the shadows. Racism will be the death of football if things are not set right with the hardest forms of punishments.”
Former Australian striker Alistair Edwards, who played in Singapore and Malaysia in the 1990s and now technical director at Malaysian Super League (MSL) champions JDT in Johor, hopes that the world’s most popular sport can focus on living up to its name: “The beautiful game”.
“The sportsmanship and gamesmanship must always be top on the agenda,” he says.
“I think the most important thing to remember about football, with all of the foolishness that is going on with the racism and stuff like that, the minute a goal is scored, I can be as black as the ace of spades or I can be as white as a snow flake…the minute a goal is scored, everybody hugs one another.
“The most important thing to remember is that the ball doesn’t care what colour you are.”