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Malaysian team pulls out of showpiece after footballer acid attack

Johor Darul Ta'zim's former Malaysia captain Safiq Bin Rahim was the third player to fall victim to assault in the past week
Johor Darul Ta'zim's former Malaysia captain Safiq Bin Rahim was the third player to fall victim to assault in the past week - Copyright POOL/AFP SONG Kyung-Seok
Johor Darul Ta'zim's former Malaysia captain Safiq Bin Rahim was the third player to fall victim to assault in the past week - Copyright POOL/AFP SONG Kyung-Seok
M JEGATHESAN

One of Malaysia’s top football clubs has pulled out of Friday’s season-opening Charity Shield after a spate of assaults, including an acid attack, on players in the country.

It leaves the kick-off of Malaysia’s football season this weekend under a cloud following the unprecedented acts of violence against players, which have left the country shocked and angry.

Authorities said they have imposed tighter security, but Selangor FC said they would not play in the showpiece curtain-raiser against Malaysian Super League champions Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT) citing “a series of criminal incidents and recent threats”.

Selangor and Malaysia winger Faisal Halim is in intensive care with fourth-degree burns after being splashed with acid at the weekend outside the capital Kuala Lumpur.

His Malaysia teammate Akhyar Rashid was injured in a robbery outside his home in the eastern state of Terengganu last week.

In the latest incident on Tuesday, JDT’s former Malaysia skipper Safiq Rahim escaped unharmed after he was threatened with a hammer and his car windscreen was smashed by two assailants on his way home from a training session.

As a result, Selangor FC said they had withdrawn from the Friday night match against Malaysian Super League champions JDT — one of Asia’s top clubs — at Sultan Ibrahim Stadium in Iskandar Puteri, southern Johor state.

“After much deliberation and detailed discussion with various parties… the club has reluctantly decided to not participate,” Selangor, the 2023 Super League runners-up, said in a statement issued late Wednesday.

“The safety of the team is of utmost importance and we take all forms of violence and threats seriously”.

Stuart Ramalingam, chief executive officer of the Malaysian Football League, conceded that the game would not be played.

“Yes, likely, since Selangor has confirmed they won’t attend,” he told AFP on Thursday. 

Ramalingam added the five remaining Super League fixtures scheduled for Saturday and Sunday would go ahead.

“All other matches will go on,” he said. “There are no other clubs that have asked for postponement or indicated they don’t want to play.”

– Critical condition –

Football Association of Malaysia president Hamidin Mohamad Amin has urged high-profile footballers to take safety precautions, including hiring bodyguards.

Authorities have yet to establish any motives for the attacks, the first since the formation of the country’s professional league 30 years ago.

“It has never happened in the history of Malaysian football,” Hamidin Mohamad Amin, president of the Football Association of Malaysia, told AFP.

Faisal is in critical condition in hospital and will reportedly need multiple surgeries after he was splashed with acid at a shopping mall on Sunday.

Nicknamed “Mickey”, the 26-year-old plays on the right wing for both club and country.

The third victim, 36-year-old Safiq, plays for JDT, which is run by the crown prince of the powerful Johor royal family — Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar is the current king of Malaysia under the country’s rotating monarchy.

Adam Nor Azlin, 28, a centre-back for Pahang and Malaysia, said: “I hope violence against football players will stop immediately. 

“As a player, I am shocked by the attacks. I pray they recover fast and return to the field.”

He also appealed to fans to continue attending matches.

“We want to hear your loud roar. Show us that you love football and oppose violence,” he said

Football fan Zul-Azri Mohamad Khalid, 46, said he felt “shocked and angry that there are people who can go to this extent” and called the attack on Faisal “inhumane”.

Mohamad Shuhaily Mohamad Zain, the police criminal investigation department director, said they had yet to determine a motive or if the attacks were connected.

But he said all the attacks had involved two people who had followed the players and vowed the police would do whatever it takes to apprehend the perpetrators.

Two suspects were arrested in relation to the attack on Faisal. One had been freed with the other still being questioned, he added.

AFP
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With 2,400 staff representing 100 different nationalities, AFP covers the world as a leading global news agency. AFP provides fast, comprehensive and verified coverage of the issues affecting our daily lives.

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