The atmosphere was excellent, the stadium was filled to the brim, the teams were all geared up to put their best foot forward and the stage was set for an entertaining game of soccer.
But alas, at the end of the night a bitter taste was left on the mouths of the majority and the only ones who were rejoicing and celebrating were the Negri Sembilan camp.
The scene was at last night's return leg semifinal clash between host Negri Sembilan and challenger, Selangor, at the Paroi Stadium. Selangor were trailing from a goal down from their 1-2 defeat at home in the first leg.
Winning and losing is part and parcel of the game and it has to be accepted in the spirit of the game - that is when all things are played fairly.
I was not at the Stadium last night, but from what I saw in the live telecast of Astro Arena, I have a few bones to pick.
To be honest, it has been sometime since I have witnessed a local match or even watched it over television. I have my reasons.
However, when I decided to catch the second-half of the match last night, I was convinced that I have not missed much.
For starters, the match officials hardly impressed me. Pardon my observation, but the referee - Ibrahim Mohammad - was a misfit in the match. He hardly showed any character, looked like a dwarf among the players and lost in his shorts!
First impressions mean a lot and I was not mistaken.
I missed the 'unvisible' hands of Shukor Adan, but when I saw the replay, I could not imagine how the referee and his assistant, Kaimal Tukiman, could have missed it.
Watch it here:http://www.youtube.com/v/9k2pfjZ8kNg&hl=en_US&fs=1&
And when Ibrahim failed to send off Selangor's rightback Razman Roslan in the first instance when he had handled second assistant referee after commotion, but just flashed the yellow card, it confirmed my fears that Ibrahim could not handle the game.
Razman had tapped the second assistant referee on his cheeks and that tantamount to man handling the match official - it is a red card offence.
Yes, Ibrahim flashed the card on Razman later when he slapped Negri Semibilan's Sharuddin Abu Samah, but he should have been sent out in the first instance!
It was also degrading to see the players harassing the referee each time he made a decision. Basically, Ibrahim had lost all respect of the players.
And the players too were no angels, because it was unbecoming of professional players to act in the manner they did. Many of them were either current or former national players!
Of course, Selangor coach K. Devan had no business to charge at the referee after the match no matter how frustrated he was. At least his assistant P. Maniam had the presence of mind to stop Devan in his tracks to prevent any further untoward incident.
Referee Ibrahim was also seen on television engaging in a war of words with players and even had to be restrained by security officials from taking things onto his own hands.
Refereeing standard has been on the decline for sometime now, just like the game.
And guess the reason?
Simple, referees and assistant referees become attain FIFA status merely to fill the quota. Whether they are qualified and have the experience is questionable. Where do match officials from Melaka and Alor Gajah, get their exposure. The Melaka League? Youth tournaments?
I remember the days when top class referees like Koh Guan Kiat and S. Karthrivale, would say it was more difficult to officiate a Selangor league or FAM Cup match than a Malaysia Cup match.
The point was that Selangor League and FAM Cup matches were so competitive and are faced with all sorts of problems controlling the match, that when they officiate Malaysia Cup matches, where the players are much more refined and play decent soccer, it was a breeze to officiate these matches because of their tough experiences earlier. Besides, match officials will officiate anything between two to three matches a week.
Then, there was another scene which saw an official on duty having a go at a Selangor fan on the stand and had to be restrained by other security officials.
Taking about security, I wonder what kind of security was provided because after the match fans were able to get onto the pitch and only after much later, did the FRU personnel appeared to get the fans back to the stands.
It was also visible on television that gates were left wide opened which had access to the field.
With all these shortcomings at a semifinals match level, Malaysian soccer indeed still has a long way to make it's mark.
Kudos to the spirit of the players of both teams to see their team win, but soccer is just more than that in a professional setup!