Friday, May 9, 2014

Media should not add fuel to fire

Friday, May 09, 2014 - Malay Mail
Johor Darul Takzim and Pahang fans pose for photographs before the first leg of the FA Cup semifinals, May 5, 2014. — Picture by Bernama


THE media are not helping by sensationalising news instead of reporting facts.
The M-League has probably gained the most following this year.
With strong fan support, there is bound to be rivalry, which sometimes continues after the game.
While several cases of fan violence have been reported this season, they have been manageable and addressed to a certain extent.
The most serious offences have been fans letting off flares and fireworks inside the stadium, which have led to fines for the state FAs involved.
Some fans can get very vocal. However, to point the finger at the fans all the time when something is not right or goes wrong, is unfair.
What happened after the FA Cup semifinal first leg between Johor Darul Takzim (JDT) and Pahang at Larkin Stadium on Monday, which ended 1-1, is a clear example of how things can be exaggerated by the media.
It had been some time since I last went to Larkin Stadium, one of the venues of the 1997 Youth World Cup.
After hearing about the extensive renovations done by Johor FA president Tunku Ismail Ibrahim, I was looking forward to visiting it. I was not disappointed. Larkin Stadium has been transformed Except for the five flights of stairs reporters have to climb to reach the media room, everything else is first class — from the pitch, electronic advertisement boards, seats with sections for sponsors and reserve bench with bucket seats to the huge number of wardens with their illuminated jackets.
The stadium is good enough for even an EPL match.
When a state FA go to so much trouble to make the game marketable, the last thing they need is bad publicity.
Yes, Johor FA have been in the limelight for the wrong reasons, but everyone deserves a chance to learn from their mistakes.
Johor fans who misbehaved have been punished. Even Tunku Ismail, who sometimes gets emotional, was magnanimous enough on Monday night to walk up to the match officials and shake their hands before leaving.
I was in the stadium more than two hours before the match and it was almost near its 30,000 capacity. There were no signs of unruly behaviour as the fans sat patiently.
During the match, the referee made some questionable decisions against both teams. The fans roared in displeasure, but refrained from throwing objects, letting off flares or harassing the assistant referee.
However, Johor FA secretary Fahmy Yahya created some tension by constantly harassing match commissioner Lt Kol (rtd) Kamaruddin Sakhari at the technical bench, while JDT coach Bojan Hodak also over-reacted, at times gesturing at the referee. I am sure the FA of Malaysia will look into this.
After the match, the fans left in an orderly fashion after singing the state anthem. There were about 1,000-odd fans outside the main entrance but they did not cause trouble. They did not block any exits and police personnel were present to ensure everything was in order.
I learnt that JDT fans had demanded an apology from the Pahang fans for an earlier incident in Kuantan, when the two teams had met, and this was duly done and everything was settled.
When the JDT team left about 11pm, the fans clapped and cheered. Traffic outside the stadium was at a standstill as the escorted JDT bus tried to inch its way out.
The police officer in charge, after consulting Pahang coach Zainal Abidin Hassan, decided the team and their supporters remain in the stadium until the traffic had cleared.
The Pahang team and supporters left at 1am without any incident. They were not locked up in the stadium. It was done through mutual consent on the advice of the police to avert any untoward incident as traffic was not moving.
I left the stadium at midnight but was still caught in the jam and it took me half an hour to reach my hotel, which was 10 minutes away.
All it would have taken to spark an incident was for one irresponsible fan to throw a stone at the Pahang team’s or supporters’ bus.
So, it was irresponsible for the media to have reported that there were incidents and fan trouble.
Pahang play JDT at Larkin Stadium on May 16 in a Super League match and on May 30 in the return leg FA Cup semifinals in Kuantan.
Hopefully, the media will stick to the facts and not add fuel to fire to create animosity.

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