Malaysian team pulls out of season opener after footballer acid attack

Malaysian team pulls out of season opener after footballer acid attack

Malaysian team pulls out of season opener after footballer acid attack

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.

Selangor FC said they had withdrawn from the match against Malaysian Super League champions JDT at Sultan Ibrahim Stadium in Iskandar Puteri, southern Johor state.

"After much deliberation ... 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, but added that he expected the five opening league fixtures on Saturday and Sunday to go ahead.

"There are no other clubs that have asked for postponement or indicated they don't want to play," he said

Critical condition


JDT's chief executive Alistair Edwards appealed for Selangor to reverse their decision.

"We vehemently condemn the incident involving Faisal Halim and the alleged threats... but we hope Selangor FC can reconsider their decision to withdraw from the match," he said in a statement late Wednesday.

But the Sultan of Selangor, Sharafuddin Idris Shah, expressed his support for the team's withdrawal and criticised the football league for refusing a request to postpone the game.

"His Majesty said, the priority at the moment is the lives and safety of the players, and not to win the cup," the Selangor royal office said in a statement.

Selangor launched an anti-violence campaign on Wednesday before the team withdrew, calling on the public to combat the assaults on players.

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, the Football Association of Malaysia president, told AFP.

Faisal is in critical condition in hospital after the acid attack and will undergo a skin graft, media reported.

Nicknamed "Mickey", the 26-year-old plays on the right wing for both club and country and grabbed national headlines when he scored in a shock 3-3 draw against South Korea in the Asian Cup in January.

The third victim, 36-year-old Safiq, plays for JDT, which is run by the crown prince of the powerful Johor royal family.

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

He appealed for fans to keep 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 director of the police criminal investigation department, said it was yet to be determined if the attacks were linked, but they all involved two people who had followed the players.

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