KL to Vietnam: Sorry for violent fans
MALAYSIA'S Sports Minister has apologised after home fans attacked Vietnamese supporters during the first leg of their Asean Football Federation Suzuki Cup semi-final.
Khairy Jamaluddin said he had personally witnessed the assaults at Malaysia's Shah Alam Stadium, where Vietnam beat the hosts 2-1 on Sunday.
"I saw with my own eyes, the Vietnamese supporters were assaulted by a group of Malaysian fans at Shah Alam Stadium," the minister wrote on his Facebook page early yesterday morning.
"There is no excuse for such violent behaviour. More so as they are our guests. Is this the way we treat guests? It doesn't matter if they are here on holiday or are working here, this isn't Malaysian culture...
"These violent fans do not represent Malaysia. My sincere apologies on behalf of Malaysia for the actions of this small number of irresponsible thugs.
"We hope for a great second leg in Hanoi, competitive on the field and friendly in the stands."
Malaysian fans also took to social media to apologise to their Vietnamese counterparts.
"I am really sorry and hope this incident will not strain Malaysia-Vietnam relations," said Aaron Kok in a Facebook post.
A number of fans even posted photos of those allegedly responsible for the violence. They also urged the authorities to take action against the perpetrators, saying that the incident had sullied the image of Malaysian football fans.
At least one Vietnam fan was injured in clashes at the end of the match, a police official told AFP, adding that five people were arrested. Some fans also set off flares.
Vietnamese fans were urged not to carry out reprisals on the group of about 1,000 Malaysians expected to attend the second leg in Hanoi on Thursday.
"They are not extremist. Don't take revenge against them," said Tran Song Hai of the Vietnamese Football Fans Association, according to state-run VTC news.
Nguyen Xuan Gu, vice-president and spokesman for the Vietnam Football Association, added that Sunday's incident was "unfortunate and it was caused by some extremist fans".
Vietnamese fan Thai Anh Bui said that while his countrymen were angry, they would still welcome Malaysians in the return leg in Hanoi.
"Vietnamese people have been praying for MH370 and MH17 victims just like they are a part of our great Asian family and we know those hooligans are just a minority," he said.
"However, I hope the Malaysia government will be able to handle this situation faster and more responsibly so that people from other countries will feel safer on their next trip to your beautiful country."
Former Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) vice-president Subahan Kamal warned that football hooliganism was becoming a worrying trend in the country.
"Honestly, hooliganism and violence is a worrying thing in Malaysia. The authorities must act fast to prevent such incidents," he said.
Last week, the Asian Football Confederation fined the FAM US$10,000 (S$13,200) for the behaviour of Malaysian fans during a friendly match against the Philippines in March.
In September, a Malaysia Cup match between rivals Sarawak and Perak erupted into a riot when 2,000 Sarawak fans smashed cars and fought the police after the game.
AFP, THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK