Revisiting my Four-Four Two column. Edition April 2015.
The game, according to the fans
FOOTBALL fans have many ways to manifest their feelings. Football stadia offer escapism and the space for them to express their frustration and anger, usually directed at the coach, players and referees.
Technological advances allied with creative juices flowing freely in the minds of the young ensure a seamless transition of expletives uttered online that would spill over onto the pitch.
Spitting, though, remains the game’s ultimate insult, the most contemptuous gesture that a fan can throw at his target of abuse.
I bore witness to an incident exactly two decades ago, when interest in local football was waning, no thanks to the bribery scandal that rocked the nation in late 1994.
Walking up the terraces of Stadium Merdeka after watching his charges held to a scoreless draw by fierce rivals Singapore in the pre-Olympics in July 1995, Claude Le Roy braved for the crowd’s heckles, ridicule and jeers
Suddenly out of nowhere a fan approached Le Roy and spat at his face. Much to my surprise, Le Roy’s reaction was cool personified.
He simply took out his handkerchief from the top left pocket of his navy blue FA of Malaysia blazer and wiped his saliva-infested cheek before walking away.
Le Roy arrived on our shores a year earlier with a reputation to protect. He was after all the coach who led Cameroon to the African Nations Cup title in 1988.
The Indomitable Lions were not the only beneficiaries of Le Roy’s expert lenses. He is widely credited as the individual who discovered George Weah, the Liberian legend who moved to Arsene Wenger’s Monaco after Le Roy had opened the doors.
But the timing of Le Roy’s arrival in Kuala Lumpur in February 1994 came months before the authorities’ clampdown on match fixing.
While he was cracking his brain in forming a decent side, the game was played before empty terraces. A match between Selangor and Kedah would command a decent turnout but the national team enjoyed little support.
Such was the scenario that official merchandising and memorabilia of the various participating teams in the M-League were sold, or left unsold, at the lobby of Wisma FAM at Kelana Jaya.
It was normal for the likes of Idris Karim, Hasnizam Uzir, Azmin Azram Aziz, Faizal Zainal, Ahmad Shaharuddin Rosdi, Ching Hong Aik and S. Ragesh to be playing in front of less than 100 fans.
Twenty years on, success registered by the Under-23 and the senior teams between 2009 and 2011 raised the profile of local football.
Fans have started to flock back to the stadium. And with it, the freedom of speech in the virtual world is transported onto the terraces.
Thinking that as fans who pay their way through the turnstiles, they are free to behave as they like, as enjoyed by their predecessors and of course the man who spat at Le Roy.
Certain sections of the crowd come to the stadium feeling entitled to make chaos, throw flares and make statements such as unfurling a giant banner depicting a dog in an FAM suit as a broadside at the governing body.
ans in general see the game from their personal perspectives. Their beliefs of right and wrong are based on how the events impact their lives.
Fans are naturally biased. The fans, it appears, are always right. They believe they are entitled to be so. In their blinkered point of view, the rest of the world, like Le Roy, is always wrong.