Royalty or commoner: No one is above the law

Johor FA secretary Fahmy Yahya (left) and JDT assistant coach Ismail Ibrahim (centre) attend the FAM competitions committee meeting at Wisma FAM following the fiasco between both teams on February 1. — Picture by The Malay Mail
Johor FA secretary Fahmy Yahya (left) and JDT assistant coach Ismail Ibrahim (centre) attend the FAM competitions committee meeting at Wisma FAM following the fiasco between both teams on February 1. — Picture by The Malay Mail

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FEB 11 — Let’s not kid ourselves.

The ‘high ranking’ Johor FA official allegedly linked to the Larkin Stadium tunnel bust-up is Johor FA president Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim.

Reports lodged claimed the Crown Prince of Johor and a member of security personnel had assaulted T-Team’s Brazilian player Elvaldo Rodriguez Goncalves Cardoso and the Terengganu club’s fitness coach Stefano Impagliazzo during the FA Cup second round match at the Larkin Stadium on February 1.

This was after both Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT) and T-Team headed to the dressing rooms at half time.

T-Team refused to play the second half and headed to Kuala Terengganu, claiming they feared for their safety. 

What led to the alleged assault remains a mystery. After all, JDT were leading 2-1 at half time.

The plot takes a twist, just like a Zee TV serial, when T-Team player Irfan Ab Ghani claimed the match should have resumed. He has been “missing” from training since.

Following this, T-Team players assured Terengganu Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Ahmad Said they were ready to swear on the Quran to prove the tunnel incident did happen.

The episode was highlighted and went viral on social media over the past week.

Note the key words — ‘alleged’, ‘linked’ and ‘claims’.

In a proper judiciary system, a man is innocent until proven otherwise. It is only fair to allow police and the FA of Malaysia (FAM) to investigate the matter. For the record, Terengganu police spoke to 17 T-Team players and officials regarding the incident.

There are some who fear the matter may not be probed further based on the assumption it involved a member of the royalty.

They said FAM had already caved in by awarding JDT a 3-0 victory after T-Team refused to play the remaining half of the match.

Others argued the safety of the T-Team players was not compromised on the field. Even if a bust-up occurred on the field, the referee would ensure those involved got the marching orders and resume play. With this in mind and the match-commissioner’s report, FAM had, presumably, followed the book.

FAM’s disciplinary board will instead investigate the alleged fiasco that transpired in the tunnel. It would now be interesting to see how the board tackles the situation.

We must bear in mind Lord Hewart’s citation in the 1924 landmark case Rex v. Sussex Justices ex parte McCarthy: “Not only must justice be done; it must also be seen to be done.”

To be fair, the changes brought about in Johor football have been amazing. From a well-maintained field to electronic boards that surround it, Larkin Stadium is now dubbed as one of the best stadias in the country.

The players are well taken care while the Southern Tigers have a rather impressive website. All this happened during Tunku Ismail’s reign as Johor FA’s president.

But the spirit of football is not just based on modern facilities and money. It is about fair play and sportsmanship. It applies across the board — royalty and commoner.

Let us not drag the holy and sacred Quran into this fiasco. Football has its own rules and regulations, and that must be upheld.

Referring to the scuffle between Pahang and JDT fans last Friday, Tunku Ismail, was quoted in an article “Be ethical, not theatrical” on Johor FA’s website saying:

“This cacophony of bickering, provocation, insults and humiliation would not bring any benefit and may result with rancor to no end.”

Spot on. The M-League does not need such theatrics. It needs ethics.

Thus, FAM must leave no stone unturned. Whether one wears a fake Seiko or a luxurious Rolex, those found guilty must face the consequences.

One must remember that no one is above the law — at least where sports is concerned.

* This is a personal opinion of the columnist.

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