Kedah MB Ahmad Bashah Md Hanipah has come under fire from fans and officials for trying to play politics in the Malaysia Cup final between Kedah and Johor

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Football club Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT) finally took the Malaysia Club trophy back home after a 26-year wait, defeating defending champion Kedah 2-0 in a tense showdown on Nov 4 at the Shah Alam Stadium.

The victory, however, was not devoid of trials and tribulations, mostly politically motivated.

It also unleashed a fury of unpleasant truths about how the fate and future of football continues to be sabotaged by self-serving politicians and political parties.

When Kedah Menteri Besar Ahmad Bashah Md Hanipah tried to muck up ticket sales by channelling the bulk of them to bus permit holders and officials, he clearly stirred a hornet’s nest.

Ignoring Kedah football fans in favour of state officials, Ahmad Bashah, who is also the Kedah Football Association (KFA) president, took the liberty of reserving 22,000 of the 34,000 tickets, leaving a paltry 12,000 for sale both online and offline.

Why would Ahmad Bashah block the bulk of the tickets for irrelevant parties? Also, what prompted the discrimination that forced Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) president Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim to seek the assistance of Football Malaysia Limited Liability Partnership (FMLLP) to print another 1,000 tickets for Kedah fans who might not be pro-Umno?

Did the hijacking of the tickets have anything to do with claims that Kedah Umno Youth wanted to save Ahmad Bashah the embarrassment of being booed, hence the move to distribute the match tickets to its members?

Tunku Ismail, who is more popularly called TMJ (Tengku Mahkota Johor), in a statement on the Johor Southern Tigers Facebook page then said: “I will be contacting Hamidin Amin, general-secretary of FAM, and Kevin Ramalingam, CEO of FMLLP, to enquire if there are any extra tickets for the Malaysia Cup final to be given to Kedah fans who were not able to obtain tickets.

“I have contacted FMLLP to look into the possibility of printing an additional 1,000 tickets for the Kedah supporters who have been wronged by certain parties.”

Leave politics out of sports

Tunku Ismail lamented that the relationship between Kedah and Johor fans had turned tense, unlike before.

“This is what happens when you have a chief minister who is not firm and who has subordinates who ‘kerja yg bukan bukan’ to create tension between the two parties for their own political gain.

“Kedah and Johor fans should not fight with one another. This is what the politicians want, as this is the political party’s strategy used from before in order to divide and conquer.

“We have to be united to rid elements of politics in football.

“When we fight and are divided, they have everything to gain. My advice to all of you is not to bite their bait,” the Johor crown prince implored.

Tunku Ismail had singled out Ahmad Bashah, Kedah youth, sport, arts and culture exco Aminuddin Omar and Kedah Umno for fanning tension “for their own political gain”.

Post-JDT’s victory, a red-faced Kedah Umno Youth announced it was all for a proposal to see Ahmad Bashah quit as KFA president.

Malay daily Utusan Malaysia reported Kedah Umno Youth chief Shaiful Hazizy Zainol Abidin as saying that the move was deemed necessary as Umno had been repeatedly turned into a scapegoat over football issues.

Shaiful was unhappy that fans booed Ahmad Bashah during the Malaysia Cup final match as it was uncalled for.

“His sacrifices and contributions are not appreciated and they even embarrassed him at the stadium the other day.

“Therefore we believe it would be best for all Kedah Umno leaders including its exco who hold positions in KFA… to relinquish their positions,” Shaiful was quoted as saying.

Malaysia Cup about saving face

The soft-soaping Kedah Umno Youth instead turned the tables accusing “interested parties” of trying to create animosity and generating political sympathy by making Umno a scapegoat.

It said Ahmad Bashah had done much for the state’s football including securing RM54 million in funding for the football association for the next two years.

Is securing funding not the responsibility of the state football association head? So why is Shaiful making Ahmad Bashah’s obligation a big deal?

What does Shaiful have to say to Ahmad Bashah’s iniquitous attempt at politicising football, when the latter disallowed former Kedah skipper Radhi Mat Din from the final’s opening ceremony due to his political affiliation, that of being loyal to PAS?

The fact that a politician like him is tasked with heading a sports outfit is ridiculous, given the conflict of interest and his lack of experience in the field.

What emboldened Ahmad Bashah to deny Kedah’s Radhi the right to watch the match live? Was it not a case of abusing his powers, both as the menteri besar and KFA president?

An incensed Tunku Ismail had then lashed back saying: “I do not care if you are a member of PAS or a member of Umno because football or sports, in general, have nothing to do with politics.

“Radhi has every right to be there at the final together with the Kedah fans as he has contributed tremendously to Kedah when he won the Malaysia Cup.”

Ahmad Bashah evidently could not care less about history and Radhi’s invaluable contributions to Kedah. The Malaysia Cup final was for him and state Umno all about politics and saving face, two devils which for the longest time have torn the Malaysian football scene apart.

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