FAM must take swift, stern action against players who abuse referees

Kuala Lumpur – It’s high time that the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) take a serious view of players physically or verbally abusing match officials as two such incidents have taken place of late in the Malaysia League (M-League).

On March 6, Kelantan FC striker Jack Hindle clearly pushed the referee during his team’s opening Premier League match against Perak FC II and the case was referred to FAM’s Disciplinary Committee nine days later. Yet, no action has been taken against the player.

Then, on Sunday (March 21), Johor Darul Ta’zim’s (JDT) Ignacio Insa Bohigues, also known as Natxo Insa, had charged at and pushed referee Noor Azriel Baharudin when his team’s Super League match against Perak FC ended at the Perak Stadium in Ipoh. The match ended 2-2.

Such uncouth behaviour must be nipped in the bud as referees are getting worried about their safety on the pitch.

FAM, as the governing body of football in the country, must show their seriousness in dealing with indiscipline so as to protect the image of the local league and show that these match officials deserve the utmost respect when they are carrying out their duties on the field.

Based on a search on the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) website, any player found guilty of abusing or uttering abusive words on referees can be suspended and fined.

In fact, the AFC needed just nine days to hand JDT goalkeeper Mohd Farizal Marlias a 12-month suspension and a fine of US$40,000 when he shoved the referee in the chest during the team’s AFC Cup match against Ceres Negros FC back in 2017.

The suspension involved all matches Asia-wide, covering all domestic, continental and international matches, whether friendly, non-official or official matches.

The swift action taken by the AFC disciplinary and ethics committee clearly showed that there was no room for any form of violence towards referees.

“Stern action must be taken against those who abuse, bully or show rude hand gestures at referees. As for pushing a referee, that involves physical action… it’s a form of violence,” former FAM Referees Committee chairman Subkhiddin Mohd Salleh told Bernama.

“So players who behave aggressively must be prevented from playing until action is taken, just like what the AFC had done. We cannot let such incidents go unpunished or the players will not respect match officials. Action must be taken… we are not just protecting the referees but also the image of football in the country.”

Issues involving match officials have been in the limelight since the M-League kicked off on March 5 following several controversial decisions made by them during matches.

Action had been taken against some who were found to have made the wrong decisions, including being suspended from officiating at matches for two weeks as well as having to undergo a programme to improve their performance.

Although that decision earned high praise, fans are now hoping that similar swift action can be taken against players who break the rules of the game as well.

“The authorities must have the courage and strength to stop such violent behaviour in football,” explained Subkhiddin, who is now a referees technical instructor with FIFA.

The former national and AFC elite referee said there was no doubt that the offences committed by Hindle and Ignacio Insa in pushing the match officials were deemed as violent behaviour and they deserved to be sent off.

The ball’s in your court, FAM. – Bernama

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