Malaysian FA bans club manager for speaking out

The Football Association of Malaysia has banned Datuk Ahmad Basri Akil, manager of the Kedah football club, for three years for criticising the national football governing body in a newspaper on 4 September. Basri only returned to football this year after serving out a four-year ban slapped in 2001 when, as an FAM council member, he did exactly the same thing. Under the FAM constitution, officials who speak out against the body do so at their own peril and if found guilty, are banned from taking part in any FAM-sanctioned footballing activities.

"What has the FAM got to show for being above-criticism when Malaysia's FIFA rating is down in the pits and the national team continues to produce disastrous results even at the South East Asian level?" asked Azman Ujang of the Bernama newsagency. He reported that Sports Commissioner Tan Sri Elyas Omar, who has wide-ranging powers under the Sports Development Act in regulating the running of sports associations, "could provide a way out".

Elyas told Bernama that he found it unfair for the FAM to take such an action on Basri just for voicing out his grievances publicly. "Basri is not a member of the FAM council so he can't be doing so within the four walls of the council. In fact the whole country is voicing their grievances against the FAM for not producing results expected of our football," he said. "I feel the FAM needs to liberalise and be more open to criticisms."

Elyas served for many years in the FAM council when he headed the Kuala Lumpur FA and admitted that there was a lack of dissenting views among the council members.He said under the Act, the Sports Commissioner could approve amendments to the constitution submitted by sports associations. "In approving such amendments, I also have the power to add my own amendments to improve the running and administration of sports associations. In fact, in many cases, I have done so," he said.

He also said that what what ailed Malaysian football is the existing system which also closely involved the state Football Associations. "It's not just the FAM system, it's also involving the states. The failure of the FAM is also due to the FAs. For Malaysian football to have any chance of restoring its past glory, we have to restructure the system and look at it from the synergetic and holistic view," he said.