August 21, 2017
Malaysia’s 2017 SEA Games Cockup–Getting the Indonesian Flag
by FA Abdul
COMMENT| A young journalist working for a local media company, Wai Wai Hnin Pwint Phyu walked into the training room in the Pazundaung district of Yangon the other morning, feeling somewhat upset.
The Cock Up. But the Magnanimous H.E. President Jokowi Widodo said we should not make a mountain out of a molehill. But we in Malaysia should not make this kind of mistake. Actually, this oversight is inexcusable.
“Fa, what you think of SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur?” she asked in her limited English.
“I think we struggled to make it happen. Why do you ask?” I said.
“I am not happy. I am very angry,” said Wai, her face sour.
Since we had a good half-hour before beginning the training session, I pulled out two chairs next to her – one for me and one for our translator – and prepared myself for a story.
Before I could ask her what made her upset, Wai showed me a picture on her handphone. It was of a big group of Malaysian supporters clad in Jalur Gemilang.
“What picture is this?” I asked, curious.
“This is a picture of Malaysian fans, taken during the 2013 SEA Games in Myanmar during the Malaysia-Singapore football match. See how happy they are supporting their country inside the stadium.”
I looked at her, confused.
“Do you know where the Myanmar fans were when our Myanmar football team fought Laos?” she asked, her eyes turning red.
“Where?” I asked worriedly.
“Outside the stadium,” she answered shortly as she showed me a picture of hundreds of fans with Myanmar flags outside the stadium.
Malaysian crowd unfriendly towards our Singapore neighbours
According to Wai and allegations on social media, only 500 tickets were made available by Malaysia for the Myanmar fans during the Myanmar-Laos match at the UiTM Stadium, which has a capacity of 6,000 seats. Although there were a lot of empty seats during the match, no additional tickets were made available for the remaining fans. As a result, they had to camp outside – some climbed fences and some on trees, to catch glimpses of the match.
From time to time, someone from inside the stadium would ring someone waiting outside, to give updates on the match – that was how their fans outside the stadium celebrated all of Myanmar’s three goals.
Myanmar fans who were stranded outside were purportedly only allowed to enter the stadium 10 minutes before the match ended.
“This picture is going viral in Myanmar. It is making many people angry at Malaysia. Myanmar treated Malaysia so well during the 2013 SEA Games but Malaysia is treating Myanmar so bad in 2017 SEA Games. Why?” Wai asked an honest question.
I was lost for a reply.
“There are thousands of Myanmar people working in Malaysia. This is not fair for them,” she added.
“I agree, Wai. This is not fair….if it is true.”
“You always support your Malaysia,” Wai said. She did not sound too happy. “Look at this report in your own media.”
The news report was about the bus driver of the Myanmar women’s football team who apparently was arrested for theft during a match.
“The Myanmar team had already complained on social media that they were feeling scared of the way the bus driver was operating the bus while on the way to the stadium. And then after beating Malaysia 5-0, the Myanmar team who were tired and hungry had to wait almost two more hours because they could not find the bus driver. Nobody knew he was arrested,” Wai explained.
“That’s really bad,” I said, scratching my head.
Driving without a licence
“You know what is really bad, Fa? The report also says that the bus driver had no driving licence at all!”
My jaw dropped.
“How can Malaysia hire someone without driving licence for our athletes? What if something bad had happened while he was driving recklessly?” Wai was really upset.
I scrolled the Facebook page showed by Wai and was displeased to read chains of angry comments.
“If you are not ready for this, you don’t need to be a host. Shame on you Malaysia!
Tony Fernandes and AirAsia Staff–The Bright Side of Malaysia
“Everyone is angry at Malaysia. Me, my father, my boyfriend… everyone. We always like Malaysia because Malaysia is beautiful country, many of our relatives work in Malaysia and we have friends like you from Malaysia. But this time, we don’t like Malaysia.” said Wai, unhappily.
I apologised to Wai on behalf of Malaysia. She smiled, assuring me that it was not my fault that her countrymen were treated in such a way. However, deep inside, I know she is still very much upset.
With hundreds of millions of ringgit spent to ensure the 29th SEA Games unfolds perfectly, I wonder what went wrong.
Do the stories going viral in Myanmar hold any truth? Perhaps Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin should look into it.
As I was writing this, I received a text message forwarded by my son. It was an invitation for all Malaysian football fans to support the Malaysian team in the Malaysia-Myanmar match on August 21 in Shah Alam – the tickets all sponsored.
And I begin to wonder if Myanmar football fans in Malaysia will be able to purchase tickets for this match today – or whether they will be left allegedly stranded outside the stadium once again.
So much for the spirit of sport…