A black eye for Malaysian football: Explaining the recent attacks on Harimau Malaya's Akhyar and Faisal

Malaysian footballers targeted in brutal assaults

06 May 2024 05:13pm
Akhyar Rashid (left) and Faisal Halim both at their respective crime scenes when they were assaulted.
Akhyar Rashid (left) and Faisal Halim both at their respective crime scenes when they were assaulted.

SHAH ALAM - Within a span of 72 hours, the nation was rattled by distressing news concerning two Harimau Malaya players: Akhyar Rashid and Faisal Halim, who became victims of robbery and an acid attack respectively.

In the glamorous realm of professional football, fame and fortune often come hand in hand with relentless scrutiny and pressure.

While global icons like Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi contend with constant public attention, local football heroes face their own set of challenges.

Malaysian players, though not under the same global spotlight, wrestle with the loss of privacy and heightened criticism inherent to their profession.

Yet, there are lines that should never be crossed; privacy and physical safety should remain off boundaries.

Unfortunately, recent events have cast a shadow over Malaysian football, highlighting the harsh realities faced by athletes both on and off the field.

Akhyar's Robbery Incident

Akhyar, a prominent footballer loaned from Johor Darul Ta'zim to Terengganu FC (TFC), was brutally attacked by two unidentified assailants outside his home in Icon Residence, Terengganu.

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The attack occurred on the evening of May 2, shortly after his return from training at Sultan Mizan Zainal Abidin Stadium.

The robbers, dressed in black and masked, assaulted Akhyar with an iron rod, leaving him with significant injuries: a 4-centimetre (cm) gash on his head and stitches on his leg.

The motive appeared to be robbery, with the suspects fleeing after robbing money from the victim.

Social Media Speculation

The incident quickly sparked speculation on social media platforms, with concerns raised about potential motives behind the attack.

Some fans questioned whether this was a targeted assault, linking it to Akhyar's recent transition to TFC.

The rarity of armed robbery cases in the state added fuel to these speculations, as well as assertions claiming the robbers seemed to purposely attack Akhyar's legs, sparking debates on possible sabotage related to upcoming football matches.

Police Investigation and Calls for Restraint

Authorities, led by Kuala Terengganu district police chief Assistant Commissioner Azli Mohd Noor, launched a comprehensive investigation into the robbery.

Azli clarified that a thorough investigation is currently ongoing, examining both criminal and narcotics aspects to identify multiple suspects involved in the case.

He also mentioned that a dedicated team has been assembled for this task, and two witnesses have been called upon to facilitate the investigation.

"We have also reviewed closed-circuit television (CCTV) footage in the area where the suspects are believed to have passed through.

"Therefore, we urge the public not to speculate or spread rumours on social media to avoid disrupting the investigation," he said on Sunday.

Acid Attack on Faisal

It was reported on Sunday that the prominent winger with the national team and Selangor FC, fell victim to an acid attack at a shopping mall in Kota Damansara, Petaling Jaya.

The attack, which occurred after a go-karting session, left Faisal, also known as 'Mickey', with severe burns on his head and arms.

Based on images circulating on social media, it appears that Faisal has sustained injuries to multiple parts of his body.

While Faisal is reported to be in stable condition and receiving treatment at a private hospital, the motive behind the attack remains shrouded in mystery.

Police’s Response

Law enforcement agencies swiftly responded to the incident, with Selangor Police Chief Datuk Hussein Omar Khan confirming the acid attack and urging witnesses to come forward with any pertinent information.

The state police subsequently arrested a man relating to Faisal’s acid attack.

Hussein said the suspect is a man in his 20s.

"We will apply for a remand order against the suspect to help with further investigations.

"The motive for the attack is also under investigation.

"We will be calling several witnesses to have their statements recorded today as well," he said.

He also noted that the police have taken statements from three individuals, including the victim, so far.

Club and Public Responses

TFC CEO Sabri Abas issued a statement urging the public, especially football enthusiasts, to avoid spreading unfounded speculations.

The club expressed serious concern over the incident and called for prayers for Akhyar's recovery.

Meanwhile, Selangor FC issued a statement condemning the attack and pledged full cooperation with the police to resolve the case.

The state football club urged its fans and football supporters to pray for Faisal’s wellbeing.

Youth and Sports Minister Hannah Yeoh's response

Hannah condemned the attack and said in a statement that she strongly condemned the attack of violence towards our Malaysian athletes.

“No violence in sports. I urge @PDRMsia (the police) to take immediate action towards the suspect,” she said on her social media platform.

Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) President Hamidin Mohd Amin's Response

Hamidin advised Faisal to forget about football for the time being as he recuperates from the acid attack.

He expressed disappointment and sadness over the attack against Faisal and Akhyar.

Selangor Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Amirudin Shari also urged the police to conduct a comprehensive investigation into the violent incident involving these two incidents.

"I strongly condemn the inhumane actions against Faisal and Akhyar recently.

"These thuggish acts are extreme and should not have happened.

“I urge the police to conduct a thorough investigation and pray for the speedy recovery of both players," he said in a post on his Facebook page.

Royalty’s Responses

Selangor Ruler Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah expressed concern over the acid attack.

A statement from the Palace condemned the violent act against Faisal and called for investigations into the possibility of it being linked to civil disobedience or football hooliganism.

“His Royal Highness, as the patron of Selangor FC and the Selangor Raja Muda Tengku Amir Shah as the manager of Selangor FC, strongly condemn the immoral act.

“His Royal Highness is disappointed and regards the incident as being extreme as it involved the lives of sportsmen.

“His Royal Highness is worried if the incident is not duly dealt with immediately, it may result in worse things happening in the future,” said the statement.

Sultan Sharafuddin also prayed for Faisal to return to good health so that he could continue playing for Selangor FC.

JDT owner Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim, spoke out and directed that the incident be investigated.

Tunku Ismail, also known as TMJ condemned the incident involving the two national football players.

“I condemn the recent incidents involving Faisal and Akhyar, where their safety and well-being was harmed by irresponsible individuals.

“I hope the police thoroughly investigate the cases and take appropriate action," he said.