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December 27th, 2010 by Hafiz Noor Shams
I am happy that the Malaysian soccer team beat Indonesia by a large margin in the first leg of the Suzuki Cup final. This is especially so when Malaysia was beaten by 5 goals to 1 earlier by Indonesia in the group stage. I am not a nationalist but the win tastes sweet nonetheless.
While I do believe that the team deserves the win — the play was surprising above the level Malaysia was typically associated with in the past — the 3-1 win in Kuala Lumpur is problematic.
Malaysian fans shot laser beam at Indonesian players. It was distracted and at some point of time, the Indonesian team rightly protested and appeared to threaten to leave the game. Indonesia certainly got off the pitch for more than 5 minutes in protest.
The Malaysian fans appeared to stop the unsportsmanlike behavior after the game resumed. It was after that the Malaysia overcame a crumbling Indonesian team.
The problem is that Indonesian fans are questioning the win, arguing that the laser beam incident somehow contributed to Malaysia’s win. In other words, Malaysia cheated.
I do not think Malaysia cheated. If I said Malaysia cheated, I would unfairly deny the effort the Malaysian players put into the game. The goals were fantastic. The first was clearly a mistake made by an Indonesia defender. He wanted the ball to go out but it did not. Malaysia capitalized on that. The second happened because Indonesia failed to mark Mohd Ashaari Shamsudin. The third was a good long pass that ended with the ball headed in. It were not just the goals that symbolize the effort. In the second half, as far as soccer layperson like me can tell, Malaysia made fantastic passes while defending excellently.
Nevertheless, I always believe the most satisfying win is one that is reasonably unquestionable. The 3-0 Malaysian win in Kuala Lumpur unfortunately is questionable.
As a result, I hold that Malaysia needs to win the second leg of the match that will be held in Jakarta. If Malaysia won the away match, then it would make the first controversial win irrelevant. A win for Malaysia in Jakarta would be satisfying and enough to silent the critics from Indonesia.
If Malaysia lost in Jakarta but won on aggregate, then Malaysia would lose morally. Even a draw for Malaysia will not do. The only way Malaysia can win the tournament as well as achieve a moral win is by defeating Indonesia on their own turf.