February 19, 2018
By Haresh Deol
ON Monday, I was invited by radio station BFM (89.9) to be on its programme ‘Pressing Matters’.
THE show zeroed in on the messy affair between Selangor FA and the state government which has resulted in the Red Giants playing at the KL Stadium in Cheras instead of the Shah Alam Stadium.
Selangor Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Azmin Ali’s administration has also stopped funding the football team.
For those in the dark over the nauseating episode, do read ‘Selangor FA Shah Alam Stadium saga evident politics, egos bigger than football’ at www.hareshdeol.blogspot.my.
For the record, Azmin is PKR’s deputy president while Selangor FA president Datuk Seri Subahan Kamal, although no longer holding any political position, is an Umno man.
While Selangor has not been allowed to play at Shah Alam Stadium, Super League outfit PKNS FC and Premier League team Felcra FC have made the 80,372-capacity stadium their home venue.
Azmin has been pushing for the privatisation of Selangor FA to ensure it generates its own funds – thus the birth of Red Giants Sdn Bhd. But the likes of Amirudin Shari, Selangor youth, culture and entrepreneur development committee chairman, has been linked to the company. The Selangor FA exco has demanded for an explanation.
There have been plenty of allegations and claims made by both parties. One thing for sure – the relationship between the state government and Selangor FA is beyond repair.
Since the state government has given up on Subahan and Co, will their attention now be on state-owned PKNS FC?
Immediately after the show, I received a message from an acquaintance revealing PKNS FC could “replace” Selangor FA. This subject was also raised during my discussion with several industry players last week.
A similar scene was seen in Johor when club side Johor FC dominated the M-League instead of the state team Johor FA. Johor FC was later renamed Johor Darul Ta’zim FC.
It remains to be seen if the Selangor palace will give its blessings to such an arrangement, if true. For the record, Sultan of Selangor Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah is an avid Selangor football fan.
Selangor Crown Prince Tengku Amir is also keeping close tabs on the situation. He had in a 2016 Facebook posting said: “I request that the FAS President to introduce a new lineup that is independent of politics, based on merit, fresh, full of energy and capable of achieving results.”
For now, there is nothing stopping the state government from promoting, highlighting and assisting PKNS FC in their Super League adventure.
It is premature to judge the team so early into the season but Datuk K. Rajagobal’s boys have enjoyed a good start to the year. PKNS FC held Terengganu to a 2-2 draw in their opening match and secured two wins (1-0 against Pahang; 2-0 against Perak).
The club sits at the top of the Super League table with seven points.
Azmin saw it fit to spend RM23 million on Selangor FA in 2016 and he could splurge on PKNS FC. Spending RM23 million of tax payers’ money on a state football team seems rather exorbitant as the same funds could have been used to fix, maintain or build infrastructure in Selangor.
The looming general election could make or break Selangor FA. Barisan Nasional leaders, including Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, pledged the Red Giants will play at the Shah Alam Stadium if the party wins the state.
That will also mean Subahan securing state funds to help the team throughout this season and beyond.
But if Azmin retains power, Selangor FA will pretty much be sidelined – unless new faces take over the association.
For the fans, this saga proves that politics and clashes of egos are bigger than football. The same can happen to teams from other states.
Selangor football supporters may eventually ditch their Merah Kuning jersey to don the orange PKNS outfit.
Will orange be the new red and yellow? Only time will tell.
HARESH DEOL is a multi-award winning journalist. He tweets at @HareshDeol and can be reached at [email protected]