‘Football should be above politics’ – Selangor FA will not back out of tournament in China

A number of fans have questioned Selangor’s decision to take part in the Meizhou Hakka Chinese New Year Cup invitational tournament next January.

BY        ZULHILMI ZAINAL       Follow on Twitter

It was revealed very recently that Selangor will take part in a pre-season tournament in China, the Meizhou Hakka Chinese New Year Cup 2020, between 24 and 29 January next year.

Details on the tournament are scarce, with the club yet to announce its participation officially, but according to Selangor secretary-general Johan Kamal Hamidon when contacted by Goal on Friday, the club will take part in the competition alongside K League 1 club and army side Sangju Sangmu, Thai League 1 outfit Chonburi FC, as well as hosts and Chinese second tier side Meizhou Hakka.

And less than a week before this tournament, Selangor would be organising their own invitational tournament too, the 2020 Asian Challenge, with top Southeast Asian clubs Persib, Hanoi FC and Bangkok United set to take part.

However, Selangor’s participation does appear a little ill-timed, in light of recent developments in world football.

Over the past week, Arsenal FC star Mesut Ozil spoke out against the harsh treatment received by the Uyghur Muslim minority in China, resulting in an instant backlash from the autocracy; such as the cancelling of Arsenal match live broadcasts on Chinese television channels, as well as the bizarre removal of Ozil from Chinese editions of popular football video games.

Photo from Getty

Football fans, especially those from Muslim countries, defended the former Germany international on social media and posted in support of the Uyghur community.

This particular issue is something that fans in Malaysia are aware too, with a number of them questioning Selangor’s decision to take part in the tournament, in the comments sections of fan pages.

But Johan is adamant that the Red Giants will go ahead with their involvement, citing contractual reasons.

“We’ve committed to the tournament two months ago. We are of course not happy with what is going on in China, but we’ve signed the contract and have already committed resources by purchasing flight tickets. 

“They will pay us a participation fee, but the travelling and accommodation costs are borne by us. So if we cancel our participation, they won’t pay us the fee [and reimburse travelling and accommodation costs]. It’s not a good situation to be in. It’s not good for us to be wasting money and compromising our pre-season preparations [by withdrawing],” he explained.

Johan Kamal Hamidon, Selangor, 2019

Johan Kamal Hamidon. Photo from MFL

But ultimately, the former student association representative is of the opinion that football and politics should not be made bedfellows.

“The game of football is independent of politics and what is happening in China and what the Chinese government is up to should not be blamed on Meizhou, just like how we should not be blamed for whatever our government’s actions. We are separate entities with our own values and objectives. 

“It’s not a straightforward matter. The whole thing with Ozil happened over a week ago and by then it was too late to change anything regarding our participation. Who knows, it (Selangor’s withdrawal) may even escalate things; by drawing the ire of the Chinese government who will then turn its attention towards the Malaysian government. At the end of the day, we don’t want our footballing activities to be distracted by politics,” noted Johan.

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