Malaysian football on alert after spate of attacks on top players

Former captain Safiq Rahim’s car came under attack by assailants days after forward Faisal Halim suffered fourth-degree burns following an acid attack.

Players of team Malaysia stand for their national anthem before the start of the Asian Cup Group E soccer match between Malaysia and Bahrain at Jassim bin Hamad Stadium in Doha, Qatar, on Saturday, January 20, 2024 [Thanassis Stavrakis/AP Photo]

Malaysia’s Football Association has recommended players consider hiring bodyguards while top club Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT) has beefed up security for its squad after their midfielder Safiq Rahim became the third footballer to be attacked in the country in the past week.

Former Malaysia captain Safiq Rahim was threatened with a hammer and had his car windscreen smashed by two assailants late on Tuesday.

Safiq was not injured in the attack late in southern Johor state following a training session with JohorDarul Ta’zim, the local league’s defending champion and one of Asia’s top clubs which is run by the crown prince of the Johor royal family.

The 36-year-old midfielder posted a photo of his black Honda with its rear windscreen smashed on Instagram.

“Didn’t expect to be attacked near the Johor Darul Ta’zim (JDT) training centre. We need to be vigilant,” he wrote in the post.

He also shared a copy of the police report he made on Instagram where he said: “Two men on a motorcycle suddenly approached my car armed with a hammer and smashed my rear car windscreen.”

“I stopped the car and I was in fear.”

The incident comes within a week of two other attacks on footballers in the Southeast Asian nation.

It has led Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) president Hamidin Mohamad Amin to urge high-profile footballers to take precautions about their personal safety, including hiring bodyguards.

“If you are a big player, you can consider what the overseas footballers are doing, which is to get a bodyguard,” he was quoted as saying by The Star newspaper.

Malaysia's Faisal Halim celebrates after scoring his side's first goal during the Asian Cup Group E soccer match between South Korea and Malaysia at Al Janoub Stadium in Al Wakrah, Qatar, Thursday, Jan. 25, 2024. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)
Malaysia’s Faisal Halim was splashed with acid last week [File: Thanassis Stavrakis/AP]

Star forward suffers fourth-degree burns

Malaysia’s right winger Faisal Halim is in an intensive care unit with fourth-degree burns after being splashed with acid at the weekend outside the capital Kuala Lumpur.

Police are investigating the motive for the attack.

Nicknamed “Mickey”, the 26-year-old plays on the right wing for Selangor Football Club and Malaysia.

Faisal suffered burns on the neck, shoulder, hands and chest in Petaling Jaya district over the weekend.

“I am at the hospital. Faisal’s condition is a bit critical but stable,” Football Association of Selangor deputy president Shahril Mokhtar told AFP news agency.

He said Faisal was initially diagnosed as having suffered second-degree burns, “but after he was moved to another hospital, a plastic surgeon classified the injuries as fourth-degree burns.”

Shahril said Faisal would undergo another surgery, adding that his movement and speech had been affected.

“We are shocked and disappointed that such an attack happened in Malaysia. My concern is also about the mental health of the other players since the new season begins on Friday,” he said.

CEO of Selangor Football Club Johan Kamal Hamidon said security has been heightened for the players, officials and staff of the club but he did not elaborate.

A photo that went viral online showed a visibly shocked and shirtless Faisal seated on a bench with burn marks on his upper body.

The acid attack came three days after another national team player, Akhyar Rashid, was injured in a robbery outside his home in the eastern state of Terengganu.

Kuala Terengganu police chief Azli Mohamad Noor said the incidents were unrelated.

The Malaysian FA urged fans to “stand with Halim” in a post on social media last week.

“Together, we all continue to pray that Harimau Malaya player, Faisal Halim will be granted well-being and recovery for him to recover as usual. Our hero, Faisal Halim.”

Source: News Agencies