BY: Joe Cahal
The grand final of an international rugby tournament had to be abandoned when a savage, mass brawl broke out involving players, officials and spectators in Malaysia.
Police are investigating the rampage which left an assistant referee with broken teeth and neck injuries and ten players from both sides needing treatment for broken bones and cuts, after the final between Algeria and Malyasia descended into chaos.
The game on Sunday was the climax of the inaugural Crescent Nations Cup – a tournament set up to promote solidarity and close cooperation between Islamic countries.
Blame the ref!
Initial reports from the New Straits Times said the fighting started when Algerian players became increasingly frustrated at the referee’s performance which they believed favoured the home side, Malaysia.
The simmering resentment and sense of injustice at the referee’s decisions boiled over in the second half as Algeria took their frustration out on the hosts with a series of heavier and dirtier challenges that finally erupted into an all-in brawl.
Spectators joined in the fighting when a Malaysian player was assailed by several Algerians and photographs show packs of players fighting, some wielding plastic chairs while others are pictured lying sparked out on the pitch and receiving treatment for their injuries.
‘Attacked by Six Algerians’
“(One of our players) was attacked by six Algerians and it was at that point that the spectators went in to help him,” said Malaysian Rugby Union’s general manager Mazuri Sallehudin. He is blaming tournament organizers for the incredible scenes but accepts the MRU may be held accountable by the game’s governing body, the World Rugby Union .
He said: “We have already filed a police report on the incident and will have a council meeting to decide what action to take soon.
“Unfortunately, MRU and possibly the national team could also face disciplinary action from World Rugby and ARFU but we do not know yet.”
Sallehudin also gave his version of events, telling the New Strait Times: “I believe the Algerian players could have been frustrated due to communication issues with the referee whose English was hard to understand. From the feedback we have received, the organisers did not have enough security personnel on hand … to quell the situation quickly.”
The future of the competition is now in doubt following the final’s embarrassing and disgraceful descent into violence and fighting. The political fall-out for Malaysia is unclear but given the event enjoyed the patronage of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak heads are likely to roll.
The government’s Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin had been extremely optimistic about the positive impact the tournament would have and commented at the launch event in April: “I believe this event will show that sports is indeed a platform to foster goodwill among nations.
“We hear a lot about extremism and Islamophobia these days but lets us show everybody that sports can go beyond that and I’m proud that we will play host to the first Crescent Cup Rugby Championships.”
Six of the original 12 participating nations withdrew before the first match on June 1 with Iran, Lebanon, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan the other nations taking part. The referee awarded Malaysia a 19-11 win over Algeria after the final.