: The Football Association of Malaysia's (FAM) decision to cancel three competitions under its purview is seen to be in line with the government's aim to protect the public's health amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Former National Sports Institute (ISN) chief executive officer Datuk Dr Ramlan Abdul Aziz said it was important for people to look at the cancellation of Youth Cup (Under-19), President's Cup (Under-21), as well as the Malaysia Premier Futsal League (MPFL) in this context.
"Although they (adolescents and youths) are not considered high-risk for contracting severe symptoms and are in general more healthy than those who are older and prone to illnesses, it is possible that if infected, they could pass on the infection to their family members who are more vulnerable.
"Any decision should therefore first and foremost take public health interest into consideration. After all, these players are still young, and they are not playing at the professional level, and it's not as if they are the sole breadwinners for their families," Dr Ramlan said in a statement issued by the Malaysian Football League today.
Dr Ramlan, who is also a sports medicine specialist, said it would be difficult for FAM to monitor the Youth and President's cup competitions as compared to the Premier League and Super League, where strict standard operating procedures (SOP) are observed at the stadiums.
Senior sports medicine lecturer from the University of Malaya, Assoc Prof Dr Abdul Halim Mokhtar concurred with the view, saying the difficulty faced by FAM in implementing strict guidelines for competitions held in open venues was the main concern.
"We believe this is the basis of FAM's decision, given that matches in the President's Cup and Youth Cup which is participated by youth state teams are held at open fields, and that it is difficult to provide a safe space for all stakeholders such as players, teams, officials and match staff," he explained.
UiTM Shah Alam's Faculty of Sports Sciences and Recreation senior lecturer Sadek Mustaffa meanwhile, also sees the cancellation of these competitions as a way to ease the financial burden of the teams involved following the COVID-19 pandemic.
He also agreed with FAM's proposal to provide youth and teenagers the opportunity to be integrated with their respective elite teams in the Premier League and Super League following the cancellations.
"Apart from that, it is advisable for these competitions to be commenced much earlier next year, in line with the schedule for the 2020 Malaysia Games," added Sadek.
FAM secretary-general Stuart Ramalingam in a statement yesterday said that the parent body had made the decision to cancel the Youth Cup, Presidential Cup and MPFL competition as football and futsal are categorised as contact sports, which is among the activities currently prohibited by MKN.