Fandi Ahmad and the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) apologised to the Sikh community on Thursday (13 September) after the national coach made a joke involving a reporter’s turban at a press conference last week.
The apology came after an online petition was started on Change.org on Thursday demanding that Fandi apologise for his remark.
The petition, which was started by a person called Harvinder Singh, said that Fandi’s remark was “culturally inappropriate” and “racist”. It has received more than 800 signatures as of Friday evening.
According to Harvinder, at the pre-match press conference in Singapore on 6 September before the match between the Lions and Mauritius, a Sikh reporter from The New Paper, Dilenjit Singh, had asked Fandi for his thoughts on his team.
Dilenjit was said to have asked the question, “You said that in terms of skill and technique, some of our rivals in the region have overtaken us. How would that affect you wanting to play the good football which you are known for?”
Fandi was said to have replied: “We have not all bad… I can’t condemn anybody because our system is different from others. I can’t say it also, as it is against the Government. You know if I say it loud, you know, you will be seeing your turban would be gone. Seriously bro. I cannot say, I want to tell you. But later private I will tell you.”
Many male Sikhs keep their hair long and wear turbans as part of their religious obligations.
FAS said in a statement posted on its website:
“The Football Association of Singapore regrets that National Team Head Coach Fandi Ahmad’s comments during the pre-match press conference on 6 September 2018 for the match between Singapore and Mauritius, have upset members of the Sikh community.
“Fandi and the FAS have contacted Mr. Dilenjit Singh (The New Paper reporter) and the Sikh Advisory Board (SAB) to explain, apologise and clarify the matter. Mr. Singh gracefully accepted our explanation and apology. Our discussion with the Sikh Advisory Board has also revealed that the comments could be hurtful to the Sikh community even though they were not made with any malicious intent.
“As such, the FAS has taken the opportunity to remind all our staff to be sensitive about all remarks made even in jest and accord to the highest level of professionalism and respect in engaging our stakeholders and the community at all times.”
One signee of the petition, Sunil Kumar, commented, “Inappropriate and unprofessional comment. Hopefully, Fandi would realise his mistake and apologise.”
Netizen Jas Singh commented on Fandi’s Facebook page, “Frankly, I think your comments to the reporter could have been a bit more tactful. But I think one problem that you face is your poor command of the English language for press conferences.”