‘I WAS NOT EVEN THERE’

Chess tour­na­ment di­rec­tor: I never im­plied player’s out­fit was se­duc­tive

New Straits Times - - News - ESTHER LANDAU KUALA LUMPUR news@nst.com.my

ACHESS tour­na­ment di­rec­tor, who was roundly crit­i­cised on so­cial me­dia for al­legedly la­belling a 12-year-old fe­male com­peti­tor ’s dress as “se­duc­tive”, has hit back at his de­trac­tors.

Sophian A. Yusuf, who was the tour­na­ment di­rec­tor of the Na­tional Scholas­tic Chess Cham­pi­onships 2017, said the al­le­ga­tions made against him were slan­der­ous, as he had never even met the girl in ques­tion.

Sophian, who is with the Malaysian Chess Fed­er­a­tion (MCF), was sub­jected to a tor­rent of abuse on so­cial me­dia, af­ter it was claimed that he was the rea­son be­hind the girl’s with­drawal from the tour­na­ment, held in Putrajaya last month.

The is­sue be­gan when the girl’s coach, Malaysian chess player Kaushal Khand­har, penned a Face­book post ex­press­ing his out­rage at the event or­gan­is­ers for their al­leged treat­ment of the girl over her at­tire, which was deemed “se­duc­tive” and a “temp­ta­tion from a cer­tain an­gle far, far away”.

Kaushal had shared a photo of the girl’s out­fit, which com­prised a short sleeved black and or­ange striped dress.

Kaushal is seek­ing a pub­lic apol­ogy from the tour­na­ment di­rec­tor for lead­ing the girl, who felt “ha­rassed and hu­mil­i­ated”, to pulling out from the tour­na­ment.

Ne­ti­zens had since shared a photo of Sophian, and la­belled him a “per­vert” and “pae­dophile” over the claims.

Break­ing his si­lence yes­ter­day, Sophian re­futed the claims. He said he had never met the girl, nor did he ever im­ply that the girl’s dress was “se­duc­tive”.

“It isn’t true. I was not even there (at the lo­ca­tion where she was play­ing) when this al­legedly hap­pened. I have never even seen this girl, nor did I see her out­fit at the time,” he said, adding that he only saw the dress when the tour­na­ment pho­tog­ra­pher showed it to him af­ter the con­tro­versy broke.

Ex­plain­ing the se­quence of events, Sophian said an ar­biter had noted the girl’s dress­ing on the tour­na­ment’s first day and asked another ar­biter for advice. The sec­ond ar­biter then told an as­sis­tant, a wo­man, to speak to the girl and ad­vise her ac­cord­ingly.

“How­ever, the advice was ig­nored,” he said.

He said the girl sub­mit­ted her with­drawal let­ter from the tour­na­ment the next day. Hours af­ter the girl with­drew, he re­ceived a phone call from the girl’s mother, but did not answer it as he was mod­er­at­ing the event.

Sophian said, since the con­tro­versy broke, he had been on the re­ceiv­ing end of abuse from so­cial me­dia users.

He broke down as he spoke about the hate mail he re­ceived.

“I re­ceived abu­sive mes­sages and threats on Face­book and via email. Peo­ple used terms like ‘pae­dophile’ and ‘per­vert’. I looked for mes­sages of sup­port, but there were none,” he said.

He said he has an 11-year-old daugh­ter, also a chess player. The crit­i­cism, he said, had hurt him and af­fected his fam­ily.

“My daugh­ter is aware of the ac­cu­sa­tions against me. She has since be­come with­drawn and has re­fused to speak on the mat­ter.”

How­ever, Sophian said he bore no ill-will to the girl over the in­ci­dent.

“I wish her all the best and suc­cess in ev­ery­thing she does and in her life.”

Sophian said he had lodged a re­port on the mat­ter with the Malaysian Com­mu­ni­ca­tions and Mul­ti­me­dia Com­mis­sion (MCMC) over the al­le­ga­tions on so­cial me­dia.

He has also lodged a po­lice re­port on the in­ci­dent last week. He said the MCF com­mit­tee would hold a dis­cus­sion on the case and de­cide on the next course of ac­tion.

He has en­gaged a lawyer and is mulling le­gal ac­tion.

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