A Myanmar footballer playing for a Malaysian club has been hit with a one-match ban for flashing the three-finger salute used by anti-coup protesters during a game, an official said Tuesday.
Hein Htet Aung, who plays for second-division side Selangor FC II, made the political gesture during a match against PDRM FC in early March.
A picture of him flashing the symbol went viral, and he was found to have broken rules prohibiting offensive gestures or language, Malaysia’s football association said, adding that his conduct was “unsportsmanlike”.
Hein Htet Aung was banned from playing in a game against Perak FC II this Friday, and could face heavier penalties if he repeats the offence.
“Football must be above race, religion and politics,” Baljit Singh Sidhu, chairman of the association’s disciplinary committee, told AFP.
“Football must be used to unite people and not to divide them — and should not take sides with anybody.”
The three-finger salute, inspired by the Hunger Games films, has become a symbol of resistance in Asia, first used widely by Thai pro-democracy protesters last year.
It was also adopted by pro-democracy demonstrators in Myanmar after the military seized power and detained civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi in February.
The coup triggered massive protests nationwide but the military has used increasing brutality to quell the movement, with over 500 killed in the crackdown so far.