Acid attack leaves Malaysia soccer star in ‘critical but stable condition,’ officials say

A star player for Malaysia’s soccer team is in “critical but stable condition” after an acid attack that left him with fourth-degree burns, officials said late Tuesday.

Malaysian soccer officials said Faisal Halim’s movement and speech had been affected and he would require more surgery.

On May 5, the 26-year-old was splashed with concentrated sulfuric acid in front of a shopping mall outside the capital Kuala Lumpur, Malaysian police reported.

Halim, who plays as an attacker for Selangor Football Club as well as Malaysia’s national team, was taken to a nearby private hospital in the capital, while still conscious. He had suffered severe burns to his face, neck, shoulders, hands and chest, officials add.

Specialist doctors on Tuesday concluded that Halim had suffered fourth-degree burns, not second-degree burns as previously thought, said officials from the Football Association of Selangor.

“Faisal will now undergo at least two more surgeries as determined by doctors. Currently he is still in the ICU and is being closely monitored by specialists,” deputy president of the association Shahril Mokhtar told the Bernama national news outlet, adding that Halim’s movement and speech had been affected by the attack.

“The left side of his body and arm are severely affected, which affects his movement,” Mokhtar said. “It’s quite bad, he can’t really feel his left arm and couldn’t communicate clearly after surgery. He’s feeling stiff and is unable to talk well.”

Fourth-degree burns are the most serious classification, where the injury has gone through skin and underlying tissue as well as deeper tissue, even as far as the bone.

Photos of Halim after the attack circulated widely online and left many in shock. He was seen sitting down, covered with a towel, looking stunned – while surrounded by police officers and medics. Large areas of skin had also peeled off from the side of his arms and torso.

It is the second violent attack on a Malaysian soccer player this month. Last week, another national team player, 25-year-old Akhyar Rashid, was attacked by armed robbers at his condominium in downtown Kuala Lumpur after returning from a training session, and suffered a 4 cm (1.5-inch) gash to his forehead, according to police.

Motive still unknown

Reports of acid attacks are rare in Malaysia. The motive behind the attack is still unknown, Malaysia police say, adding that investigations are currently ongoing. Two men – one in his late 30s, the other in his 20s – had been detained in connection with the attack on Halim, police add.

CNN has reached out to several agencies including the Football Association of Malaysia, the country’s national governing body, for additional comment about Halim’s condition and about additional safety measures for national team players following the incident.

Malaysian politicians, including Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim, have raised concerns about the attack. Anwar, who had visited Halim in hospital, condemned the attack and said he wished the player a speedy recovery and “return to football.”

Halim made his debut for Malaysia’s national team in 2019. Since then, he has helped the team qualify for prominent regional tournaments including the 2023 AFC Asian Cup in Qatar — where he scored in an unlikely draw with giants South Korea. Late last year, he also scored the winning goal in a World Cup qualifying match against Kyrgyzstan.

Selangor finished second in last season’s Malaysia Super Liga. The new season starts this month.

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