Friday, March 2, 2012

What graft?

Jakarta . Indonesian football authorities on Friday denied any foul play in the national team’s 10-0 thrashing by Bahrain, after world governing body FIFA announced an inquiry and fans expressed outrage.

The Gulf side needed to win by a nine-goal margin to have any hope of going through to the last round of Asian zone qualifiers for the 2014 World Cup finals, while Indonesia had already been eliminated from the tournament.

Indonesia’s football association (PSSI) has long been mired in graft scandals, but the head of its disciplinary committee Bernhard Limbong said: “There’s no way corruption is involved in this.

“I know because I was involved in organizing the match. If anyone did that, they would be a traitor to Indonesia. I would like to apologize to the whole nation for the defeat and for making Indonesia look like a total loser.”

Before the game the two teams had a head-to-head record of two wins apiece and two draws, but Indonesia went down to a flurry of goals after their starting keeper was sent off two minutes into the match.

FIFA said it was mounting its investigation “given the unusual outcome in relation to the results-expectation and head-to-head history and in the interests of maintaining unequivocal confidence in our game”.

Limbong said: “We welcome FIFA to carry out the required investigation on the matter. If there is any evidence to prove that corruption was involved, please let us know. But please don’t jump to conclusions.”

He added that the PSSI would protest the goalkeeper’s sending-off to FIFA.

In the event, the result was academic, with Bahrain’s rivals Qatar going through when a goal four minutes from time in Tehran earned them a 2-2 draw with Iran.

But Indonesians ridiculed the result on Twitter.

“Wait, 10-0 Bahrain vs Indonesia. Is this football as in ‘soccer’, right? Not ‘American’ football,” avianto tweeted in English.

The PSSI has come under fire in recent years over corruption allegations, leadership tussles and most recently a breakaway super league that has prompted threats of sanctions by FIFA and the Asian Football Confederation.

The country’s coordinating minister for the economy Hatta Rajasa said he was surprised by the score and hoped it was embarrassing enough for the troubled sporting body to reform.

“Indonesian football needs to be better managed and better regulated,” Rajasa said. “It’s sad to see a score of 10-0. It’s not basketball, it’s football.” -Wireservices

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