Southeast Asia Vietnam

STY and PSSI SLAM AFF after Indonesia U-19 Exit

Both Shin Tae-yong and the Football Federation of Indonesia (PSSI) were angered by Indonesia U-19’s painful exit from the 2022 AFF U-19 Championship last Sunday. The Garuda Nusantara managed to thrash Myanmar U-19 5-1, however Thailand U-19 and Vietnam U-19’s 1-1 draw meant that both the Changsuek and the Golden Dragons advanced out of their group at Indonesia’s expense by virtue of their head-to-head goal difference, with both Thailand U-19 and Vietnam U-19 seemingly unwilling to attack one another in the final 10 minutes of their match that raised suspicions of match-fixing.

Having played out 0-0 draws with both Thailand U-19 and Vietnam U-19, Indonesia U-19 would have to win against Myanmar U-19 in their final group match whilst hoping that both Thailand U-19 and Vietnam U-19 would either play out a goalless draw or beat one another to stand a chance of qualifying out of their group.

Indonesia U-19 did their job admirably, going back from 1-0 down to win 5-1 at the Patriot Chandrabhaga Stadium. However, at the same time at the Gelora Bung Karno Madya Stadium, a goal from Thailand U-19’s Kroekphon Abram was quickly replied by Vietnam U-19’s Khuat Van Khang, before the two teams proceeded to play the ball within their own halves as if wanting to retain their 1-1 draw. The result stood, which resulted in Indonesia U-19’s elimination from the AFF U-19 Championship.

Unlike most tournaments, the AFF U-19 Championship prioritizes head-to-head records instead of goal differences when deciding tiebreakers. Thailand U-19, Vietnam U-19, and Indonesia U-19 were all tied with 11 points after 5 matches and head-to-head wise the three teams were tied as well. However, Indonesia U-19’s failure to score in their draws with Thailand U-19 and Vietnam U-19 ensured their exit from the competition, despite having the best goal difference out of everyone in the tournament.

This enraged Indonesian football fans, who accused both Thailand U-19 and Vietnam U-19 of match-fixing after they saw that the two sides were unwilling to gain an advantage over one another after Van Khang’s equalizer. The sentiment was shared by Indonesia U-19 head coach Tae-yong and the PSSI higher brass, who promptly filed a letter of protest to the AFF.

“Vietnam and Thailand are scared of Indonesia, which is why they did what they’ve done,” Tae-yong said in a post-match press conference, as quoted from Goal Indonesia, “They should’ve played fairly but they didn’t, and that offends me.”

Tae-yong went on to brand both Vietnam U-19 and Thailand U-19 as “cowards” who used “underhanded tactics” to undermine an Indonesia side who had improved quite a lot in recent years, as well as slamming the AFF for prioritizing head-to-head records in deciding tie-breakers whilst FIFA and the AFC are using the more widely-used goal difference method.

“The AFF shouldn’t use head-to-head in deciding tiebreakers in group stages,” said Tae-yong.

On Tuesday, the PSSI have formally sent their letter of protest to both the AFF and FIFA, along with video evidence that both Thailand U-19 and Vietnam U-19 are performing suspicious acts of match-fixing in their game. Should both Thailand U-19 and Vietnam U-19 are found guilty of match-fixing, they will be booted out of the AFF U-19 Championship with Indonesia U-19 and Myanmar U-19 replacing them in the semifinals.

“If both Thailand and Vietnam played fairly, then we’ll have no issues whatsoever even though we’re eliminated from the AFF U-19s. But the two teams did not take their match seriously and such acts have hurt us. Which is why we’re filing this protest to the AFF’s Disciplinary Committee, in hopes that they will investigate this match and decide on whether it’s match-fixing or not,” said PSSI chairman Mochamad Irawan, as quoted from the PSSI’s official website, “But if there’s no evidence of match-fixing from that match, then we’ll accept our elimination.”

Tae-yong and the PSSI’s actions did not came without any backlash, however. Vietnamese news outlets and Lao Dong launched scathing criticisms towards Tae-yong, who felt that he should’ve bore responsibility for Indonesia U-19’s failure in the AFF U-19s.

Indonesian football pundit and Save Our Soccer coordinator Akmal Marhali, a known critic of Tae-yong and the PSSI, also voiced out his strong opinions on the matter, blaming Indonesia U-19 for their failure to beat both Thailand U-19 and Vietnam U-19 that eventually placed the Garuda Nusantara in an unfavorable scenario.