Southeast Asia Indonesia

Liga 1 Indonesia Plagued by Issues Two Matchweeks In Despite Promise of Change

The appointment of Erick Thohir as the new chairman of the Football Federation of Indonesia (PSSI) promises new changes to the country’s footballing scene, but only two matchdays into the 2023/24 Liga 1 Indonesia campaign, the same old problems had reared their ugly heads once again.

The first major controversy of this season was the discrimination received online by PSM Makassar trio Yuran Fernandes, Yakob Sayuri, and Erwin Gutawa as well as Persija Jakarta’s reliable winger Riko Simanjuntak in the wake of the two sides’ 1-1 draw at the Gelora Bung Karno in Jakarta on July 3rd.

Yuran, Yakob, and Erwin were racially abused online by several netizens who called themselves as “Persija fans,” one of whom being a junior high school student in Bekasi. Riko, on the other hand, received online bullying by disgraced sports presenter Ardes Goenawan, who himself was no stranger to controversy after he had made some remarks against the Indonesia national team in the 2020 AFF Championship.

Ardes was also involved in the online bullying of Yuran as well, with the presenter making fun of the severe height difference between Riko and Yuran.

Most of the netizens who were involved in the racial abuse of Yuran, Yakob, and Erwin has subsequently apologized on social media after being threatened with police action, with an investigation towards their abuse being underway. Ardes, on the other hand, removed his presence from social media, setting his Instagram and other social media handles to private.

The incidents received attention from the Professional Football Players’ Association of Indonesia (APPI), who recommended the PSSI to pause the Liga 1 if such incidents happen again – a recommendation that was agreed upon by Erick.

PSM were also involved in this season’s second major controversy, that saw two groups of PSM supporters brawling in the stands of the Gelora BJ Habibie Stadium during the Juku Eja‘s match against Dewa United on July 8th, which was won 2-1 by the Tangsel Warriors.

Both PSM Fans and Curva Sud Mattoanging (CSM), the two supporters group in question, were chanting songs in support of their favorite team when suddenly they began throwing insults at one another, which led to to the brawl that saw the two groups exchanging blows as well as throwing bottles and stones at one another.

In the aftermath of the brawl, 11 people were arrested with eight of them being subsequently detained. Five out of the eleven were minors, with three of them being among the eight detained by the police.

With Erick promising to deduct points off teams involved in crowd disturbances, it is interesting to see if PSSI chairman would make good on his word and impose such sanctions on the defending Liga 1 champions.

The third major controversy in this season’s Liga 1 was poor officiating, a classic issue within Indonesian football which was left unmitigated despite the fact that the PSSI have collaborated together with the Japan Football Association (JFA) in improving the country’s referees. A number of referees made some poor calls that affected the outcome of matches, such as Rio Permana Putra awarding Persita Tangerang a penalty in their match against PSIS Semarang despite the foul occurring outside the area, Nendi Rohandi ruling out a Bhayangkara FC goal despite Dendi Sulistyawan being onside when scoring, and Thoriq Alkatiri refusing to award Persebaya Surabaya a penalty despite Barito Putera’s Bagas Kaffa fouling Bajul Ijo player Song Ui-young within the area.

Akmal Maharli, a frequent critic of the PSSI as well as the coordinator of Save Our Soccer, dropped a bombshell this week by revealing that referees who were unfit to take charge of Liga 1 matches had bribed their way into officiating positions within the league, paying around 500,000 to 1,000,000 Rupiahs to be appointed as a Liga 1 referee.

It’s still early days, but with controversies coming one after another, the 2023/24 Liga 1 campaign is set to be yet another rocky season for Indonesian football fans, despite Erick’s promises of a better league season in its buildup.