Southeast Asia Indonesia

2017 Champions Bhayangkara Relegated from Liga 1

Bhayangkara Presisi Indonesia FC has officially become the second team to be relegated to Liga 2 next season, following in the footsteps of Persikabo 1973, who were relegated earlier.

This outcome stems from the draw between Persik Kediri and Persita Tangerang. Both teams played to a 1-1 draw in the ongoing Liga 1 match at Brawijaya Stadium, Kediri, on Saturday. Ramiro Fergonzi put Persita ahead in the 75th minute, while Persik equalized in the 80th minute through Flavio Silva’s goal.

This result means that Bhayangkara, who have collected 23 points, can no longer catch up to Persita’s points tally (33), effectively sealing the Guardians’ fate in the relegation zone.

Previously, Persikabo had already been relegated to Liga 2, positioned at the bottom with 20 points. Meanwhile, Bhayangkara currently sits in 17th place with 23 points. Only one more team will follow suit in relegation, with contenders including Persita, Arema FC, PSS Sleman, or RANS Nusantara FC.

Bhayangkara’s relegation came as a culmination of the Guardians’ fall from grace in recent years. The Indonesia National Police-backed team had won the Liga 1 in controversial fashion back in 2017, following two points being awarded to them after Mitra Kukar had fielded an ineligible player in their match against them.

Despite lacking a strong supporters’ base and being universally derided by supporters of other teams across the league, Bhayangkara remained consistent in the upper reaches of the Liga 1 table thanks to their strong sponsors – comprising of state-owned enterprises – as well as their procurement of star players.

The 2022/23 season showed cracks had began to develop within the Bhayangkara team, with the Guardians struggling throughout the first half of the season. It was thanks to the mid-season signings of Uruguayan attacking midfielder Matias Mier and Brazilian striker Alex Martins that Bhayangkara managed to get themselves sorted out, with the duo single-handedly lifting Bhayangkara up to 7th place.

The 2023/24 off-season saw Alex jumping ship to Dewa United, while the influential Andik Vermansyah stepped down to the Liga 2 with Persiraja Banda Aceh. Other than that, a good majority of Bhayangkara’s squad for this season remained unchanged from the previous campaign.

Despite this, Bhayangkara was wildly inconsistent throughout the season, leading to a coaching merry-go-round that saw initial head coach Emral Abus being replaced by AFC Cup-winning head coach Mario Gomez, before Gomez himself was sacked and Abus coming back to replace the Argentine.

Bhayangkara also brought in a swathe of new star players during the mid-season transfer window to boost their chances of survival, namely the loan signing of Witan Sulaeman, the return of Putu Gede, the loan signing of Madura United’s Junior Brandao who had been prolific with his parent club, the signing of former Chonburi FC and Suphanburi FC man Zulfahmi Arifin, and the most eye-catching of all, the surprise signing of former AS Roma and Inter Milan star Radja Nainggolan.

However, these star signings did nothing to turn Bhayangkara’s fortunes around and apart from an impressive 3-0 win over relegation rivals Persita and a controversial 7-0 battering of Persik, the Guardians rarely left the drop-zone and their fate was sealed after both Persita and Persik played out their stalemate.

Adding salt to their wounds, Bhayangkara succumbed to a 2-1 come-from-behind defeat away at Bali United only hours after their relegation has been confirmed. Bali United, who was the side pipped by Bhayangkara to the 2017 Liga 1 title, responded well to going behind to an Anderson Salles’ strike in the 73rd minute with goals from M. Rahmat in the 88th minute and a last-minute strike from Jean Befolo Mbarga.

Speaking about Bhayangkara’s relegation, stalwart Wahyu Subo Seto has affirmed his commitment to remain at the Guardians despite the drop, while Nainggolan has voiced his interest to stay in the Liga 1 despite being relegated.