It seems the most interesting things in Indonesian football mostly happen off the field.
In a country no stranger to financial woes, supporter unrest and players attacking referees, the latest twist came during an Indonesian Premier Division match between PSIS Semarang and Mitra Kukar on Friday.
Central Java Police chief Inspector General Alex Bambang Riatmodjo, who was in attendance at Jatidiri Stadium in Semarang, ordered an investigation into the match’s officials following PSIS’s 2-0 victory.
Alex told state-run news agency Antara he sensed something “fishy” as referee Dedi Wahyudi and assistants Fajar Riyadi and Sutopo made what he saw as too many bad calls against PSIS and suspected foul play.
“I saw the referee made lots of unobjective decisions which could lead to players or even supporters rioting as they are not happy with those bad decisions,” he said.
“We have the right to probe match officials if their decisions could trigger a riot.”
The three officials and match inspector Khairul Agil were taken in for questioning after the match. Police also asked Mitra Kukar officials to go to the police station, but the East Kalimantan side refused.
Alex also ordered calls from Dedi’s mobile phone to be traced.
“He could have made a deal with other party. We have to be sure he didn’t,” he said.
After nearly three hours of questioning, the officials were released after midnight on Saturday. Semarang Police chief detective Asep Jaenal said police did not find evidence of foul play.
Alex is no stranger to meddling in football affairs. He ordered the detention of Nova Zaenal of Persis Solo and Bernard Mamadou of Gresik United after the pair came to blows during a Premier Division match in Solo on Feb. 12, 2009.
It was the first time in Indonesian football history players were arrested following an on-field fight. Nova and Mamadou are still awaiting a verdict in their trial.
League administrator PT Liga Indonesia voiced its concern over the police’s impromptu investigation into the match officials.
“We regret the police’s decision, but we’ll see the extent of this issue and discuss it with the police,” PT Liga secretary Tigor Shalomboboy said on Monday.
“We appreciate the police’s good intentions to uphold fair play in football, but proper procedures should be taken.”
Referee committee deputy chairman Bernard Limpong said these incidents could keep players and officials from plying their trade in Central Java.
“Match officials’ decisions are not the police’s domain. We have the disciplinary committee and referee committee to deal with every issue in a match,” Bernard said.
Central Java Police Watch chairman Aris Soenarto lambasted the decision to interrogate match officials.
“That was an arrogant act,” Aris said. “If the police wants to help Indonesian football’s fight against match-fixing and bribery, it could do that in a much better way.”