Bruce Springsteen may be pulling out of here to win, but these two Indonesian teams sure aren’t.
Here’s how it went down: PSS Sleman and PSIS Semarang are in the second division (fittingly called the Indonesian Premier League; the first division is called the Super League). At the end of the regular season, they have a mini-playoff to determine who gets promoted. These two teams met behind closed doors because of previous fan violence, and they played out 80 minutes of lackluster soccer because, at the time, a scoreless draw helped both.
Then they found out that Pusamania Borneo FC had finished second in its group, which meant that Pusamania would face the winner of PSS and PSIS. Pusamania, according to local press, is backed by the mafia. Recently its fans attacked the coach of Persis Solo, which abandoned the game and flew home, eventually asking for a rematch at a neutral venue.
So in the 80th minute, both Sleman and Semarang began trying to lose. You can see in the video above as the goalkeepers casually stroll out of the way of back passes, letting five goals go in between them.
Sleman “won” which would have meant a meeting with Pusamania. Except now both teams are banned from the mini-playoff by the Indonesian Football Association (PSSI). The semi and finals may be delayed.
“To enforce the law and keep the competition fair, PSS and PSIS have been disqualified,” Hinca Panjaitan said. Panjaitan is the PSSI’s disciplinary chief. “They harmed the basic principles of football, which is to maintain the fairness and integrity of the game.
“It was a conspiracy that violated the principles of sport — all players and team officials will be investigated further. If a club and its board are shown to be involved, there will be further sanctions. I do not rule out relegation.”
Just a quick note: You’ll see in a lot of articles that these clubs may be relegated for this. Yes, that’s technically what Panjaitan said. But that’s not necessarily how to read his quotes. He threw that on at the end, likely as a display of power. Think of it as slight hyperbole to underline the gravity of the situation. (Source: I moved to Indonesia when I was 13 months old and lived most of my childhood there.)
Another fun note: The PSS in PSS Sleman stands for Persatuan Sepak Bola Sleman. (Persatuan means “association.” Sepak bola means “soccer.”) The Sleman is already included in the acronym. It’s like saying ATM machine. But that’s what everyone calls the club, so whatever. Screw you and your automated ATM.
Okay, back to the story. None of this is much of a surprise. Indonesia has very deep-seeded governmental corruption. When I was 16, I showed up to the Indonesian version of a DMV, where the bribe prices for a license were laminated and posted on the wall. I paid the listed amount and left with a motorbike license. My broken arm was in a sling at the time.
This culture of corruption extends to soccer. In 1998, the national team scored a deliberate own goal against Thailand to avoid host Vietnam in the Tiger Cup. Mursyid Effendi, the guy who scored the own goal, was banned for life by FIFA.
In 2012, a breakaway league and subsequent power squabbles nearly brought a soccer ban on the whole country by FIFA. Later that year, a Paraguayan player for Persis Solo died while waiting for unpaid wages that he needed to cover medical expenses.
That’s the sinister backdrop here. But if you ignore it and just concentrate on the slapstick comedy of goalkeepers moving out of the way of the ball, you can still enjoy the video above, and the rest of your life.