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Asian Games 2018

Asian Games: ‘Indonesia is like that, little things they declare war’ – Malaysia fuming over pencak silat ‘walk-off’ incident

Social media users in Malaysia hit out at their rivals after their player walks out of a final bout because he feels the judges were biased

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 30 August, 2018, 10:22am
UPDATED : Friday, 31 August, 2018, 4:03pm

When the Malaysian team walked into a floodlight-dappled Gelora Bung Karno Stadium for the Asian Games opening ceremony on August 18, applause was mixed with boos.

They were the only country jeered by sections of the capacity crowd during the extravaganza to promote peace, but then again it would take more than a light show, spectacular backdrop and feel-good atmosphere to completely remove deep-rooted tensions between the two Southeast Asian neighbours.

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It’s inevitable that sporting issues would become entwined and quite appropriate that the traditional martial arts discipline of pencak silat should become the source of ill-feeling at the Asian Games.

On Monday, Malaysia’s 2016 world champion Mohd Al-Jufferi was taking on Indonesia’s Komang Putra in the men’s 65-70kg final when he abruptly stopped and walked off the mat in front of a stunned audience in Jakarta.

He said afterwards that the judges were so biased towards the home player that there was no point in continuing as Putra went on to take the title – one of 14 pencak silat gold medals for Indonesia out of their overall total of 30 so far.

“I respect all parties but I cannot respect the judges,” said Al-Jufferi afterwards, careful not to place specific blame on his opponent and hinting that it was judges from South Korea and Laos that he was unhappy with.

Still, he was angry enough to later punch a wooden partition and smash a hole in it, something for which the Malaysian delegation apologised.

Al-Jufferi was also consoled in an emotional embrace by Malaysia’s sports minister, 25-year-old Syed Saddiq, who later tweeted a video of the hug with a Malay-language posting that said: “You are still the winner in our eyes and hearts … Don’t apologise. NEVER. I will not accept. I stand firm with you, our hero.”

Although the athlete did not blame the home judges, the fact that it happened on Indonesian soil was enough for Malaysians to turn on their neighbours.

The two countries have long been at odds over a number of issues, such as smog from Indonesian forest fires drifting over the Malaysian peninsula, the treatment of Indonesian maids by their richer brethren and even a Malaysia tourism advert that featured a traditional pendet dance claimed by their rivals, with Indonesians angry that their culture had been stolen.

After the silat incident, Malaysian social media users went into overdrive.

“Indonesia must be so proud to defeat the world champion,” wrote Indera Shahrul on one news portal. “But sadly, with a very dirty trick. To let down the world champion, they have no other way but to play dirty. However, Indonesia still acted like a saint, like they have done nothing wrong.”

Rai Shield said: “Last time during the women’s sepak takraw, when Indonesia lost to Malaysia, they burnt our flag … even it was their own mistake. Indonesia is like that, little things they declare war.”

Ama Apa wrote: “The thing is, the Indonesian player missed many kicks and still he got points. Do you think it is fair? No dignity at all these Indonesians. They should not host any events at all.”

One Indonesian responded: “What kind of champion is that?” after Al-Jufferi punched the wall.

Another called Malaysians poor losers, writing: “Your country is unsportsmanlike, it does not accept defeat, and what is more embarrassing is that it damages the host facilities. What a shame!”

It was not the first time the two countries sparred over pencak silat. At the 2017 southeast Asian Games in Kuala Lumpur, Indonesia accused Malaysia of cheating in the men’s pairs event by giving their athletes more points than they deserve.

Indonesian team manager Edhy Prabowo said at the time: “It’s absolutely not authentic, not proper. Never in the history of the men’s doubles has anyone had such inflated points.

“They [Malaysians] did not even deserve a third place, not even a fourth. I knew Malaysia would cheat. This is not good for our athletes, but we now have to accept this,” he added, saying the “farce” would affect pencak silat’s hopes of eventually earning a place in the Olympics.

As of Wednesday, Indonesia had won 30 gold medals compared to four for Malaysia, who also took four silvers and four bronze medals in pencak silat.