Asian Games: Indonesia rejects pencak silat cheating claims – top official Erick Thohir ‘saddened by fellow Muslim countries’
Several countries say judges are favouring local athletes, who have won 14 of the 16 gold medals on offer in the sport
The pencak silat controversy is refusing to go away with Indonesia’s top Asian Games official coming out to defend their honour after some countries – along with the sport’s regional chief – questioned the quality of judging in Jakarta.
With the traditional martial arts sport’s reputation suffering and its Asian Games future under threat, Erick Thohir, an Indonesian media tycoon who is chairman of the 2018 Asian Games organising committee Inasgoc, slammed accusations that judges favoured Indonesian players – who won 14 of the 16 gold medals on offer.
“We [Indonesia] also compete a lot in other countries and when the host wins we never complain,” said Thohir. “I regret that there are several countries complaining, especially [fellow] Islamic countries that are well connected to us.
“I reject accusations of cheating. It is open, people can see it on television and it is clear. We monitor closely all judges, who are chosen by the Asian governing body.
“We see the domination of certain countries in sports such as judo, karate and taekwondo. The funny thing is when Indonesia achieves such success, why do people complain?”
Among those who complained about the judging was Sheik Alauddin Yacoob Marican, a two-time world champion who is president of the Asian Pencak Silat Federation (APSIF) and also the Singapore team manager.
Reza Salehi Amiri, chief of the Iran Olympic Committee, also accused judges of favouring Indonesian athletes while, in the most famous incident so far, Malaysia’s 2016 world champion Mohd Al-Jufferi walked out of the men’s 65-70kg final with Indonesian opponent Komang Putra because he felt he was wasting his time against biased judging.
Marican said urgent changes to the judging system must be implemented – such as electronic scoring – to increase transparency and maintain the sport’s credibility if it wants to stay on the Asian Games roster for the 2022 competition in Hangzhou, China.
“We’ll be meeting other APSIF members to garner support,” he was quoted as saying by Singapore media. “We want the sport to be transparent so that other countries will take it up.
“We want to push silat to be a regular sport in the Asiad. I don’t think the sport will go far if it’s plagued by inconsistent judging.
“Using the electronic scoring system like the other combat sports is a move forward for silat. It eliminates judging error and is more transparent.”
On Monday, Al-Jufferi suddenly stopped fighting against Komang, saying it was futile to continue because of bias towards his opponent, pointing the finger at the South Korean and Laos judges.
He later flew into a rage and punched a partition at the venue and smashed a hole in it. The incident caused an online war of words between Malaysian and Indonesian social media users with the former’s delegation forced to issue an apology.
“Usually if you lose, if you are world champion and world-class you accept it,” added Thohir, who has generally been praised for how Indonesia has organised the Asian Games. “He may be a world champion in the sport but morally, he is far from being a world champion.”