PSS Sleman beat PSIS Semarang 3-2 on Sunday as both sides effectively refusing to play for most of the match until they realized defeat would help them avoid the feared Pusamania Borneo FC, who allegedly have mafia ties, in the play-offs.
For the first 80-odd minutes at AAU Stadium in Yogyakarta, both teams refused to attack and stroked the ball around aimlessly in midfield.
But when news trickled through at PS Borneo were set to come second in their group, PSS Sleman deliberately conceded two own-goals in quick succession to put PSIS Semarang 2-0 up with two minutes remaining.
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Not to be undone, PSIS scored three own-goals of their own – two coming in injury-time – to ensure they came second in their group, thus avoiding Borneo in the play-offs.
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The Indonesian Premier League was not amused, kicking both sides out of the play-offs with immediate effect, and threatening to relegate the pair.
"To enforce the law and keep the competition fair, PSS and PSIS have been disqualified,” Liga Indonesia chairman Hinca Panjaitan said after a hearing on Tuesday night.
"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.”
The sad fact is that the concerns of both teams were not without foundation – this match was played behind closed doors due to violence at previous games.
Attempts to determine the next opponent in such a clumsy manner are not new to Indonesian football. In 1998, the national team scored a deliberate own-goal against Thailand so as to avoid topping their Tiger Cup group, which would have meant a semi-final clash with the hosts, Vietnam.
The scorer, Mursyid Effendi, was banned for life by FIFA.
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