02 December 2011

'I was wrong, but I didn't kelong'

On his Facebook wall reads an ominous prayer, posted in malay, a week prior to the recent South-east Asia (SEA) Games, asking God to "shelter him from ridicule, criticism and dissatisfaction from the silat community".

Was it a sign of nerves before his refereeing assignment in Jakarta or was it a premonition of things to come?

Jasni Salam's worst fears were realised two Thursdays ago when one of the most bizarre sequence of events in the sport unfolded in the Class A 45-50kg final on Nov 17.

In a 51-second YouTube video that has attracted 352,000 views, Indonesian exponent Dian Kristanto employed unorthodox methods such as running around the competition arena, biting his opponent on the shoulder and hiding behind Jasni en route to beating Thailand's Anothai Choopeng 5-0 for the gold medal.

Jasni, a 52-year-old with over 20 years of refereeing experience, came under fire for his shambolic handling of the final and Singapore Silat Federation (PERSISI) chief executive Sheik Alauddin even went as far as calling him a "moron".

Efforts to contact Jasni had proved unsuccessful since his return from Indonesia.

When The New Paper finally tracked him down yesterday, he maintained his innocence when asked point-blank if he was under any influence to swing the match Indonesia's way.

"My conscience is clear... I made some poor refereeing decisions in the final, but there was no kelong," said the former national coach, who is an International Class One referee - the highest standard attainable - and was one of two Singaporean referees sent to the SEA Games by PERSISI.

"The Indonesian supporters were absolute fanatics, but I tried my best to be as fair as possible. No-one approached me to influence the game unfairly.

"I am clean. Before anyone accuses me of being corrupt, please show me the evidence."

In the two-hour long interview with TNP at the Eunos Community Club yesterday, he admitted that he turned in a poor performance.

So what were the "poor refereeing decisions" which he made?

Jasni said: "I reviewed the video of the entire fight with PERSISI on Friday and I realised I made a mistake when I failed to penalise the Indonesian after he committed a similar offence (of leaving the arena) for the third time."

In pencak silat, exponents must display proper technique as they mount an attack or defence and they are not allowed to run amok.

The referee is supposed to issue a warning when he thinks proper technique is not employed or if there's an infringement.

The third warning in each round would result in a one-point deduction, and the subsequent caution represents a two-point penalty. However, the foul counters are reset after each round.

Defending himself, Jasni said: "There were so many people who could have corrected my mistake, but nobody did.

"Unlike in football, the referee's decision is not final. In silat, it is not just the referee who officiates the fight. In fact, the referee doesn't award points, the five jury members seated around the arena do.

"Silat referees only indicate to the jury when there should be a point deducted for breaking the rules. The only case where he awards points is when there is a take down, which is worth three points.

"There were also the head of competition (from Malaysia), three members in the referees' council (from Brunei, Indonesia and Vietnam), as well as the international technical delegate (from Indonesia) and his assistant (from Singapore). Why didn't they do anything?"

Sources told TNP, however, that the referee council did highlight to Jasni his failure to award a penalty point to Dian, but the Singaporean did not heed their advice, and went on to miss other infringements in the third round.

When told of this, Jasni said: "If I made a mistake, the head of competition or the technical delegates have the right to stop the fight and hold a discussion. "If I was doing so badly, why didn't they substitute me with another referee, which is within their rights to do so?"

Ultimately, the gold went to Indonesia, although Thailand had every reason to feel aggrieved.

Sheik told TNP: "Yes, the Indonesian guy was leading after two rounds, but if you factor in the points deduction, Thailand could have won."

He explained by saying that the points difference awarded by each jury member was very narrow.

So despite the eventual scoreline of 5-0, any deduction for Dian could have swung the match in Thailand's favour.

He added: "The referees' council also activated the buzzer and lights twice to alert Jasni, which he didn't respond to.

"Analysing the video, there were behavioural changes compared to past matches in which Jasni was referee."

Jasni, who was national coach when the sport collected its best SEA Games haul of three gold medals in Brunei in 1999, admitted he had missed the council's attempts to get his attention.

He said: "It was so chaotic and noisy, I didn't see or hear the signal.

"That's also my mistake. But why didn't they persist to get my attention by blowing a whistle or by getting the competition secretary to announce 'referee, referee'?

"This is common practice which they didn't perform."

Jasni was summoned by PERSISI last Friday to explain the chain of events in Jakarta.

PERSISI general secretary Isiah Majid told TNP the matter has been handed over to the disciplinary committee.

Sheik added that if found guilty, the maximum sentence would be a life ban from refereeing silat competitions.

What looked like a dream assignment has turned sour for Jasni, who also works as a housekeeper at a local hotel to make ends meet.

He said: "I can understand how some people can claim that I kelong because they don't know the rules, but I am disappointed by Sheik's comments, calling me a moron.

"I am hurt and depressed because I tried my best and it ended up like this.

"I feel really sorry to my family for putting so much pressure on them. "I may just retire from refereeing and focus on coaching."

Former world silat champion Imran Abdul Rahman was one of those who spoke up for his former coach.

Imran said: "I've watched the video of all three rounds and made calls to people who watched the bout in Indonesia, and I feel justice needs to be done.

"Officiating a silat fight is not just a one-man show. I know it is easy to watch the clip and say that it is fixed, but people need to know the rules before passing judgment.

"I hope he will not quit refereeing, but bounce back to prove he can still do a good job."

Sourced from http://news.asiaone.com/News/Latest%2BNews/Sports/Story/A1Story20111130-313637/3.html

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