Indonesia up front in objecting to MidEast referee

The Football Association of Indonesia (PSSI) reportedly lodged its first official protest to the Asian Football Confederation's appointment of a referee from the United Arab Emirates to its game against Saudi Arabia before the game started but got no reply. "We asked them not to use a Middle Eastern referee,'' PSSI chairman Nurdin Halid said in a press release."We were concerned that he would not be objective. It would be neutral if the referee came from Japan or China, instead of from the Mideast. This protest is not to find an excuse for our defeat, but we could see how the referee was not on our side. It will not change the result but we hope our protest will improve the remaining matches," Nurdin said.

According to The Jakarta Post, even President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who watched the match from a VIP box with Cabinet members, questioned the refereeing. "I don't understand why a referee who has the same language and culture as Saudi Arabia was assigned to lead this match," he said.

The newspaper said AFC Secretary-General Dato Paul Mony Samuel later promised to evaluate the complaint, adding "We will also take into account the origin of a referee before assigning them to lead a match." However AFP quoted AFC Director of Communications Clare Kenny Tipton denying the appointment was unfair to Indonesia. "There are no rules (governing which nationalities can referee which others),'' she said. "Occasionally we have a political conflict so obviously common sense prevails but there are no specific regulations other than you can't have someone from the same nationality refereeing their own country's matches.''