Foul Play (2017) – it’s easy to fix matches in Indonesia

Director Suridh Hassan put together this documentary about corruption in Southeast Asian football, mostly covering Indonesia. He follows the season of UK manager Simon McMenemy, who coaches Indonesian side Mitrar Kukar FC. He also conducts interviews with a youth coach, a physio, and a journalist who explain how easy and pervasive match fixing is in the area. The bottom line is: Don’t bet on games in Indonesia and Singapore.

Interviews

  • Timo Scheunemann is a youth coach in Indonesia who says foreign coaches coming to the area just have to live with the match fixing. Although, he admits some frustration and questions why should one coach or manage players to excel when the game result is controlled by a pre-planned referee decision. 
  • in 2014, Zaihan Mohammed Yusof, a reporter in Singapore, published his book, “Foul! The Inside Story of Singapore Match Fixers”. From his investigation that began in 2010, the film shows recorded evidence of a Kelong King’s phone calls. Yusof says match fixing can be for many purposes: money, gambling, honor, and political ends.
  • Matias Ibo is an Indonesian Physiotherapist who notes that when players aren’t getting paid regularly, $10,000 is easy money. He is filmed paying off a GK to commit specific actions at certain times of a match. The GK performs on the field as instructed. But I never understood why the Indonesian PT was doing what he was doing, i.e. was he demonstrating the point, helping with a sting, or was he actually fixing the match. 

Assessment

For me, the best part about this film is watching McMenemy coach. Except for his unwillingness to speak the local language, he seems like a very good coach struggling to make a difference. McMenemy also decries that owners build expensive stadiums but then don’t maintain them. There is quite a bit of game footage and the film shows how difficult it can be to get to a match, e.g. having to use a small skiff to travel by river. 

Unfortunately, the film is difficult to follow because it jumps around between the different people and doesn’t carry a consistent theme other than to demonstrate that football is popular and problems exist. McMenemy himself never talks about match fixing with his own team, so while his scenes were interesting, I was never quite sure how his story fit in with the other segments.

Suridh Hassan also directed the 2011 documentary Soka Afrika, and as I pointed out in that review, he is not really an investigative journalist. If you check out his Instagram page and his website (see below), he is definitely a superb photographer. But it’s difficult to see this film as an investigative documentary about corruption. Other than Yusof’s segment, the film is more on the level of yeah-we-know-this-exists.

In English and some Asian languages with English sub-titles, 55 minutes long

5 Soccer Movie Mom Rating = 5