Indonesian women's volleyball team wins opener amid gender controversy

SINGAPORE - Indonesia's women's volleyball team got their campaign at the SEA Games off to a winning start on Wednesday afternoon at the OCBC Arena - but not without controversy.

The Indonesians were booed both before and during the match by a crowd of over 500 largely backing the Philippines, but still rallied to beat their opponents 25-22, 25-20, 25-14.

Many in the arena had doubts over the gender of Aprilia Santini Manganang, a player on the Indonesian team, raising doubts over her physique and appearance which some felt were too manly.

Boos rang through the arena each time the Indonesians scored through Manganang.

Said a Filipino supporter Starr B. Alamo, 38: "She walks like a man and her body shape is so manly. She stands out among all the other female players so it's obvious she's a man. I'm 98 per cent sure."

The Philippines team had reportedly demanded SEA Games organisers carry out a gender test on the 23-year-old, who stands at 1.7m tall and weighs 68kg. But the appeal, filed by Philippines' chef de mission Julian G Camacho, was rejected.

"(The Singapore SEA Games organising committee (Singsoc) has been informed by the South East Asian Games Federation (SEAF) Medical committee that they have reviewed the documents submitted by the Indonesian volleyball team and that the appeal has since been rejected," organisers said in a statement.

Shanrit Wongprasert, technical delegate for the volleyball team has been informed and has agreed to the decision.

It is also understood that Manganang was cleared to play by FIVB, the world governing body for volleyball, on Wednesday morning to play in the match.

Said Hanny Sidik Surkatty, the manager of the women's team for Indonesia: "She had already played in the qualifiers for the World Championships last year in Vietnam. We had no problems."

Philippines National Olympic Committee secretary-general Richard William Palou said he disagreed with the way the team's supporters had booed the Indonesian team, but that it was out of his hands.

"We can't control the crowd, although we try to tell them to let (the situation) be."

But Singaporean Yang Jia Min, 23, said Manganang should be given the benefit of the doubt, adding:"She might look like a guy but it's not fair to boo her before and during the match. But if the results show that she's a man, then the team should be disqualified."

maychen@sph.com.sg

ljeremy@sph.com.sg

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