FIFA’s governing body is considering suspending Indonesia from International Football.
It has been a long time coming but with soccer such a mess in the world’s fourth most populous nation perhaps there is nothing else to be done.
The country has two national associations and two leagues, one official and the other not. Neither has any money. Years of corruption and mismanagement have brought Indonesia to the brink.Enjoying this article? Click here to subscribe for full access. Just $5 a month.
Last week, it made international headlines with the death of Diego Mendieta, a popular football player, something made all the more heartbreaking by the fact it was completely avoidable.
The 32 year-old passed away in a hospital bed last week from thecytomegalovirus, a condition easily treated with the right medication.
Mendiata wanted to return home to see his wife and two children but he could not afford to do so because he had not been paid by his club Persis Solo for months. He was reportedly owed U.S. $12,500 at the time of his death.
“After his contract expired in June and his former club had not paid his salary, Mendieta suffered financially. He played in some rough football matches to survive in Solo," Indonesian journalist Sam Hadi of Kompas Daily said.
"He was unable to pay for his rented room in the last six months. He even had difficulties to pay for food, so his friends, colleagues and fans raised money to help him.
"His agent had advised Mendieta to go home by preparing the flight ticket for him. But Mendieta reportedly said that he was ashamed of not bringing back money to his country."
It is not the only soccer-related death in the country this year. A May game between rivals Persija Jakarta and Persib Bandung ended with three fans being beaten to death by rival supporters.
Non-payment of players is a common theme and there have been upheavals in the national football association for years. The previous head of the Indonesian Football Association (PSSI), Nurdin Halid, ran the sport for the massive country from behind bars after being convicted of corruption charges. He was eventually prevented from running for a third term in March 2011, though the chaos did not stop with his exit.
The infighting has continued and FIFA, which failed to follow its own rules in allowing Nurdin to stay on as boss after becoming a convicted criminal, is finally ready to inflict the maximum penalty.
"Unfortunately yet again, it seems that the set objectives will not be reached and we, therefore, anticipate that the PSSI will be sanctioned," FIFA Secretary-General Jerome Valcke told Indonesian Sports Minister Andi Mallarangeng, who stepped down from his position last week after allegations of corruption, in a letter.
"We are fully aware that Indonesia is passionate about football and that sanctions will have a major impact. We have tried tirelessly to solve the problems, but we are afraid that there will be no choice unless the objectives are met or that significant progress has been made."
So suspension is coming. Perhaps Indonesian football needs to follow Garuda’s “Quantum Leap.” When the airline was banned from EU airspace in 2007 after safety fears it reorganized and reinvented itself and saw the ban lifted in 2009. Now it wins awards.
At the moment, even the most optimistic Indonesian fan would expect something similar to happen in football, but time will tell.