Last week, two rival Indonesian football associations signed an agreement that could allow the nation to avert suspension from international competition. Considering Indonesia’s history with the sport, however, fans can be forgiven for being skeptical.
For years, Indonesia has made international football headlines for events often not related to action on the pitch — perhaps not surprising when the president of the national association is sentenced to prison on charges of corruption.
Years of strife and struggle on the scandalous Indonesian pitch led to the creation of a rival national association and breakaway league.
The Football Association of Indonesia (PSSI) is the official body that runs football in the country, but for the past few years the breakaway Indonesian Soccer Rescue Committee (KPSI) has also existed.
Things hit a tragic low in December when Diego Mendieta died alone in hospital of complications from typhoid fever and liver disease, after not being able to afford his medical bills due to the non-payment of his salary from his club.
Later the same month, French player Moukwelle Ebanga Sylvain fell seriously ill with typhus, but could not afford treatment after not being paid for nine months by Indonesian Premier League club Persewangi Banywang.
Brendan Schwab, Division Asia/Oceania chairman of world players’ union FIFPro, slammed the club and warned the country’s football authorities to get their act together.
“It is unbelievable that a few weeks after the passing of Diego Mendieta, we are informed about another player in Indonesia seriously suffering from an illness and waiting in vain for the payment of his salary,” Schwab said. “Fortunately, Moukwelle has recovered from his sickness. But it is another warning sign that drastic reforms are needed in Indonesia.”
As FIFA takes a dim view of two national associations, many expected the football authority to suspend the country from international football last December.
“I think it was quite a Christmas or end of year gift to Indonesia that they haven’t been suspended,” FIF president Sepp Blatter said in December. FIFA set a March 20 deadline for the dispute to be settled.
Apparently, things were serious enough that FIFA told the Indonesian government to help the football bodies find a solution to the problem.
After meeting Indonesian Youth and Sports Minister Roy Suryo, Djohar Arifin Husin, chief of the FIFA-sanctioned PSSI, and his rebel counterpart La Nyalla Mataliti of KPSI, agreed last week to attempt a merger.
“Hopefully, everything will go well and the KPSI will merge into PSSI,” Suryo said.
“The letter from FIFA is not only directed to me, but also to the national football organization, so the leakage of the letter is true,” Suryo told an investor.
However, fans won’t hold their breath after seeing it all before. Last July, the two parties signed a Memorandum of Understanding in Kuala Lumpur. Nothing came of it.
As a huge nation with an equally big love for the beautiful game, Indonesia deserves better.