Wednesday, May 18, 2011


Vital Few Days For Indonesia

Another crucial few days in Indonesian football with the FA having a meeting later this week, with AFC and FIFA sending representatives, in Jakarta to elect a new leadership. The last meeting, in Palembang, ended up a disaster and saw Nurdin Halid removed from his position as chairman.

The normalisation committee, charged by FIFA to try and organise new elections, have appealed FIFA's decision to bar businessman Arifin Panigoro and military man George Toisutta and if successfull they could stand.

Arifin's money helped kick start the Liga Primer Indonesia, the initially rebel league that was eventually brought under FA 'control' once Nurdin had fallen from the scene.

However I understand all is not well in the LPI with talk it will end this weekend. Familiar faces at the LPI have been quiet over the last few weeks and indeed even the government, such vocal critics of the FA in the past, have not been saying much which is also interesting.

The problem of course with the LPI is that there is no final court of appeal. Players Union leader Brendan Schwab, from FIFPro, has been assured players' contracts have been guaranteed by the LPI which is reassuring but there must still be doubts. Indonesia doesn't have a sterling record when it comes to honouring contracts.

The LPI was set up with the monicker Change The Game but it was always unlikely any real change was going to happen. The pitches are still lousy at many grounds, coaches are still influenced by club owners and, from what I've heard, bonuses have been changed. Players have been frozen out of their clubs, suspended from training and fined for nothing more than making the club owner lose face.

Of course no decision on the LPI's future can be taken until the election is over and a new leadership has decided how to deal with it. Again though much talk of a merger between LPI and ISL continues.

The sad fact is that whoever takes over the running of Indonesian football probably won't address the key issues that affect the game. The alleged intimidation of match officials, the poor performance of match officials, interference in team affairs by club owners, shoddy pitches, poor quality coaching, disregard for spectator or player comfort, any meaningful youth development programme, home team bias shown by match officials, piss weak TV deals, lack of national team development programme, fan violence, the inability of anyone to make Indonesia's most popular pastime a business that can make money.

For sure local government subsidies have to stop. But be wary when thinking that will cure all ills. Look, for example, at one of the few privately owned teams in the Divisi Utama, Pro Titan. They started off playing in Bandung, moved to Sleman and are now based in Medan, North Sumatra. Owned by a wealthy businessman who is a candidate in the upcoming elections, how can a football club develop a support when it keeps moving its home base?

Another case in point is Pelita Jaya. In the last few years they have played in Jakarta, Solo, Cilegon, Purwakarta, Soreang and now Karawang. They are owned by a prominent business/political family yet the way they keep shifting the team from one stadium to another, from one city to another, suggests their minds are not fully focussed on football.

Neither Pro Titan or Pelita Jaya have seen the need to develop a stadium and a home base. Instead they would rather turn their football clubs into nomads, roaming the country looking for an elusive success.

The LPI was never going to change the game. At best it may be a catalyst, at worst just an irrelevant sideshow.

Anything has to be an improvement on the Nurdin years. By the way, FIFA needs to explain why it supported a jailed convict to run football even though its against their statutes. But reform isn't a button to be pushed. It's a slow, painful journey with more obstacles than the Grand National.

It's worth remembering football is only as good as the people who put themselves forward to run it. When characters like Jack Warner, Nurdin Halid, M Bin Hammam, Worawi Makudi and Sepp Blatter are let loose unsupervised look what happens. Yes, their needs to be greater transparency and democracy in the world game but them what run the game will turn round and say why change it, look at the numbers. And they'll be right. Attendances are good, TV rights are expensive, ticket sales for big matches are over subscribed.

Wanna change the game? Turn your back on it now, hit them all where it hurts...

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