Saturday, May 28, 2011


Welcome To The Party

It's not often Indonesia leads the world in anything beyond natural disasters, man made disasters and boasting the world's largest Muslim population...what, you never knew that? How remiss of CNN and BBC not to mention that every time they mention the place.

For the last couple of years at least Indonesians have been clamouring for a reform of their national football association, known locally as the PSSI (which of course is an anagram of piss). The reasons are like the leaves on a tree but for starters include having a convicted felon running the game from behind bars for a while. At the time FIFA, and the AFC, did nothing which of course implies acit support at the very least.

It's worth remembering that small titbit as both Sepp Blatter and Mohammed Bin Hammam squirm under the glare of corruption allegations brought about by England's failed World Cup bid and Qatar's successful one.

Incompetency, abuse of power and political savvy are prequisites for positions of power in the world we live in and there is no reason why FIFA, AFC and PSSI should be any different. But does that explain how Indonesia was able to host the Asian Cup in 2007 with a convicted corrupter in charge?

For a long time it seemed Indonesian football fans where pissing in the wind. Oh, do I like that! Then Indonesia's World Cup bid, anyone remember that, fell by the way side with the government saying they wouldn't support the effort to bring the 'biggest show on earth' to their country, saying they would rather the PSSI concentrated on improving the performance of the local league and the national team before moving on to world domination.

With the government now actively saying the PSSI needed reforming things started moving. A special football congress was held in Malang which gave recommendations to the PSSI to clean up their act. The PSSI said thank you very much for your suggestions but we're charged with running the game in Indonesia and we will do what we see fit. and of course they were right. Because they had FIFA's support.

The calls for reform grew stronger with more and more people getting involved. The fans were always there but now politicians, their finely tuned antennae sensing votes saw a band wagon worth jumping on adding their voices to the growing calls for change.

PSSI continued to do nothing and cries to FIFA for help were ignored.

Then came the Liga Primer Indonesia with its slogan Change The Game. Funded by a wealthy businessman they attracted three teams from the official PSSI sanctioned leagues and started kicking a ball in January of this year. PSSI responded by taking a large number of officials to Qatar for the Asian Cup and Bali for a chat. The PSSI members, those with the vote, remained firmly behind the leadership, Nurdin, while the PSSI threatened to deport foreign players and coaches involved in the rebel league.

FIFA too firmly opposed the LPI and said they would under no circumstances talk with them. Without PSSI recognition the LPI was just a well paid pub league in the eyes of Sepp Blatter and co.

2011 is an election year in the PSSI and a congress was held in Palembang to elect a new leader. Various candidates had been disqualified by a PSSI authorised committee including a general and the man with the money behind the LPI leaving only two candidates, the incumbent and a scion of a wealthy and influential political/business family long involved in Indonesian football.

The congress ended in a PR disaster for PSSI. A FIFA delegate in town to attend the meeting didn't attend. The PSSI claimed he decided the scenes of mayhem were too much and he had gone home. The delegate replied by saying the PSSI had prevented him from attending.

The fiasco in Palembang had finally shown the incompetence of the leadership to a wider audience. From a position of strength, they had the full unqualified support of FIFA despite Nurdin's conviction, they had become pariahs and the leadership soon scurried away from the scene humiliated.

Suddenly, as if from nowhere, there was a reform group in the PSSI membership demanding the general and the businessman be reinstated as candidates. A reform group that was not heard from during the Qatar and Bali trips. A second attempt at setting up an election also ended up in disaster with FIFA and AFC delegates looking on bemused.

And that's where we stand now. Indonesia is on the precipice of expulsion from FIFA competitions as it struggles to elect new leaders to head the PSSI. Yet had FIFA acted swiftly when Nurdin was first convicted of corruption charges and had change been effected then we would not be in this mess now. FIFA has seen fit to suspend Brunei, tiny Brunei, over allegations of political interference in the running of their FA yet they have been strangely quiet over Indonesia and the convicted felon running the game there.

Both Blatter and Bin Hammam have promised to clean up the game and make it more transparent. Perhaps they can start by explaining why they saw fit to support the PSSI while Nurdin was behind bars.

The spotlight is now on FIFA of course with allegations of corruption flying around and the odious members rushing to cover their individual arses in the wake of charge and counter charge. But let's understand why this is happening. England and the US bids failed. They are in effect kicking up a storm in the role of sore losers. Had they won we would not be involved in this mud slinging now. Everyone, it seems, accepts impropriety as the norm. Until they lose out.

It's great that FIFA is under the spotlight at last for its murky transactions carried out in dingy, dark lit corridors among the rats and cockroaches. What would have been better though would have been if the whistles had been blown, in unison, during the campaign. Withdraw then, on a point of principal, and you have the moral high ground. Complain after the fact and you sound like a sore loser.

Now we have sections of the international media calling for FIFA to be reformed and for the elections to be cancelled. For us, here in Indonesia, it's deja vu.

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