Tuesday, May 29, 2012


Ashes To Ashes

Indonesian football stands on a precipice as the game in the world's largest archipelago lurches from one disaster to another as effortlessly as David Cameron switches position based upon an unfavourable poll.

Heartily pissed off with the perma mess that surrounds football, the interminably late salaries and the contempt shown by many clubs, the players, under the guise of the footballer's union, APPI, are edging closer to a strike that could further paralyse a game that is already on a life support machine with the nurses on lunch break.

The 15th June sees a meeting where it is thought that FIFA could actually, finally, do something about the mess that they, through their own apathy and self interest, have exasperated over the years. Had they taken action when the last head of the FA was in jail, a definite breach of their regulations, then perhaps we would no be where we are now.

But for unfathomable reasons, they sat and did nothing. A decision they have never explained and yet one more they must be held accountable for.

Now the players are doing something. They are threatening industrial action, a strike, refusing to put their shin pads down their socks, if clubs don't make some effort to start paying the money they are owned by next Thursday.

This is a massive step. For too long, clubs have relied on players being professional, fulfilling their contractual obligations, while they have cavalierly done what the hell they wanted. To the club owners, often politicians or businessmen used to a playing field where their money and power inures them from outside pressures, this will be an affront.

These people have grown used to getting things their way and their way usually has sweet fanny adams to do with football. The ideas of competition and transparency are as alien to them as going to a pub and drinking water all night is to me.

To have their chattels turn on them won't be pleasant.

As ever there are two angles to the threat of strike action.

First, and the cynical western view point, is that it is too little, too late. The seasons end in June and July. Surely the threat of action by players could have been taken earlier? Certainly the conditions are not new. Why not turn the heat on a month ago or two months ago?

If anything, the timing is perfect for the clubs. They can point to the FIFA meeting and the uncertainty that creates as a reason to continue doing nothing. They can stall, play for time, perhaps toss out a few bills as a token gesture but that's about it.

Season's nearly over, the contract's are nearly finished, who cares, among them, if players aren't paid?

But that needs to be set against the cultural backdrop. In this part of the world people rarely go against the boss man. Indonesian footballers know that whoever runs the game, be it the new PSSI or the old PSSI, they cannot put their noses out of joint too much; football is their livelihood and it may not be going too far to suggest that some of the players may well be risking that livelihood by taking any action or indeed speaking out period.

Yes, the players union is acting out of self interest. But they aren't getting paid! They are being treated with contempt. What is the purpose of the union if not to protect its members? Players who don't get paid are unhappy people and that is going to affect their performance on the field. Bills to be paid, mortgages, all that dull old stuff. And don't forget, people here aren't earning Carlos Tevez like salaries.

The players' threat may succeed in focusing minds. Everyone says they want a solution. Everyone says they want one federation and one league. But, as is so often the case, what everyone says and what everyone does are two different things.

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