Sunday, May 31, 2015


FIFA Finally Suspend Indonesia

Finally. FIFA has grown some balls and taken action against the Indonesian football association, PSSI, and banned them from competing in any FIFA sanctioned competition. In the short term that means Persipura can say good by to any hopes they may have harboured of winning the AFC Cup while the national team can forget about finishing fourth in their World Cup Qualifying group that is due to kick off next month.

For years it seems FIFA has treated the PSSI with kid gloves, a naughty but at heart good natured school boy whose indiscretions were tolerated if not encouraged. But what indiscretions.

The straw that broke the camel's back? A little known government body called BOPI deciding two clubs, Arema and Persebaya could not play in the 2015 Indonesia Super League citing ownership issues that date back to the duelism period that only ended last season. BOPI, who had never taken any interest in football previously suddenly announced their own criteria for the league despite the fact Arema and Perserbaya had already passed PSSI and AFC benchmarks.

BOPI fall under the remit of the Youth and Sports Ministry and they supported this body who had supposedly not seen any problems with Arema and Persebaya in 2014 but then it is amazing what a change in government can do isn't it.

The ISL season stopped after two rounds, ostensibly so the PSSI could carry out their elections in Surabaya. That process was not without controversy when some thugs linked with a group linked with the eventual winning candidate invaded a TV studio while football was being discussed and slapped one of the participants...a participant who disagreed with their man.

Following the election the ISL tried to restart but the government refused to allow security clearance to be released and ceased to recognise the PSSI, announcing the game would be overseen by government bodies. The league responded by cancelling itself by declaring force majeure.

FIFA started taking notice and announced if the two sides could not reconcile by 29 May then sanctions awaited. The governing body takes a very dim view of what it deems to be political interference though given the events in Indonesian football over recent years the imposition of sanctions does seem to be selective.

At the same time Indonesian politicians take a dim view of being pushed around by foreigners. Quick to beat the nationalist drum the government stuck to its guns insisting the move to not recognise the PSSI was part of a bid to clean up the game and they created a transition team featuring celebrities, politicians, military types and other well connected people to chart a path for the game's future.

A last ditch meeting between the country's vice president and the PSSI saw the government once more recognise the body but the Youth and Sports minister seemed to be not wholly on side with that decision, continuing to insist he was working to clean up the game

Finally, FIFA acted where it should have acted years ago when Nurdin Halid was first sent to jail. Their apathy has brought us to this point and football here has taken advantage.

The idea that the government can build a professional football set up is laughable. The previous lot were instrumental in the setting up of the IPL, a short lived rebel league that ended in tears and unpaid wages - on other words the same as the PSSI.

Nothing will change all the while the same old faces are involved and the types of people involved are  longer attracted to the game. Club owners are often people with political ambitions, be they local or national, who see football as a way to big themselves up while having access to potential vote banks and cash. They have little knowledge of the game and are not in the game for the game. They are in it for themselves and any hope they can improve the game is just wishful thinking. It ain't gonna happen.

Clubs are not really clubs in the traditional sense of the world. They are teams cobbled together on a season by season basis by people with little administrative experience and less marketing savvy. This whole mindset needs to change, we were promised it would during the heady days of #ChangeTheGame and the IPL but of course we know how that ended. New faces at the trough.

The PSSI is not blameless. They are consistently accused of negligence, of overseeing match fixing, of taking little interest in the development of the game at grass roots. Instead they blame a referee mafia as if the man in the middle is at the heart of the game's problems. They continue to overlook the main issues that blight the sport at the expense of their own show boating and the result is football continues to regress.

Bambang Pamungkas, that articulate former national team captain, once said players of his generation, the likes of Budi Sudarsono and Ponaryo Astaman, were the failed generation. They were the PSSI.

It is difficult to see what the end game is going to be now after the FIFA suspension. The government will be in no hurry to back down, not after the political capital expended by the sports minister and if anything the rhetoric is likely to increase as they play the tired nationalist card. Eventually no doubt some compromise will be cobbled together but it won't really change anything because no one really wants to change anything. The same people will be involved, the names may change but not their agendas.

If the government really wanted to do something about football they would do what the FBI are doing with FIFA...follow the money but that won't happen. Football's malaise is here for a bit longer I am afraid.

I thought that FIFA banned Indonesia in support of PSSI because Indonesian government suspended PSSI and that FIFA doesn't like governments meddling in sport??
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