Money as the Goal?
Holding a position in PSSI is a political investment that also brings material gains.
THE pressure on Nurdin Halid to step down from the general chairmanship of the Indonesian Football Association (PSSI) echoes as far as the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland. FIFA President Sepp Blatter replied to the Indonesian Ambassador to Switzerland, Djoko Susilo, who met him last Tuesday. “A firm reply from Blatter, Nurdin Halid cannot be renominated in the PSSI Congress,” said Djoko.
Nurdin is considered to have violated the FIFA statute regarding the requirements for the leader of a football federation of member states. This is not the first rejection. Djoko was also informed that in June 2007 FIFA sent a letter rejecting Nurdin’s leadership in connection with his criminal case.
FIFA’s decision is like a fresh wind to the series of protest actions demanding that Nurdin, who has headed PSSI since 2003, step down. Never in history have there been a national-level wave of demonstrations—taking place in various regions—protesting against a leader of a football organization, who is not the president of a state, nor a senior government official.
Nurdin’s insistence to remain on his ‘throne’ and even to continue his plan to stand in the chairmanship election at the congress scheduled for March 26 have indeed filled people with curiosity. What does he gain from his PSSI chairmanship? Pride in accomplishments? No. The salary of the chairman is not the case either. The official ‘salary’ for the chairman is only Rp7-16 million a month, depending on the number of his appearances. Fixed pay is only for such professionals as trainer and employees handling operational affairs like, for instance, the secretary-general.
In fact, according to soccer analyst Tondo Widodo, during the previous leaderships of Azwar Anas (1995-1999) and Agum Gumelar (1999-2003), the general chairman received no fee for his appearances. “In fact they were the ones who financed PSSI,” said Tondo, who was head of the PSSI Organizational Section during the era of the two previous leaderships.
Yet, Nurdin insists on retaining his position amid the denunciations, despite no achievements, and the small amount of remuneration. “If I let them win, the soul and the spirit of PSSI will be destroyed,” reasoned Nurdin.
Not everybody is ‘touched’ by this excuse. Tondo suspects there must be political motives underlying his desire to retain the PSSI general chairmanship. According to him, leading the ‘mother’ of the most popular sport is a precious political investment whereby to gain a high position in the government or other political benefits. “Being engaged in football is an effective way to boost popularity. His name will reverberate widely,” he said.
Indeed Nurdin does not hesitate to display his loyalty to Golkar—the political party he adheres to—albeit outside of political affairs. While declaring he is a Golkar cadre, he lowered ticket prices. He also took the national soccer team to the residence of Golkar General Chairman Aburizal Bakrie prior to the final ASEAN Football Federation games recently.
The political benefits he can gain from his position as the top man of PSSI are illustrated by a concrete example. The election of A.S. Sukawijaya as member of the Central Java Regional House of Representatives (DPRD) came after the former manager of the Indonesian Football Association of Semarang (PSIS) secured the most votes, by garnering 80,000 votes, in the election of the regional legislative. He admitted that the victory was inseparable from his popularity in the soccer field. “I’m just an example in a smaller scale,” said the Democrat Party politician known by the name of Yoyok Sukawi.
Such an example of success is also found in other regions. Gandjar Laksmana, a lawyer-cum-member of the teaching staff of the University of Indonesia School of Law, notes a public secret. “The candidate for succeeding the local ruler has usually completed his apprenticeship in the football executive board,” said Gandjar who used to manage the East Jakarta Football Association (Persijatim) and the Bogor Football Association (Persikabo).
Holding power in a soccer organization will generally lead to a political position. On a higher level, the ‘political value’ of a PSSI official is certainly higher. “One could even become a DPR (House of Representatives) member, a cabinet minister, and probably even the president,” said Tondo.
Certainly the political advantages are not the only thing that causes the post of PSSI executive to be worth fighting for. The economic gains are the reason as well. The money circulating in soccer is enormous in amount. The financial profits are obviously secured not only from the official salary. The funds from the chief as well as the accompanying sponsors could reach tens of billions of rupiah, not to mention the money from the broadcast contracts with television stations, the financial assistance from FIFA, and the proceeds from fines as well as ticket sales.
Apung Widadi, Coordinator of Save Our Soccer, has his own suspicion on the use of the funds. The absence of transparency or accountability in the funding management of PSSI is his reason. The financial audit is conducted for internal use only. “This poor system is intentionally maintained,” said Apung who is also a researcher at Indonesia Corruption Watch.
Apung’s view is of course denied. PSSI Treasurer Achsanul Qosasi denied that the PSSI financial reports are considered not transparent and not accountable. According to him, each year an average amount of some Rp75-90 billion under the PSSI management is always audited by a public accountant.
However, there are other unofficial posts. The question of unofficial funds does not escape attention either. One of the prominent ones is the question of potential bribery. “A few controversial decisions must have been made as a result of bribery,” said Apung.
The facts in court, for instance, showed that convict Aidil Fitri, former manager of the Indonesian Football Association of Samarinda (Persisam), delivered Rp100 million to Nurdin Halid and a number of other PSSI board members. Thanks to the bribes, Persisam managed to rise in three consecutive years since 2007, from Division One, Main Division to the Super Indonesia League.
PSSI denied those facts from the court hearings. However, Apung continues to suspect that such bribery for PSSI chairman and board members could happen in other clubs. “Just imagine if each club does this, how much money there will be,” he said.
In the white book of national soccer reforms, Abdul Haris, the organizing head of Arema Indonesia matches, admits to bribing the Discipline Commission to reduce penalties. Unfortunately, due to his confession, Haris was banned from involvement in soccer affairs for 20 years.
One of the most outstanding bribery issues in 2007 involved executives of the Penajam Medan Jaya club who bribed the PSSI executives to secure the club’s position in the competition. At that time, the sanctions against the parties involved—both the club executives and the PSSI officials—were light. In fact, the PSSI official concerned who had resigned was recruited again.
It is not that the people are not aware of indications of bribery, referee mafia, and scoring rigging. These things came up at the 2010 PSSI Congress, thus resulting in the establishment of an anti-bribery and anti-referee mafia task force. In any case, the door to seek profits from soccer remains open.
As for all the allegations about financial benefits, PSSI Secretary-General Nugraha Besoes categorically denied them. “There are no such things,” he said. PSSI’s chairman also made the same denial. “I and my colleagues seek to maintain the self-esteem, the dignity, and the respectability of PSSI,” said Nugraha.
How noble it is if all this is realized. But, who will believe in it if the leadership remains in Nurdin’s hands? There is no need for Tondo’s warning either. “In line with the preamble, PSSI is a tool of struggle,” he said. In the past, the Indonesian Kickball Association (PSRSI), the precursor to PSSI, was established on April 19, 1930 as a vehicle whereby to unite the youth and to nurture nationalism.
Harun Mahbub, Tito Sianipar, Sohirin (Semarang)