The internal conflict in the all Indonesian Soccer Association hampers the national team’s preparations for the U-20 World Cup. The future of the League 1 competition remains unclear.
WITHIN the Indonesian Soccer Association (PSSI), it is not success that is eternal, but conflict between managers. The leadership of Chairman Mochamad Irawan, alias Iwan Bule, of the governing body of Indonesian soccer -has been a source of friction. He has different ideas from those of his own deputy, Cucu Somantri.
Rumors of nepotism have divided these two top PSSI figures. In January, Iwan Bule, a retired police general, appointed his sister-in-law as deputy secretary-general—a new position in the organization. Three months later, Cucu appointed his son general manager of Liga Indonesia Baru. The retired Indonesian Army general is the managing director of operating company Liga Indonesia. He stepped down after the nepotism rumors emerged.
These issues that have nothing to do with the efforts to improve performance have sacrificed the interests of soccer. The national team has yet to be formed even though the PSSI has hired a high caliber international coach, Shin Tae-yong. The South Korean coach was recruited to prepare the national team to compete in the U-20 World Cup next year. Indonesia will host this under-20-year-old soccer competition.
The future of the League 1 competition is also unclear. Like almost all soccer leagues around the world, the pandemic has brought a halt to competitions in Indonesia. The PSSI has targeted October for the 2020 League 1 to resume. However, the format to be used for the competition is still a big question mark. This uncertainty has thrown the participating clubs into confusion. A number of them have refused to continue the competition, citing financial problems.
Clearly the pandemic means that the competition will be affected. In a number of developed nations soccer has resumed, but without spectators. It is not yet certain that this example will be followed in Indonesia. The sports business has long been supported by spectators. Around 80 percent of clubs’ income comes from ticket sales. For the sake of the safety of spectators, the PSSI should not force the competition to resume, especially since before it was halted it had only been running for three weeks.
The PSSI could focus on preparing teams using other methods, for example by holding more friendly matches without spectators. Of course, this would not be perfect. The U-20 World Cup will be held from May 20 to June 11, 2021. President Joko Widodo has set a target for the hosts of making it to the last 16, a stage that Indonesia has never reached. If the competition goes ahead as normal, the national team will need to work extremely hard to achieve this target.
In the future, the PSSI needs to focus on developing junior players by organizing a league-based competition. Indonesia has a good under-16 team, but their successes disappear as they get older. The reason is that the players are often disturbed by events unrelated to sport. And there is no league competition.
The most important thing to put right first is eradicating the personal interests of managers. The PSSI has often been in conflict because of the large number of these interests. For example, in 2014, the battle for the position of chairman between Djohar Arifin Husin and Nurdin Halid led to the acquisition of broadcasting rights that highly favored a TV station owned by a senior PSSI figure. A year later, sports minister Imam Nahrawi suspended PSSI managers who had allowed a club to participate without meeting the requirements. In the previous government, minister Andi Mallarangeng took action against PSSI managers because of a large number of problems ranging from the fixing of scores and violations of statutes, to the illegal buying and selling of clubs and the existence of a cartel arranging sponsors.
Iwan Bule must not repeat the misdeeds of previous managers. He needs to put aside non-sport interests in order to ensure the continuation of our soccer that has been so severely affected by the pandemic.