The Indonesian Soccer Association (PSSI) is risking the nation’s chance to compete in the Asian Champions League (ACL) next year, upholding its decision to expand the Indonesian Super League (ISL) to 24 clubs.
PSSI competition director Sihar Sitorus said that the expansion clubs had yet to pass muster from the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), which would determine if the ISL’s future champion would have the right to compete in the Asian Champions League season next year.
The AFC verifies the level professionalism of all soccer clubs playing the highest professional soccer leagues in member nations.
The ISL’s clubs consists of 14 clubs that competed in last year’s ISL, four promoted clubs and six specially chosen clubs from the rival Indonesian Premier League.
PSSI’s decision last week to include the six additional clubs — PSM Makassar, Persibo Bojonegoro, Persema Malang, Persebaya Surabaya, PSMS Medan, and Bontang FC — evoked protest from established clubs that feared a bulging number of participants would extend the season and operating costs for existing clubs.
“Since our last executive meeting a few days ago, we have decided that these 24 clubs are qualified to participate in the league,” Sihar Sitorus said on Tuesday at a press conference.
Sihar declined to name the clubs that reportedly failed to meet basic requirements. “The verification requirements might serve as death sentence for these clubs,” Sihar said, declining to discuss the reasons behind the expansion.
“In every choice we make we face some risks. After the AFC team verifies these clubs, we might lose the right in the ACL or we might keep the right. One thing for sure, the number of participating clubs will remain the same after the AFC verification,” Sihar said.
The AFC verification team was previously scheduled to inspect Indonesia’s clubs in July and August, but postponed their visit due to verification trips to Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
“According to an email statement, an AFC team will come here on Sept. 30 and conduct the verification process for two weeks,” Sihar said.
League play would begin around Oct. 14, instead of Oct. 9, as previously planned, and run until October next year — much longer than the AFC’s standard 10-month season, Sihar said. There will be a total of 552 matches among the 24 participating clubs.
Sihar did not think the extended season would harm the ISL’s chances at the Asian Cup championships. “I don’t think that will be a problem. Japan, for example, holds their league from January to December, and I never heard that the June registration deadline harmed their chance of playing in the Asian Cup.”
Persipura, Arema Indonesia, Persija Jakarta, Semen Padang, Sriwijaya FC, PSPS Pekanbaru, Pelita Jaya, Persib Bandung, Persijap Jepara, Persisam Samarinda, Persiba Balikpapan, Persiwa Wamena, Persela and Deltras Sidoarjo.
Main Division teams promoted into the ISL: Persidafon Dafonsoro, Persiraja Banda Aceh, Persiba Bantul and Mitra Kukar.