Despite congress after congress, the organizational divide that has plagued national soccer over the last few years remains unresolved. Had world soccer governing body FIFA failed to remind Indonesia of the possible punishment it might hand down to the country during its executive meeting on March 20, the soccer elites would have not seen any urgency to bury their hatchet.
Mediated by new sports minister Roy Suryo, the Indonesian Soccer Association ( PSSI ) and its adversary, the Indonesian Soccer Rescue Committee ( KPSI ), signed on Monday a memorandum of understanding ( MoU ) on a joint congress scheduled for March 17 in Jakarta, which will hopefully mark an end to their bickering.
Based on the deal, the upcoming congress will restrict the agenda to the unification of the currently separate soccer league and federation, a review of the PSSI statutes and the reinstatement of expelled executive committee members La Nyalla Mattalitti, Tony Apriliani, Edwin Dwi Budiawan and Robert Rouw. Both parties have also agreed that the congress participants will be those who attended the extraordinary congress Surakarta, Central Java, in 2011, which elected Djohar Arifin as PSSI chairman, replacing Nurdin Halid, who had been dethroned in a previous congress.
Hopes were high following Djohar’s election that national soccer would no longer witness backbiting among the elites who advanced their personal and group interests ahead of national pride. However in practice, the animosity only intensified and the subsequent separation was unavoidable.
The split has not only exposed Indonesia to international humiliation for running two rival soccer leagues, but has also played havoc with the country’s performance in international competitions. Indonesia paid too-high-a-price for the division with its early exit from the ASEAN Football Federation Cup, which it hosted last year. The quarrel effectively forced the national team to field a weakened side.
The PSSI sanctions the Indonesian Premier League and bans its players both from competing in the star-studded Indonesian Super League, which operates under the auspices of the La Nyalla-led KPSI, and from the national squad. Most recently, the two equally selfish camps set up their respective national team boards responsible for selecting players who will don the national colors in international matches.
The public can no longer bear this dualism in its nation’s soccer, as it contradicts the reform spirit that triggered the hosting of the extraordinary congress in 2011. What actually happened during that congress was a regime change that failed, ironically, to advance any meaningful change. The congress only resulted in a new administration that eventually emulated its predecessor; the orchestra had changed but the songs it played remained the same.
The question for both parties now is whether they are truly committed to the agreement they have signed, given the fact that an MoU is not legally binding. The history of their rivalry shows that they will not be easily reconciled despite the pressure from FIFA, merely because of the political figures and conflicting interests guiding their actions.
The next and perhaps most demanding test awaiting the two camps is a demonstration on their part to entrust a neutral figure to lead the PSSI. There is no guarantee the two will not lock horns in the future after the unification congress, which is primarily intended to spare Indonesia from an international ban.
Indonesian soccer badly needs a leader who is free from this conflict of political interests, to enable him or her to focus on soccer’s development. The war within the PSSI has cost Indonesian soccer many opportunities to progress, let alone to win laurels at an international level.