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Jakarta Post

Integrity in spotlight as PSSI turns 90

  • Ramadani Saputra
    Ramadani Saputra

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Fri, April 24, 2020   /   05:00 pm
Integrity in spotlight as PSSI turns 90 Rarified air: Soccer Association of Indonesia (PSSI) chairman Mochamad Iriawan (center, white shirt) hands over the Liga 1 Putri women premier league trophy to Persib Bandung women's team, Persib Putri, captain Een Sumarni at Pakansari Stadium in Bogor on Dec. 28, 2019. Critics are concerned that the women's soccer league would not be revisited next year, following the resignation of PSSI secretary-general Ratu Tisha Destria on April 13, 2020. (Courtesy of PSSI/-)

At age 90, the Soccer Association of Indonesia (PSSI) faces an uphill battle to restore its credibility after decades of turbulent affairs marked by graft, alleged match-fixing, stagnant development and rampant hooliganism.

The PSSI celebrated its 90th anniversary on Sunday against the backdrop of the surprise resignation of Ratu Tisha Destria, the association’s secretary-general and one of its most influential figures in the past few years.

Tisha, the first woman to hold such an important position in a male-dominated sport, announced her resignation Monday last week through her Instagram account, where she expressed her undying love for the sport. She had held the post since July 2017.

Celebrating the milestone event under the pall of the COVID-19 outbreak, PSSI chief Mochamad “Iwan Bule” Iriawan invited fans, officials, players and supporters to work hand-in-hand to weather the dire circumstances in the country.

Indonesian soccer fans have already seen the Liga 1 and Liga 2 league competitions postponed last month, forcing clubs to send players and officials home. The postponement added to the financial difficulties faced by clubs, which have prompted cuts to wages for players and staff.

“We will win this toughest of matches. We are all on the same team, so we must overcome these challenges together. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger and tougher,” said Iriawan as he advised stakeholders to maintain their integrity in developing the national soccer industry.

Over the past few years, the PSSI had been mired in match-fixing scandals that have tarnished its image and dragged down several of its top officials, despite deep links to the corridors of power.

Most recently, former deputy chairman Joko Driyono was sentenced to one-and-a-half years in prison for tampering with evidence related to match-fixing allegations.

PSSI’s misfortunes do not stop there, as violence among soccer fans still occurs across most of the national soccer scene.

Critics have urged the PSSI to create a more positive atmosphere around league matches to eliminate brawls and hooliganism.

Sports expert Djoko Pekik Irianto of the Yogyakarta State University said the association still needed to work on a number of fundamental issues, from governance and eliminating the soccer mafia to improving its youth development program.

“Each division [in the PSSI] should carry out its programs in a professional manner and avoid any overlap [in management],” Djoko told The Jakarta Post earlier this week.

“One of the issues [that pushed Tisha to resign] was an allegation that she had overstepped her authority.”

As the association looks for Tisha’s replacement, the Indonesian Sports Scientists Association (APKORI) head said the PSSI needed to be very mindful of not making the same mistakes.

“If the PSSI had been practicing good governance, [we wouldn’t need to worry about] the Liga 1 Putri disappearing again [...] as the next secretary-general could simply revisit the idea,” Djoko said, referring to the women’s league.

One of Tisha’s crowning achievements had been to revive the Indonesian women’s soccer league, but concerns have been raised following her departure from the association.

Iriawan has since appointed executive committee member Yunus Nusi as acting secretary-general to fill the void left by Tisha.

Separately, Akmal Marhali from soccer watchdog Save Our Soccer urged the PSSI to build up its integrity by focusing on transparent and accountable management.

“The PSSI needs to listen [to its critics] – it should be managed professionally and prioritize its achievements,” Akmal told the Post this week.

Iriawan said he realized that a heavy task awaited him, especially after world soccer body FIFA gave Indonesia the nod to host the Under-20 World Cup next year.

“We also have to qualify for the 2024 Olympics and work on our big dream to participate in the 2030 World Cup. For the senior team right now, we want them to break into the Top 150 in the FIFA ranking,” he said.