Jakarta. Indonesia’s football association slammed a rebel league Thursday after a Paraguayan player who reportedly had not been paid in months fell ill and died because he couldn’t afford medical treatment.
Diego Mendieta, 32, a striker for Persis Solo, died from a viral infection, reports said, adding he was owed four months’ salary of about 120 million rupiah ($12,500) and was unable to pay for treatment or fly home.
The incident is the latest scandal to hit Indonesian football, troubled by a rivalry between the Indonesian Football Association (PSSI) and the breakaway Liga Super which could see the country expelled from FIFA.
“Mendieta’s death raises questions of how he was treated by Liga Super’s management. Why was he not paid his salary for so long?” PSSI official Rudolf Yesayas told AFP.
Yesayas tried to distance the PSSI from the incident, saying the association knew nothing about Mendieta and only learnt of his death through the media.
“Managing football is a complicated affair. Mendieta’s death highlights the importance of having one football association, not more,” Yesayas said.
Liga Super’s management could not be immediately reached for comment.
Mendieta reportedly died on Monday, one week before a deadline imposed by world football body FIFA for the rival associations to form a single federation or face possible sanctions.
Local reports said the player had cytomegalovirus, a common infection which is usually harmless but can be life-threatening for people with weakened immune systems.
FIFPro, the body representing professional footballers worldwide, said it was “shocked” by the incident and urged Indonesia to “make an end to the structural mismanagement of countless football clubs.”
“If the news is true that Diego Mendieta’s death was partly due to gross negligence by his club, then this is simply disgraceful,” FIFPro Division Asia secretary-general Frederique Winia said.
“It is a disgrace for the whole of professional football in Indonesia,” she added, promising to report the case to FIFA.
Indonesian football has long been mired in controversy and has been threatened with suspension from international competition by FIFA following the launch of the Liga Super.
The PSSI has been in hot water with FIFA and the Asian Football Confederation in recent years over poor management, corruption allegations, leadership tussles and poor security at major matches.
The dual-league rivalry has also hit the national team after the Liga Super told its players not to make themselves available. At ongoing AFF Suzuki Cup, four-time finalists Indonesia bowed out in the group stages.