Wimbo Satwiko, Ami Afriatni & Sandy Pramuji
The ongoing rift in Indonesian football took a new twist on Tuesday as the Ministry of Youth and Sports Affairs announced that the government would stop its funding for the sport.
The move came in the wake of a 10-0 loss at Bahrain in 2014 World Cup qualifying. The biggest defeat in national team history has ramped up criticism of the Indonesian Football Association (PSSI).
“We have no choice since it looks like the PSSI’s infighting won’t be ending anytime soon,” Andi Mallarangeng, the minister of youth and sports, said after meeting President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on Tuesday.
“It was not the country’s best squad that was humiliated by Bahrain last week. It was a team assembled under the shadow of discrimination, as the PSSI only called up players from a certain league. We’ll stop funding for the PSSI, especially for the national team, until they end the dispute and the discrimination.”
Yudhoyono expressed concern on Monday over the country’s football crisis, appealing to the country’s sporting authorities to pull together.
Interim national team coach Aji Santoso could only call up players in the officially sanctioned Indonesian Premier League for the final qualifier in Bahrain on Feb. 29. At the request of world governing body FIFA, the PSSI banned all players in the breakaway Indonesian Super League from the national team.
Most of the country’s top stars are with ISL clubs, though, leaving Aji with lesser, inexperienced players at his disposal.
FIFA has strict rules on government intervention with its members, but Andi said pulling funding did not classify as such.
“Stopping the funding is not an intervention as it is our right to support whichever sports we feel necessary,” he said.
In January, the PSSI asked for Rp 360 billion ($39.6 million) from the ministry, drawing a barrage of criticism. It eventually revised its proposal to Rp 40 billion.
Around Rp 14 billion from the fund would have gone to the national team’s preparation for the Nov. 24 to Dec. 22 Asean Football Federation Cup in Malaysia and Thailand, a ministry source said.
Last year, the ministry gave the PSSI Rp 23.85 billion, mostly to finance the national team for its World Cup qualifiers and the Southeast Asian Games. The amount was almost half the association’s reported income of Rp 47.9 billion from January to November 2011.
PSSI officials said they hoped the ministry would rethink the decision to pull the funding.
“It’s normal for the sports minister to give that kind of statement because he’s disappointed over the loss,” said Bernhard Limbong, a PSSI executive committee member and national team supervisor.
Bernhard said the minister would rethink his decision after watching the Under-21 national team play today against Vietnam at the Hassanal Bolkiah Trophy semifinals in Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei.
PSSI chairman Djohar Arifin Husin was quoted by local media as saying that the funding cut would only hurt football more.
“If they stop the funding it’ll be Indonesia’s loss, not the PSSI’s. Let’s work together to stop this bickering so we won’t be sanctioned [by FIFA],” Djohar said.