The PSSI Quagmire: Bench Looms for Indonesia
Football Association (PSSI) debacle showed the inability and failure of
the officials to carry out a crucial vote that would chart the future of
football in the country. An emotional Lt. Gen (Ret.) Agum Gumelar
slammed the gavel, breaking it into two parts, as he halted the congress
amid a bitter deadlock even before the FIFA statutes were read as a
preliminary opener of the congress.
Agum, who has a clear
mandate from FIFA to head the normalization committee, failed to take
control of the congress as supporters of rivals for the top post — two
of whom had been banned from the nominations — fight and left the
national association mired in chaos. Army chief of staff Gen. George
Toisutta and oil tycoon Arifin Panigoro have been banned from contesting
the vote for chairman but their supporters, grouped in Kelompok 78,
forced their will on the congress in a bid to allow the two to run.
who has vast experience in heading this nation’s sports organizations,
should have entertained the opposition’s demand for an explanation why
FIFA had rejected the candidates and allowed discussion and voting.
Instead, he was dogmatic, frustrated and negligent. Although it was
Panigoro who started a breakaway Indonesian Premier League in January,
angering the PSSI and FIFA, there was no clear reason why FIFA banned
Toisutta from running for the top slot. Angry supporters under the
banner of reform insisted that Agum convene a truly democratic congress
with all its consequences.
The Toisutta camp, which finally
garnered much support in the regions, had wanted complete reforms of the
association but remnants of the notorious former PSSI chairman Nurdin
Halid’s supporters and elements of the powerful “yellow camp” were still
around with the intention of sabotaging the congress to show the public
that the PSSI can’t go on without the former chairman, who was ousted
through a national campaign. The “yellow camp” refers to one of the
political parties which was accused of having politicized the
PSSI has many grey areas which was vulnerable to
political exploitation but FIFA had many grey areas as well. Given its
reputation following a series of international bribery allegations
within FIFA in the past, it would not be a surprise if FIFA can be
suspected of collaborating with the Nurdin camp to block the reformist
move and ban Toisutta without sufficient grounds. If it was because
Toisutta is a military man, he will soon retire. Besides pundits agree
that more and more people are backing him. What is wrong of having
someone from the military lead sporting organizations, when military men
often become president.
Toisutta was tight-lipped the day after
the aborted congress. He said that he did not participate in the event
nor had anything to do with the outcome. He only said that he trusted
Agum as the best person to find the way out of the problem.
PSSI snafu reverberated beneath the surface as well. Regional football
associations, clubs and players who backed Toisutta received terrorism
threats and feared returning home to their homes. A candidate
campaigning for deputy chairman of the association said the deadlock was
a slap in the face for the candidates and has caused deep divisions
among the football clubs, officials, coaches as well as the national
National team players
tweeted “it is shameful that the PSSI congress was like a kindergarten.
Let’s convene a congress of our own. Everything is wasted including
training the Kopassus way.” “Football unites people, now football make
enemies out of people.” “We might as well have to apply for a job at the
market and not play footbal anymore.”
And if FIFA finally
hands down the sanction after the executive committee of FIFA convenes
at the end of may, Indonesia will surely be barred from international
competition. Politics once again has not only damaged the reputation of
Indonesian football, but the reputation of the whole nation as one of
the largest democracies in the world.