Gelora Bung Karno

What’s your next move, PSSI?

*Article by Ary Wibowo, Kompas newspaper, Jakarta

**Translated by Andy Fuller

Football, in Indonesia, is like a party. Football can become a means of national resistance, entertainment, a resource of happy stories, as well as a means of making a living. How depressing Indonesia would be without football.People of all ages – from very young children to the elderly – gather together to give their support to local teams or the national team. After all, the main purpose of football is to create happiness. Joy makes football a celebration above all others. But, this joy has not been seen for some time. For years and years, football has disappeared and wandered off to who knows where. The national team has achieved nothing but failure. Don’t even think about a good performance from the national team; even the PSSI (Football Federation of Indonesia) can’t fix their own problems.
Over the last several months, we have seen Indonesian football make international headlines. But, it hasn’t been to do with a good performance on the pitch, but, instead it has been to do with players fighting, supporters killing one another and the match-fixing mafia. When Evan Dimas emerged as a star in the U-19 national team, Indonesian football fans felt an unbridled sense of joy. But, this joy only lasted a brief moment after the U-19 team failed dismally at the U-19Asian Cup last year. It doesn’t make sense for the team to be lumped with the blame for this failure. It is the management and administrators that have to be held accountable. The fact is that Indonesian football has produced failure after failure for decades.

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Outside, looking in, Gelora Bung Karno Stadium (built 1962), Jakarta***


FIFA Sanctions

Based on the unending chaos of Indonesian football, FIFA finally handed down some sanctions on the PSSI on 30th May, 2015. These sanctions mean that Indonesian is banned from participating in FIFA tournaments as well as the AFC for an unspecified time. Jerome Valcke, the secretary general of FIFA, wrote in his letter to the PSSI, that they would only withdraw their sanctions and restore their membership once Indonesia had fulfilled four conditions. The essence of the conditions is that the PSSI is given full authority to run their affairs in an independent manner. But, the conditions will merely present the return of a boring question: can the independence of the PSSI mean that they are capable of improving the state of Indonesian football? Will they finally be capable of ensuring that hundreds of millions of Indonesians will be able to enjoy seeing their team celebrate on a victory dais?

Gelora Bung Karno 3Holds some 100,000 people. Used for political party campaign launches, mass preaching and football too.

For decades and decades there has been nothing but chaos, confusion, lack of certainty, political conflicts and rivalries in Indonesian football. The strange thing is, that those who have been responsible for football administration remain untouchable in their positions. It is as if that all of this is ‘situation normal’. Since the SEA Games in Manila, 1991, the national government has changed five times. The head coach of the national team has also been changed endlessly. Coaches have come from Java, Sumatra and from overseas. But, the positions of the PSSI officials? They don’t resign but maintain their own positions. The failure of the PSSI at the national level is also replicated at the regional level. A strong national team needs to be built upon the fostering of football at the amateur level. It is impossible to talk about achievement at the national level, when the management of football has never been touched by the winds of reformasi (the movement for political change, democratization and decentralization that emerged in the last 1990s).

Reformasi for Football?

So, the question now is: who is able to stop the officials from their continual failings at managing Indonesian football? History has shown that every time there is change in Indonesian football, what emerges is a pattern of revenge against the former power holders. This is one of the main problems within the efforts at fixing football at a national level. George Santayana, a philosopher, has said, ‘those who ignore history will repeat it’. This statement applies to football in Indonesia. The PSSI officials merely act as politicians rather than officials with football as the best interest at heart. On Saturday 30th May 2015, President Joko Widodo stated that he wanted a total reformation off the PSSI in order to improve the state of Indonesian football. He is aware that there is nothing to be proud about with the national team continually failing in international tournaments.

President Widodo’s statement will become a serious challenge for Imam Nahrawi, the Minister for Youth and Sport. When Nahrawi took the decision to freeze the PSSI, his actions were met with mixed responses. Many were in favor of what he did, but, many football fans also criticized him. The criticism wasn’t exactly without foundation. Over the years, the public has got used to the governmental maneuvers, as well as those of the football administrators.So, it was only natural that when Nahrawi kept delaying his announcement of the ‘Transition Team’ that they started to doubt his seriousness. Rumors have started to circulate as to why Nahrawi froze the PSSI that is currently being led by La Nyalla Matalitti. But, in essence the public doesn’t really care too much because what they really want to see is the return of beautiful play on the pitch, rather than the playing out of personal conflicts for the purpose of showing off one’s power.

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Please write a good story, too

The government needs to be serious if it wants to fix Indonesian football. They also have to show that they have a blue print that can outline how they envision change over the long term, rather than just looking for short term answers. To borrow a theory from Kurt Lewin, an individual needs to understand the concepts behind the changes he or she wants to undertake. And as such, Nahrawi, as the Minister for Youth and Sport, must have a clearly conceptualised path for change so that the public can take them on board and support the Minister in carrying out his plan. The change that needs to take place includes changing the habit of appointing PSSI officials based on political interests. Also, officials who have watched over the continual failure of the national team should not be selected. Change needs to take place so that a healthy competition can develop and that players can be paid in full and have their rights fulfilled.

Football Nationalism

Bung Hatta, one of the founding father’s of Indonesian independence, said, ‘the rise and fall of this country depends on its own people.’ According to Bung Hatta, Indonesia is just a name and a drawing of a chain of islands on a map, if the people no longer care about the nation’s unity. It is such a statement that the PSSI officials must understand and take on board if they are serious about improving the state of the nation’s football. If no-one takes a sincere interest in fixing Indonesian football, the crisis of performance will only continue. If the PSSI is continually fractured, and unity is not considered important, the PSSI will only put together one failure after the next. This will mean that the millions of talented footballers will end up being the victims of poor administration.

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There is a lot of evidence, from the far-west in Sabang to the far-east in Merauke, that Indonesia can produce talented footballers. For decades, generations of Indonesian footballers have been despondent; waiting for the moment that the political conflicts will end and the national team will have a chance at international success. Players have always felt that they are not that important in the broader scheme of football matters; what seems to matter most is who is in control at PSSI. And so it is now that the public, once more, has invested hope in the national administrators of football. The people of Indonesia are longing for [national] football to be something entertaining and beautiful, rather than being a source of national embarrassment. So, the sanctions from FIFA must present a turning point. The government must fulfill its promise to ameliorate the problems at PSSI. The public demands change and hopes for the best. They will do so, while continuing to ask, ‘what’s your next move PSSI?’

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Mythical origins


***photos by Andy Fuller

The author, Ary Wibowo, can be contacted at @iLhoo

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