Thursday, October 27, 2011

Breaking up is hard to do

But breaking away? That's becoming de rigeur around these parts. Less than a year after the unsanctioned Indonesian Premier League decided to break away from the officially recognized Indonesian Super League and form its own competition, a handful of former ISL clubs have decided to break away from the now-official IPL and reconstitute the ISL.

In short — only because it's almost 5 a.m. and I really need to get to bed — Persipura Jayapura, Persija Jakarta, Sriwijaya FC, PSPS Pekanbaru, Pelita Jaya, Persiwa Wamena, Persela Lamongan, Deltras Sidoarjo, Persiba Balikpapan, Persisam Samarinda, Mitra Kukar and Persidafon Dafonsoro decided they didn't like the new league (or at least who was running it) and chose to walk away from the IPL. The Indonesian FA and the current league organizer insist they have 18 clubs signed up and ready to play in their league, but at least six of those clubs have come out and denied they ever re-registered. The now rebel ISL will start on Dec. 1 and — brace yourselves — will be broadcast by the Bakrie-owned ANTV, which had a 10-year deal to show the ISL before the new PSSI leadership decided it didn't like ANTV's face (or some such thing).

Persib is still on the fence if you believe the quote in the article, but given that the ISL organizer is offering more money, it's a pretty sure bet where they'll cast their lot. The IPL, meanwhile, can count Arema Indonesia, Bontang FC, Persebaya Surabaya, Persema Malang, Persiba Bantul, Persibo Bojonegoro, Persijap Jepara, Persiraja Aceh, PSM Makassar, PSMS Medan and Semen Padang among its number. The Asian Football Confederation says a league has to have a minimum of 10 clubs to operate, so technically both the ISL and IPL meet that requirement. The new ISL organizer says the league won't be a "breakaway" competition as it will operate within PSSI, AFC and FIFA statutes (he claims), but the odds of the PSSI leadership jettisoning the league they've created and giving in to the clubs' demands (and by so doing losing quite a bit of face) are remote at best.

At this point, the conflict breaks down into those in the Arifin Panigoro camp who back the new PSSI leadership and the IPL vs. those in the Bakrie camp who want to bring back the ISL and play by the old rules. Who loses when two titans of industry and their respective cronies get into a public dick-measuring contest over who should run Indonesia's most popular sport? Only the players, supporters and everybody who makes all or some of their living off of soccer. You know, the little people.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention that Aburizal Bakrie — the man who heads the Bakrie family, its business empire and the Golkar Party — has all but been nominated to run as his party's nominee for president in the 2014 election and could certainly use a nationwide platform like the ISL as he shores up his support among the unwashed masses. I'm sure his motives are pure, though.

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