SOCCER-ASIA-INDONESIA:Indonesia FA confident of avoiding FIFA ban
By Olivia Rondonuwu
JAKARTA (Reuters) - The beleaguered Indonesia Football Association (PSSI) is confident of avoiding a FIFA ban after offering an olive branch to another breakaway soccer league in a new twist in the struggle for power.
The PSSI, organisers of the previously unofficial Indonesia Premier League (LPI), told Reuters they would also recognise the Indonesia Super League providing ISL organisers handed over control.
The decision came after the PSSI congress in Palangkaraya, Borneo on Sunday but not all members attended the meeting which world governing body FIFA had ordered to happen before Tuesday.
The Indonesia Soccer Rescue Committee (KPSI), featuring some PSSI members, held its own conference in north Jakarta on Sunday after growing frustrated at what it said was poor leadership by the PSSI.
There the KPSI elected a new PSSI leader and deputy chairman and plan to appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) to have them recognised as the heads of Indonesian soccer by FIFA, Indonesian media outlet Kompas reported on Monday.
Despite the KPSI's actions, the PSSI's disciplinary commission head, Bernhard Limbong, said he was "optimistic" its moves to recognise the ISL would avoid FIFA sanctions.
"We have followed FIFA's order to hold a congress before March 20 and we did that," Limbong told Reuters by telephone on Monday after the Borneo meeting.
"We have also admitted Indonesia Super League, as well as Indonesia Premier League (LPI), under PSSI, which addressed FIFA's statute to unite the breakaway league into one single league."
The move could appease upset supporters of the national team, who were humiliated 10-0 by Bahrain in their final World Cup qualifier last month after the ISL-based players were barred from playing because of the feud.
Last year, under the guidance of former chairman Nurdin Halid, the PSSI was fortunate to avoid a FIFA suspension after failing to arrange leadership elections and control the then-unofficial LPI backed by oil tycoon Arifin Panigoro.
Halid eventually left office and was replaced in a July election by the Panigoro-backed Djohar Arifin Husin. The LPI then became the PSSI's recognised league.
However, Halid's former colleague Nirwan Bakrie restarted the ISL this year, reigniting the issue, but Limbong said the two leagues will now co-exist under the PSSI should the ISL agree.
"So for now we have two leagues working parallel for this season. If these leagues later disagree, we would dismiss both leagues and form a new competition, we can call it Indonesia's pro league or something," Limbong said.
"But we can't do it now. We are still tied with broadcasting contract, players contracts."
However, the PSSI have other problems to address.
The KPSI elected La Nyalla Mahmud Matalitti as its PSSI chairman on Sunday with Rahim Soekasah his deputy after saying they had the support of the majority of the PSSI.
"Djohar Arifin is no longer recognised by two-third members of PSSI that are here," Matalitti was quoted as saying by the Jakarta Post on Monday.
The PSSI disputed the attendance figures at the KPNI Jakarta meeting saying its conference in Borneo was attended by 94 of 97 legal voters.
While the olive branch might limit the immediate threat of sanctions by FIFA, the soccer power struggle in the world's most populated Muslim country appears a long way from concluding.
(Writing by Patrick Johnston in Singapore. Editing by Mark Meadows)