Indonesia's troubled league kicks off
Indonesian football made a diving save from a four-year ban from all Asian competitions Saturday when local teams Bandung and Padang kicked off the nation's professional league.
The Asia Football Confederation (AFC) had given Indonesia's football association until Saturday to begin the new league to prove it had overcome a spate of scandals that began with an unruly leadership grab in January.
The league may have kicked off, but 14 of the new Liga Prima's 24 teams have said they will boycott the competition over funding and management issues.
Liga Prima denied there was going to be a boycott. And although Bandung and Padang were not among the 14, it said playing the league with 10 teams would still save it from the ban.
"We will still run the competition with all 24 clubs. The teams are just speaking out to negotiate new terms. We plan to meet with them in a few weeks," Liga Prima spokesman Abi Hasantoso told AFP Saturday.
On Friday night however, a spokesman for the 14 teams threatened to run a breakaway league under the management of former administrators Liga Indonesia, who had offered teams two billion rupiah ($113,000) each in funding, twice what Liga Prima now offers.
"We want to play under Liga Indonesia and we will kick off our own competition in December," said spokesman Hardiansyah Hanafi, who also owns the Samarinda club.
The Indonesian Football Association (PSSI), which oversees the league, has been in hot water several times this year over its poor management, forcing the AFC and international regulator FIFA to intervene.
PSSI chairman Nurdin Halid, implicated in several graft cases, was ejected in a no-confidence vote in February, leaving feuding PSSI members without leadership for months.
FIFA was forced to intervene and threaten Indonesia with sanctions until it elected a new head.
Under new leadership, the PSSI fired the national team's coach Alfred Riedl without paying out his contract.
Indonesia was a successful co-host of the 2007 Asian Cup, but its national team's record is poor.
It was runner-up to Malaysia in the AFF Suzuki Cup last December, but is 132nd on FIFA's rankings -- below Yemen and Kenya -- and has never made the World Cup finals.
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