Rival elite league stirs trouble in Indonesia
Indonesia's troubled football federation is once again in strife as a breakaway super league threatens to disqualify top Indonesian clubs from regional events.
Rival administrators revived the defunct Liga Super Indonesia, which kicked off Thursday after disputes between clubs and Liga Prima Indonesia, the country's official top league registered with the Indonesian Football Association (PSSI).
"We believe a letter from the sports ministry makes it clear that there is only one recognised professional league under the PSSI, and that's the Prima Liga Indonesia," PSSI competition committee chief Sihar Sitorus told AFP.
"We will be taking action against the Liga Super administrators and we will see if they are kicked out or accommodated."
Eleven of the 24 original Liga Prima clubs boycotted the competition, some saying too many clubs were playing, others citing inadequate salaries and conditions.
The split in the country?s pool of top clubs could hurt Indonesia's chances of competing in the Asian Champions League and the AFC Cup championships beyond next year.
Asian Football Confederation rules for those events state that clubs are required to compete in the top domestic league approved by the national association, essentially leaving Liga Super's 18 clubs out of the running.
The PSSI and Liga Prima brushed off suggestions that the split would force the AFC or international regulator FIFA to intervene.
"They recognise only one federation in each country. Of course we expect FIFA and AFC will rightly ask what's going on, and we'll just have to explain the situation," Sitorus said.
Liga Prima spokesman Abi Hasantoso said the issue was local and that PSSI could handle it.
"The AFC and FIFA told us that we could run the league as long as we have at least 10 clubs, so with 13, our league is fine."
Liga Super is backed by one of Indonesia's most powerful politicians and business tycoons, Aburizal Bakrie, whose family empire has been accused of corruption and collusion in several high-profile cases.
Sitorus suggested clubs may have walked from the Liga Prima after a crackdown on political links in football.
"It may be related to the ban on using government money for professional football," he said.
FIFA threatened the PSSI with sanctions this year over poor management and a scandalous power grab for the chairmanship.
Former PSSI chairman Nurdin Halid, implicated in several graft cases, was ejected in a no-confidence vote in February, leaving feuding members without leadership for months and forcing FIFA to intervene.
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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