Speculation has been rife that high politics is at play ahead of an election congress that the Indonesian Soccer Association (PSSI) must organize by June 30; a result of the May 20 meeting that ended in deadlock.

I am not a conspiracy theorist, but my common sense leads me to atmospheres around the decision of Agum Gumelar to cut short the May 20 congress in Jakarta without electing a successor of former PSSI chairman Nurdin Halid. Agum chairs the Normalization Committee, which is mandated by the world soccer governing body (FIFA) to hold the congress.

I understand if Agum lost his patience facing the arguments of the congress participants who were eager to catapult Army chief Gen. George Toisutta and businessman Arifin Panigoro to the PSSI top chairs, even though their candidacies were vetoed by FIFA.

Prior to the upcoming congress, the last chance given to PSSI, many have continued to push for the duo’s nomination.

Why are they so stubborn supporting Toisutta and Arifin? Can they guarantee that PSSI under Toisutta and Arifin will restore Indonesia’s performance in international competition?

A business tycoon and former Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) politician, Arifin was a key figure behind the breakaway Indonesian Premier League (IPL). Although the IPL has not secured a FIFA license, Youth and Sports Minister Andi Mallarangeng, who is a patron of the ruling Democratic Party, supports the league that has run since January this year.

It is a positive development to see that IPL promotes certain good points, including professional management of the participating clubs without reliance on regional budgets, as clubs joining the FIFA-sanctioned Indonesian Super League (ISL) do.

However, as PSSI deems IPL illegal, the “revolutionized mind of the game” is running outside FIFA’s prevailing system and rules. Some might say IPL was just a plot to topple Nurdin, a Golkar Party member, from his PSSI top post. If only it were true, the mission has been accomplished, hasn’t it?

In response to the PSSI crisis, FIFA’s accounts have gone further than just about Nurdin. It is more about the indirect challenge to its authority by the IPL. However, FIFA must keep its credibility before its members by not tolerating any rebellion to its rule of the game. Should FIFA acknowledge the IPL, it would open the door for other national associations to follow suit.

Toward the IPL case and alleged government interference, FIFA has remained lenient. Instead of straightly banning Indonesia, FIFA opted to dismiss Nurdin’s reelection bid over perceptions of incompetence without perusing the accusations of graft.

Is the FIFA formula a win-win solution to the deepening crisis of Indonesian soccer? The common sense says it could be.

FIFA does not have the final word, but has ordered the PSSI to hold a congress by June 30. Without undermining our dignity, but taking into account our position in the map of world soccer and potential market in the global soccer industry, Indonesia should be careful in dealing with FIFA’s prescription to avoid the sanction.

All parties therefore need to end the unnecessary debates, which only lead to confusion. Better to think globally without trapping Indonesian soccer in narrow nationalism for the sake of the national soccer’s achievements and whoever might lead the PSSI. Embrace the prevailing system for the sake of national soccer rather than pursuing self-centered agendas.

In this crisis, it is not a sin to follow the wise Indonesian saying, ”lebih baik pandai merasa daripada merasa pandai”, or, better one is clever in sensing rather than feeling clever.

Let others, including FIFA, judge what you thought to be rightly the best. Pressing others to accept arguments might be counterproductive and be perceived as merely ambitious and “hungry for respect”.

This year the national soccer team must compete in the World Cup 2014 qualifications and SEA Games, while Persipura Jayapura and Sriwijaya FC Palembang have qualified for the second round of AFC Cup. Can we imagine if those matches were dropped because of a FIFA sanction on Indonesia?

Just remember, the Indonesian soccer community waited far too long for laurels from the soccer pitch.

* Published by The Jakarta Post on June 8, 2011

http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2011/06/08/unpretentious-attitudes-our-soccer.html