Blog: Yes, mister Blatter, you are right! (not)

The governing body of world soccer, FIFA, has suspended the Indonesian Soccer Union (PSSI) for being taken over by Indonesian politics. Nico van Horn says: yeah, like sports and politics never go together.

Although the Asian Games will be held in Indonesia in 2018, the host country’s own national soccer team, following FIFA’s decision to disqualify the Indonesian team, will not be allowed to enter the tournament.

In May 2015, FIFA concluded that Indonesian politics had been heavy involved in the affairs of the PSSI. They suspended the PSSI. Was FIFA right? It might seem so, but there is more to it. Let’s get the picture.

The PSSI had refused to act on the Ministry of Youth and Sports’ recommendations, made through the Indonesian Professional Sports Body (BOPI). The Ministry recommended that clubs Persebaya Surabaya and Arema Indonesia (from Malang) be excluded from the Indonesia Soccer League due to ownership disputes. In my opinion, this seems to be a judicial matter, not a political one. The ministry of Sports in Indonesia was also of this opinion, but not PSSI and big brother FIFA. Both FIFA and in PSSI regard themselves as being above the law. They denied Indonesian authorities the right to mingle in soccer affairs. In this respect, PSSI was trying to do the same thing that FIFA has done for many years now.  Being a state within a state–or in FIFA’s case, a state above the world–FIFA does not want to be a match to any other authority, not even when it comes to strictly legal matters. Recent developments, such as the removal of some FIFA-officials and the persistent allegations against Blatter, have proven that this way of thinking can lead to corruption, collusion and nepotism– in Zürich as well as in Jakarta.

For years now, FIFA has been accused of making shady deals with politicians, influencing governments, and committing financial fraud. FIFA didn’t take firm action in 2005 when the acting President of PSSI, business tycoon Nurdin Halid, was tried, convicted and jailed. He was accused of corruption and illegal importation while governing his food empire. Where was FIFA when PSSI was clouded in this muddy mist of tribulations? The dealings of PSSI even gave rise ten years ago to a competitive national soccer union.  FIFA hardly reacted. The competitive league has returned to PSSI, but tensions still linger.

I think FIFA was not right in accusing the Ministry of Sport and Youth in Indonesia of meddling in sports affairs. After all, it is part of their job to be involved—if not in the sport itself, then surely in maintaining its institutional framework. The Ministry was just trying to get PSSI under Indonesian governance and align it with Indonesian law.

The Indonesian soccer fans and most of the players and coaches are not present in this story. They are the real losers.

In the meantime, Persija sampai mati!

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