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While off-field problems have plagued the Indonesian game in recent years, Barisic believes the signs are there that the country can challenge the region's best

EXCLUSIVE
By Paddy Higgs and Dewa Rois

Former Gold Coast United forward Andrew Barisic believes Indonesia can be a "new power" in Asian football, but only if the bickering in the boardroom comes to an end.

The much-travelled striker signed for Indonesian Premier League (IPL) outfit Arema for the 2012 campaign, moving from league rivals Persebaya on loan.

Drama has never been far away in Indonesian football, with politics leading to the establishment of a breakaway competition in 2011.

Barisic is well placed to comment on the problems, with the 26-year-old playing for one of two Arema teams based in the city of Malang. Both teams are well supported, but were a single entity until 2011, when conflict in the club's hierarchy led to Arema being split in two.

Barisic's Arema plays in the IPL, which is recognised by the Football Association of Indonesia (PSSI), while their counterparts are members of the rebel Indonesia Super League (ISL).

Matches in both leagues are largely well attended and wages are comparable with several Asian competitions of greater standing, the football landscape in Indonesia remains fractured.

"Indonesia has massive potential," Barisic - also formerly of Melbourne Knights and Arminia Hannover in Germany - told Goal.com. "Indonesia can be a new power in Asia. Unfortunately, things are hampered by politics [within the football association]. It has to stop."

Barisic arrived in Indonesia after his release from now-defunct Gold Coast during the 2010-11 A-League season, scoring 10 goals for Persebaya in the 2011 IPL campaign. His stint at the club ended after a dispute and, while reluctant to discuss his problems at Persebaya, he has settled at Arema.

"To be honest, my first impression playing for Arema in Indonesia is pleasant, especially after overcoming problems with Persebaya," said Barisic, who has five league goals to his name this campaign.

"I feel that things are much easier now. I am in a good team now, getting a lot of wins. Everything is running smoothly."

Barisic's side sits eighth on the table after 15 matches, but has found more joy in the 2012 AFC Cup.

They face Saudi Pro League outfit Al Ettifaq in the quarter-finals, hosting the first leg on September 18 before the return leg in Dammam seven days later.

"The Saudis have a tough league. They can buy expensive players. But I think the match against Al Ettifaq will be a good experience for Arema players. Arema has what it takes to reach the semi-finals," he said.

"In terms of our chances, we need to be at our best at home. We can take advantage of that [playing at home in the first leg]. We are convinced that as long as the teamwork is there, Arema can beat anyone."

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