Though some may argue that the ability to field two national teams is a sign of strength, in Indonesia it is a symptom of a never-ending saga that threatens to undo the progress made in expanding grassroots football throughout the country.
With two leagues and even two football associations vying for the attention of players, sponsors, and supporters, the Merah Putih may be hamstrung in their efforts to claim the country's first-ever AFF Suzuki Cup victory come December.
Dualism of competitions
Indonesia's domestic competition consists of two leagues: the Indonesian Premier League (IPL) and the Indonesia Super League (ISL). Indonesian Football Association (PSSI) chairman Djohar Arifin Husein intended to create an all-new IPL competition combined with existing and new clubs after the PSSI was formed. But that league failed in its goal of contributing to the strength of the national team, mostly due to poor management.
Instead, there was a lot of drama off-the-pitch as fans banded together to save their clubs. The PSSI is an organization that is supposed to understand the competition; instead they forgot about the importance of a competition pyramid. The confusing rationale used to invite teams to the new league caused an uprising among Indonesian clubs, who protested what they believed to be a violation of the basic principles of the game by forming their own league. This 'rebel' ISL is, however, not without its own problems.
Dualism of organisation
Indonesia is not only faced with duelling competitions, but also duelling organisations. Many hoped that Djohar's selection as PSSI chairman would bring positive changes, but instead he failed to satisfy the desires of its members. As a result, disgruntled clubs established the Indonesia Football Rescue Committee (KPSI), and La Nyalla Mattalitti was eventually chosen as their chairman in an extraordinary congress by an overwhelming majority.
While FIFA recognises the PSSI as Indonesia's governing football body, few of the PSSI's members recognise Djohar's authority, causing the situation to further deteriorate. The struggle for power between the two groups forced the AFC to request FIFA's approval to form a task force to resolve the conflict. The joint committee, announced earlier this year, has made little progress in untangling the situation. With four members each from the PSSI and KPSI firmly entrenched in their positions, observers are finding it increasingly difficult to hope for resolution.
Dualism of the national team
These two dualisms have created an unfortunate and troubling third: that of Indonesia's two national teams. The 'shadow' national team formed by PSSI's extraordinary congress led by La Nyalla, was a form of protest at the limited progress of the joint committee. The KPSI hoped for a resolution by September, but much remains unsettled.
The existence of two conflicting national teams leaves players stuck in the middle. With the IPL unsure of its plans for next season, the ISL has decided to kick off its new campaign in November. Undoubtedly, players from IPL clubs are considering a move to the ISL as a result. They can and should not be blamed for this; football is their profession, and as professionals they need to support themselves and their families.
Djohar's PSSI-backed national team has instituted an unofficial policy of not inviting ISL players in an attempt to marginalize the KPSI. This has caused players such as Abdul Rahman and Ferdinand Sinaga to pull out of Djohar's squad, and an exodus of players from one league to another remains a distinct possibility.
With two months remaining until the AFF Suzuki Cup, Indonesian football must create unity from duality if they hope to improve on their second-place effort in 2010.