|By Khalis Rifhan
Days after the Indonesian FA (PSSI) held an extraordinary congress to resolve the long-standing dualism of the domestic FA and league, the nation has once again been plunged into yet another crisis ahead of their AFC Asian Cup qualifier against Saudi Arabia on March 23.
In a move that shocked the local football fraternity, head coach Luis Manuel Blanco was abruptly replaced by former Indonesia Under-23 coach Rahman Darmawan and Persipura Jayapura coach Jacksen Tiago, with Blanco reassigned to a technical director role.
Unhappy with the decision made by the National Team Body (BTN), Blanco and his two staff members, Marcos Conenna and Jorge Di Gregorio, have reportedly lodged a report to both the Argentinian embassy and Indonesia sports minister Roy Suryo. Blanco's earlier appointment as coach had been made possible after the two countries agreed on closer cooperation.
Indonesia national team manager Habil Marati earlier told media that he had spoken to Blanco and urged him not to escalate matters.
"We will continue to persuade him (Blanco) and not let this problem harm PSSI; this is all for the sake of Indonesia," he claimed.
"We should be prepared to receive any protests from the Argentinian sports minister."
Oddly enough, while Marati was the one answering media queries regarding Blanco’s plight, Mesak Manibor issued a statement indicating that he was still the national team manager."Until now, I'm still the manager of the national team," he said. "That's why I'll stick with the players on the field.
"I coordinated with BTN and also met with Harbiansyah (deputy manager of BTN) twice. It's no problem. That obviously does not need any official confirmation."
In spite of these strange happenings, the national team players have resumed their training under Rahmad and Tiago and can expect strong home support for their clash with Saudi Arabia.
PSSI has prepared a total of 75,875 tickets ahead of the qualifier against the Middle East giants at the Gelora Bung Karno Stadium in Jakarta. Approximately 69,090 tickets will be sold to public, while the rest have been distributed to invitees of PSSI and sponsors.
"We are expecting great enthusiasm from Indonesian supporters ahead of this match and we will sell the tickets on Saturday morning," ticket coordinator Edy Prasetyo said.
"We don't sell it online, but supporters can buy the tickets on the counters which have been placed around the stadium."