by: October 14, 2011 | by Antony Sutton
The new Indonesian football season is supposed to kick off on Saturday. From the 24 teams that have entered the competition, up from 15 that ended the last campaign, Persib Bandung hosts Semen Padang on the opening day.
That’s it. The season kicks off with one game. What other league in the world can manage that?
A handful of games will be played before the season stops so everyone can concentrate on the Southeast Asian Games. Not the World Cup, not the Olympics, but the Southeast Asian Games, a competition for Under-23 national sides. The season will take a break before most teams have even played 90 minutes of competitive football.
Take Persija, for example. You might ask which Persija, and you would be correct in asking. Indonesia’s capital city currently boasts two football clubs called Persija run by entirely different people. One team is Persija and has always been Persija. The other is called Persija and is owned by the people behind Jakarta FC in last season’s short-lived Liga Premier Indonesia.
By some kind of tortuous process I get headaches even trying to think about, the new leaders at the Indonesian Football Association (PSSI) decided the latter Persija was the real Persija and would take its place in the new season.
In effect, an LPI club has “taken over” a regular Indonesia Super League club — an LPI club with less than six months of history. I’m not aware of anything similar happening anywhere in the football world, but here such legal gymnastics are the norm and pass with nary a comment.
Except now. Persija’s fans, the “notorious” Jakmania who are accused regularly by polite Jakarta society for making the intolerable traffic even more intolerable, carry a lot more clout than many other supporters clubs.
Indonesia’s last four home internationals, ahead of the Qatar game, had seen at least 85,000 in attendance. Against Qatar, with the Jakmania announcing they were boycotting the game, the crowd was 28,000.
By contrast, in the LPI Jakarta FC struggled to get a couple of hundred fans. If the new season goes ahead and the Jakmania continues to boycott the newly reconstituted club, the FA will be left with one of the biggest brands in the league playing in front of empty stadiums every game and not just some, which happens now.
It remains to be seen whether the authorized Persija kicks off the new season in November or not. That’s a long way off and, like a jalan tikus off Fatmawati, there are many more twists and turns in this story to come.