Southeast Asia Indonesia

2020 Indonesian Football Season in Limbo After Yet Another Delay

On Thursday, October 29th, the Football Federation of Indonesia (PSSI) have announced that the 2020 Liga 1 Indonesia season – along with the rest of the Indonesian football season for 2020 – will face yet another delay. Suspended since late March due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the PSSI had intended to restart Indonesian football on October 1st with the resumption of the Liga 1 campaign, however the Indonesian Police denied the federation any permit to hold football matches, citing both the COVID-19 pandemic and the upcoming regional elections as reasons behind their stance against the restart of Indonesian football. The PSSI then delayed the restart to discuss things further with all relevant stakeholders, but the Indonesian Police stuck to their stance and refused permit to hold any football matches before the end of this year, forcing the PSSI to delay the restart yet again until at least early next year.

PSSI caretaker secretary general Yunus Nusi broke the news that everyone had been fearing for on Thursday, stating that all football matches within the Indonesian football pyramid for 2020 will be cancelled.

“Through a meeting on Wednesday (October 28th), the PSSI have decided to call a halt to all competitions in 2020. They will resume in 2021,” Yunus said, as quoted from the Jakarta Post, “The PSSI will give authority to PT. Liga Indonesia Baru (LIB) to adjust the competitions’ systems, formulas, and formats in accordance to the PSSI’s decision.”

Yunus’ announcement meant that the all Liga 1, 2, and 3 matches for this year will be cancelled. A number of PSSI’s regional bodies throughout Indonesia have already cancelled their Liga 3 seasons for 2020 prior to the announcement, namely East Java, Bali, Special Region of Yogyakarta, Jakarta Special Capital Region, South Sumatra, and West Kalimantan, and the announcement meant that all 33 regional bodies of the PSSI won’t be holding their regional Liga 3 matches for this year.

With the confirmation of the further suspension of football until next year, Indonesia became the second ASEAN nation after Brunei Darussalam to shelve their 2020 football season due to the pandemic. Hard-hit Philippines have restarted their Philippine Football League on Wednesday with a mini tournament in the PFF National Training Centre in Carmona, Cavite, where 6 teams play each other once to decide the PFL title, while Singapore had restarted their Singapore Premier League on October 17th, albeit without Bruneian representative and defending champions DPMM FC who have decided to sit the season out due to the pandemic.

Elsewhere, the Laotian, Cambodian, Burmese, and Malaysian football leagues have wrapped up their campaigns, with Lao Toyota, Boeung Ket Angkor, Shan United, and Johor Darul Ta’zim winning their respective leagues. The 2020 Malaysia Cup will also commence on early November, around the same time the ongoing 2020 V.League 1 season wraps up their matches in Vietnam. Thailand, on the other hand, will embark on a 2020-21 football calendar, with 5 matchweeks to go until the halfway point of the season in the 2020 Thai League 1.

Understandably, the decision to shelve the 2020 Indonesian football season until 2021 was met with sheer disappointment from everyone involved in the country’s football industry.

“I’ve been getting calls from my colleagues all around Asia,” said Bali United head coach Stefano Cugurra Teco, “They’re baffled on why the Indonesian leagues hasn’t restarted yet. All of my players are upset by the news as they’ve been working hard preparing themselves for the league’s restart. Bali United are well-prepared for a November restart. The players have been training well and they’ve followed all the required health protocols.”

Teco then went on to suggest that should Indonesia still retain their two slots in the upcoming 2021 AFC Cup, both Bali United and PSM Makassar, winners of the 2019 Liga 1 and 2019 Piala Indonesia respectively, should once again represent the country in the competition. This is a similar scenario to that of Bangladesh, whose competitions were declared null and void due to the pandemic. Bashundhara Kings, champions of both the 2019 Bangladesh Premier League and 2019-20 Bangladesh Federation Cup, are set to represent the country once again in the 2021 AFC Cup alongside 2019 league runners-up Dhaka Abahani, although this hasn’t been confirmed yet.

“There will be no champions for this season’s Liga 1 and Piala Indonesia,” Teco told Indosport, “It’s for the best if we send the 2019 champions of both competitions to the 2021 AFC Cup. This is much better than having our slots in next year’s AFC Cup being forfeited.”

Akmal Marhali, the coordinator of Indonesia’s Save Our Soccer movement, also voiced out his thoughts on the further postponement of Indonesian football.

“The PSSI should’ve coordinated better with the government in regards of restarting football,” Akmal said as quoted from Pikiran Raykat, “Since September and even early October the government have indicated that it is impossible to restart footballing competitions in regards to the current situation. However, the PSSI instead promised that the competitions would restart on October or November. And look what happened. Should both the PSSI and the government made themselves clear that we couldn’t have any footballing events this year from the start, then the people won’t be this enraged over the postponement of Indonesian football.”

PT LIB director Akhmad Hadian Lukita revealed that he and his company are planning up several scenarios in restarting the Indonesian football leagues.

“Previously we intend to restart the leagues on either November 1st or December 1st and end them on March 2021, and all of the league’s participating clubs are really eager about the restart,” said Akhmad, “But if we restart the leagues on January 1st, we would have to carry out the competitions in two different time frames as from May to June of next year the PSSI will be organizing the U-20 World Cup, which means that we don’t have that much time.”

The PSSI, on their Thursday announcement, have also stated that they’ve sent health protocol guidelines to all of their member clubs, with the federation hoping that they will follow those guidelines once football resumes.