Things haven’t gone exactly to plan at PS Sleman. The Super Elja are mired in the lower reaches of the 2021/22 Liga 1 Indonesia table after five matches, while off-field the club found themselves being besieged by their own fans following a combination of said dismal results, the management’s refusal to relieve head coach Dejan Antonic of his duties, and the fact that an off-form Arthur Irawan had been consistently picked for PSS’ starting lineup despite the availability of more capable players.
Despite having impressed in pre-season by clinching third place in the 2021 Menpora Cup, PSS found themselves underperforming severely once the league proper rolls around. From their first five matches, the Sleman-based side had only won once, drawn once, and lost the remaining three. As the Super Elja continues to reap one poor result after another, PSS fans began to feel fed up about their team’s awful performances on the pitch, leading to them campaigning for the sacking of head coach Dejan through the #DejanOut hashtag on Twitter.
The straw that broke the patience of PSS fans came in the Super Elja‘s most recent outing, a dismal 3-1 defeat at the hands of Persebaya Surabaya on Wednesday that saw Dejan inexplicably playing club captain Bagus Nirwanto out of position in favor of Arthur. Having arrived at PSS from Badak Lampung FC in 2020, Arthur had been poor despite starting in three out of PSS’ five matches so far. Playing as a wing-back, Arthur had only completed ONE cross and SIX interceptions from the three matches that he had participated in, a poor showing for a player in his position. But somehow, with stats that would spell the end of one’s tenure in a team’s starting lineup, Arthur managed to waltz his way into Dejan’s plans much to the infuriation of the PSS fans.
Thus this leads to Thursday, where legions of PSS fans from different supporters groups – most notably the famous Brigata Curva Sud – stormed the club’s office in Ngaglik, Sleman. The fans demanded three things – the sacking of Dejan (#DejanOut), the termination of Arthur’s contract (#ArthurOut), and the resignation of PSS General Director, Marco Gracia Paulo (#MarcoOut).
And while the PSS social media team tried their best to calm the situation down by posting a club statement that suggests Dejan and his coaching staff were given an ultimatum by the PSS management, at the PSS club office tensions were flaring at an all-time high.
The PSS management was reluctant to sack Dejan as they don’t want to pay his hefty severance package, while the presence of Arthur’s family within the PSS stakeholders meant that there’s an obvious conflict of interest behind the former Espanyol B player’s constant inclusion in the starting lineup.
However, the hammer blow that angered football fans all over Indonesia came after Marco addressed a PSS supporters representative via phone call. In the call, Marco lashed out at the PSS fans for their protests, insisting that Arthur had been playing decently for PSS based on his stats (which actually state otherwise), before stating that he will give into the fans’ demands and terminate Dejan’s contract, on a condition that PSS must leave Sleman and relocate elsewhere.
The fact that Marco used the existence of PSS – the pride and glory of the people of Sleman – as a bargaining chip to ensure that Dejan would stay at the club was more than enough to infuriate the Indonesian football fraternity. Fans from PSS’ league opponents – Persebaya, Persija Jakarta, Arema FC to name a few – came into the PSS fans’ support and they too demand that Dejan, Arthur, and Marco leave the Super Elja as soon as possible. And while a full-blown relocation of PSS seemed unlikely, the fact that Marco could potentially use his position to allow other clubs to plunder PSS’ resources is still a likely possibility. After all, it happened before – Sriwijaya FC had their star-studded squad stripped to the bone midway through the 2018 Liga 1 season after then-chairman Alex Noerdin lost the South Sumatra regional elections, leading to the Laskar Wong Kito‘s relegation that year.
Marco himself was no stranger to Indonesian clubs being rebranded and relocated – underneath his watch, Pelita Bandung Raya were merged with Persipasi Bekasi thus becoming Persipasi Bandung Raya in 2015, before a year later the club was relocated to Madura and became Madura United. Marco was also responsible for the 2018 relocation of Perseru Serui to Bandar Lampung, with the club subsequently rebranding themselves as Badak Lampung.
Adding more spice to this already fiery affair, Arthur arrived at PSS in 2020 from Badak Lampung, around the time that Marco and his people had left the Laskar Saburai to assume a controlling stake at the Super Elja.
The next few weeks will be vital for both PSS and their fans. Will the Super Elja improve? Will Dejan lose his job? Will Marco live up to his threats? But should the last one happens, the businessman will be in for a tough time – because the passionate supporters of PSS Sleman aren’t the type of people who you can mess with.
The Super Elja will never go down without a fight.