Southeast Asia Indonesia

Liga 1 to Continue During AFF Cup

The 2021/22 Liga 1 Indonesia season will still continue despite matches being held at the same time with the rescheduled 2020 AFF Cup in Singapore next month. This decision was the result of a meeting between the Football Federation of Indonesia (PSSI) and league operators PT Liga Indonesia Baru (LIB) with all 18 representatives from Liga 1 clubs on November 5th. This means that Indonesian clubs would have to balance between staying competitive in the league and contributing to a full-strength national team that would end the country’s thirst for an AFF Cup title.

The Liga 1’s third series, which will be held in the provinces of Central Java and the Special Region of Yogyakarta just like the second series, will be held from November 18th to December 24th. Four matchweeks within the series – Matchweeks 15, 16, 18, and 19 – will clash with the 2020 AFF Cup in Singapore, with the tournament kicking off at the city-state from December 5th all the way to the final on New Year’s Day, January 1st 2022.

Considering that the current Liga 1 season must finish on late April of 2022, it was decided that the league will be held in parallel with the AFF Cup, ensuring that the league will have breaks or pauses to accommodate the rescheduled regional tournament.

Additionally, to ensure that teams would remain competitive in the league as well as the Indonesia senior national team having a squad strong enough to challenge for the AFF Cup, clubs are required to release a maximum of two players from their squad for national team duty.

“We’ve discussed on what we should do with the league when the AFF Cup is being held, should we pause the league to accommodate the tournament or not,” said PT LIB director Akhmad Hadian Lukita as quoted from, “And a good majority of the clubs wanted the league to continue during the AFF Cup, but on the condition that they can only two players at the most for the national team.”

Lukita then explained that the Liga 1 clubs would only agree to release more players into the national team should the AFF Cup falls within the FIFA matchday calendar. Despite being recognized as a Category-A international tournament since 2016 by FIFA, the AFF Cup isn’t considered a FIFA matchday event, unlike World Cup or Asian Cup qualifiers.

Both PSSI vice-chairman Iwan Budianto and secretary-general Yunus Nusi approved of the clubs’ plans to allow only two players to report for national team duty.

Indonesia head coach Shin Tae-yong brought 26 players to a training camp in Antalya, Turkey on November 10th, which includes the likes of captain Evan Dimas, rising star Ramai Rumakiek, and naturalized striker Ezra Walian. There Indonesia will play two friendlies against Afghanistan and Myanmar to warm themselves up for the upcoming AFF Cup.

Despite being given a limited option on players due to Liga 1 clubs only allowing two per club to join his squad, Tae-yong will be pleased that he still has his foreign-based players at his disposal. Ansan Greeners’ Asnawi Mangkualam has been appointed vice-captain of the 26-man team, while Lechia Gdansk new boy Witan Sulaeman and Penang FC ace Ryuji Utomo will also feature.

Most importantly, Tae-yong will finally have the service of Ipswich Town youngster Elkan Baggott to call upon. Highly-rated defender Elkan finally accepted an Indonesian call-up after controversially rejecting several previous ones due to the COVID-19 situation in both the United Kingdom and in Indonesia, however with things going on an up the youngster is ready and raring to go for the AFF Cup.