Southeast Asia Indonesia

The Spectre of COVID-19 Grips the Liga 1

The 2021/22 Liga 1 Indonesia season is being sieged by the COVID-19 pandemic, with a number of players having been tested positive for the disease during the league’s fourth series in Bali. Five clubs have reported outbreaks of positive cases amongst their players and whilst there are no matches being postponed due to the outbreaks, the positive cases did cause the affected clubs to be unable to field their strongest lineups.

After going through three series without any noteworthy COVID incidents, the first sign of the pandemic infiltrating the Liga 1 bubble was on show during Arema FC’s 0-0 draw with PSIS Semarang on January 17th. Rather bizarrely, title favorites Arema did not field a number of their key players, namely Carlos Fortes, Adilson Maringa, Sergio Silva, and Renshi Yamaguchi, as well as naturalized defender Fabiano Beltrame, who was on loan at Arema from Persis Solo.

Initially, Arema, the league, and the Balinese government refused to disclose the reason behind the players’ absences. However, a day after the PSIS match, Bali Governor I Wayan Koster revealed that the Arema players missed out on the match due to them being tested positive for COVID-19.

Subsequently, other teams began to report COVID cases of their own. Both Persija Jakarta and PSM Makassar were deprived of the services of Riko Simanjuntak and Adam Mitter respectively due to the two players being tested positive for COVID.

Persebaya Surabaya then reported three positive cases amongst their squad – Akbar Firmansyah, Ady Setiawan, and Reva Adi Utama, before Persib Bandung dropped a huge bombshell on Saturday – NINE of their players were tested positive for COVID. They were Nick Kuipers, Victor Igbonefo, Dedi Kusnandar, Febri Hariyadi, Ezra Walian, Marc Klok, Supardi Nasir, and new signings Bruno Cantanhede and David Da Silva.

In the light of these outbreaks, league operators PT Liga Indonesia Baru (LIB) advised clubs, their players, and everyone involved with the league to adhere to the available health protocols.

“We need to remind everyone, not just the clubs, that we must obey the established health protocols,” said PT LIB general director Akhmad Hadian Lukita, “Don’t partake in any activities that could increase the risk of contracting COVID-19.”

It is possible that the players contracted COVID-19 from their activities outside their teams. This was based on their Instagram posts where these players were often seen enjoying the sights of Bali when they were not playing in matches or preparing themselves in training.

With COVID-19 cases on the rise throughout the league, Football Federation of Indonesia (PSSI) chief Mochamad Irawan has assured that the current Liga 1 campaign will still continue.

“Clubs must supervise their players better in this situation,” said Irawan, “There was a brief lapse in concentration when the league entered a short break just recently, but rest assured that such lapses will not happen again. To counteract this, we’re preparing a third vaccination dose for everyone involved with the league.”