Southeast Asia Indonesia

Persipura On the Brink as Liga 2 Kick-Off Looms Closer

The 2023/24 Liga 2 Indonesia season is set to kick-off on September 10th and while most teams have been preparing for the upcoming season since months ago, 4-time Indonesian champions Persipura Jayapura have yet to show any signs of life until today. With the kick-off date looming closer, it’s seems more and more likely that the Mutiara Hitam are set to sit out the season and start anew from the Liga 3 Indonesia.

Despite their reputation as one of Indonesia’s most successful teams, Persipura’s dependence on sponsorship funding from both PT Freeport Indonesia and Bank Papua came as both a blessing and a curse for the Mutiara Hitam. A blessing since said funding allowed Persipura to keep up with their contemporaries but also a curse since the team is practically dependent on the two companies as their main source of funding. Once said funding is cut off, Persipura are effectively dead in the water.

And while previous years has seen miraculous, last-minute interventions that saw both Freeport and Bank Papua agreeing to lend their support towards Persipura for their season, this year it seems that there won’t be any eleventh-hour lifeline for the men in red-and-black.

Problems began to brew when the Persipura management decided to terminate Yan Permenas Mandenas from his position as the club’s general manager following the abolishment of the 2022 Liga 2 season due to the Kanjuruhan Tragedy. Said termination was done behind Yan’s back and he only found out about it when news broke out regarding the matter a few days later on the Internet.

Understandably Yan was not pleased by the news – after all, he had worked so hard in securing sponsorship deals for Persipura in the buildup for the 2022 season and ensured that the newly-relegated team would be ready to mount an immediate promotion push back to the Liga 1. In retaliation towards the Persipura management’s unjust decision to fire him, Yan decided to withheld the club’s sponsorship accountability report that were due to be submitted to both Freeport and Bank Papua, leading to the two companies refusing to fund Persipura for the 2023 campaign.

Strangely enough both Freeport and Bank Papua seemed quite calm despite the fact that they haven’t received the accountability reports from Persipura, leading many to speculate that Yan had submitted them already and deliberately neglected to inform the Persipura management due to his unjust sacking, citing that the submission was “not his responsibility” following his termination.

Yan has since moved to fellow Papua club PSBS Biak and following his appointment as the Napi Bongkar‘s general management the club has experienced an upturn in fortune. Rebranding themselves as the Badai Pasifik underneath Yan’s stewardship, PSBS has made some quality signings for the upcoming Liga 2 season, such as snapping former Shijiazhuang Gongfu striker Alexsandro Ferreira and former Persija Jakarta trialist Ryohei Miyazaki, as well as scooping up seven former Persipura players from the previous campaign – Nelson Alom, Ruben Sanadi, Fandri Imbiri, Israel Wamiau, Yohanis Nabar, Yustinus Pae, and Gunansar Mandowen.

Adding another blow to Persipura’s preparation for the 2023 season was club legend Eduard Ivakdalam’s decision to snub the vacant Mutiara Hitam head coach position, with the former midfield general opting to remain at Persewar Waropen, another one of Persipura’s neighbors. The Mutiara Bakau had their share pickings of Persipura’s talent as well, with Ricky Kayame and most importantly club legend Boaz Solossa joining the club.

Even Persipura’s young talents weren’t spared by the purge, with Brian Fatari joining Dewa United in the Liga 1 and uncertainties began to circle around Ramai Rumakiek as the talented winger is destined to move to greener pastures should Persipura decided to drop out of the Liga 2.

“We are assessed by PSSI.  If we don’t meet the requirements Persipura will definitely sit the upcoming season out in order to sort out our finances,” said Persipura chairman Benhur Tomi Mano, who went on to add that he had repeatedly asked and reminded Yan to submit the accountability reports as it would be vital for the Mutiara Hitam‘s preparations for the upcoming season.

In the draw for the first round of the upcoming 2023 Liga 2 season, Persipura were drawn in Group D alongside fellow Eastern Indonesia clubs – PSBS, Persewar, Persipal Palu (BaBel United), Sulut United, Persiba Balikpapan, and Kalteng Putra. However with the Mutiara Hitam remaining stagnant in the business end of pre-season, it’ll become more and more likely that the group will only be contested by six teams.

Persipura fans and club legends such as Jack Komboy have asked the club’s management to be more urgent in resolving their issues with Yan as well as the sponsors, while club founder Mesak Koibur voiced his concerns towards Persipura’s future.

“Persipura has to establish themselves in the Liga 2 and return as soon as possible to the Liga 1,” said Mesak, “Persipura has always been a unifying tool for the Papuan people through football, because only Persipura can raise the dignity, dignity and self-esteem of the Papuan people.”

“Persipura is a big club, my hope is that the current management must handle Persipura with heart without prioritizing any interests. Because through Persipura all Papuans can be reckoned with in this country,” continued Mesak, who wholeheartedly supported the plans made by Persipura fans to protest the club’s management should their sponsorship issues drags on.