The past few days saw Indonesian football being rocked by the departure of PSM Makassar captain Wiljan Pluim, who had his contract terminated, thus ending his seven-year association with the Juku Eja. It didn’t take the Dutch midfielder long to find a new club, however, as he was immediately snapped up by Borneo FC Samarinda, once again involving himself in a title race after a torrid half-season that saw him battling relegation instead of for honors.
Speculations of Pluim leaving PSM has been rife after the influential midfielder was dropped from the Juku Eja‘s last seven matches, which included two AFC Cup embarrassments in the hands of Hai Phong FC and Sabah FC. This came around the same time concerns were raised about PSM’s financial state, with reports emerging of wages being unpaid and money being owed to several parties. Head coach Bernardo Tavaras even auctioned off several of his personal honors and belongings in order to help PSM’s finances.
There were also reports of key players such as Pluim and Yuran Fernandes missing out on training due to unpaid wages, before a bombshell was detonated last weekend.
Speaking at an event held at the Bosowa University, Mahmud Aksa, founder of Bosowa Group – PSM’s majority shareholders – as well as father of current PSM chief executive officer Sadikin Aksa, revealed that the club has terminated Pluim’s contract with immediate effect.
“He’s too old, too slow,” said Mahmud, as quoted from Tribun Timur, “I already told Bernardo and the coaching staff to let him go. I’m planning to get a new, younger midfielder who’s not only faster than Pluim but also better than him.”
Mahmud’s statement was met with massive backlash from not only PSM fans but also every single football fan in Indonesia, who recognized Pluim’s immense service for the Juku Eja throughout his seven years there. Joining PSM from V.League 1 side Becamex Binh Duong in 2016, Pluim is the longest-serving foreign player in the Indonesian top flight, racking up 149 league appearances, scoring 41 league goals, as well as winning both the 2018/19 Piala Indonesia and the 2022/23 Liga 1 Indonesia titles.
Realizing the backlash from Mahmud’s words, PSM immediately made amends by thanking Pluim with a heartfelt tribute post on their social media channels as well as retiring Pluim’s no. 80 jersey, however the damage has been done, with Indonesian football fans online severely criticizing the Juku Eja‘s treatment of their long-serving captain.
An attempt from Mahmud in backtracking his statements, saying that Tribun Timur had misquoted him, was also met by sheer skepticism by netizens.
One man’s loss is another man’s gain and Pluim’s PSM exit was taken advantage almost immediately by Borneo, who snapped him up on a free. The Pesut Etam, who are gunning for a first league title, brought in Pluim as a mid-season reinforcement to maintain their title challenge, though it was unclear which one of Leo Lelis, Silverio, Jelle Goselink, or Felipe Cadenazzi will be “sacrificed” to make way for the veteran midfielder.
Pluim’s exit and PSM’s current financial woes could open up the opportunity for further exodus of players from the Juku Eja, with the likes of Yuran, Kenzo Nambu, and the Sayuri brothers Yakob and Yance being monitored by other Liga 1 teams, who are circling like vultures above the sinking defending champions.