Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Power struggle in PSSI

The two candidates disqualified from running for chairman of the Indonesian Football Association submitted separate appeals on Monday, making good on their promise to challenge their exclusion from next month’s polls.

Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Toisutta and businessman Arifin Panigoro both said the decision by the association, known as the PSSI, to bar them from running in the March 26 election was groundless.

The PSSI on Saturday ruled that Toisutta and Arifin were not qualified to run for the top post in the country’s football governing body, although it did not give a reason for its decision.

Timbul Thomas Lubis, the embattled candidates’ legal counsel, said Arifin was disqualified because of his association with the breakaway Indonesian Premier League and Toisutta for his lack of “active involvement in football.”

Arifin, whose thriving oil business has made him one of Indonesia’s richest people, is considered the principal backer of the IPL, the main rival of the PSSI-supported Indonesian Super League.

The PSSI does not recognize the IPL as a legitimate football organization.

Timbul said Toisutta was left off the final list of candidates because he did not meet a PSSI ruling requiring candidates to have been involved in the sport for at least five years.

But the four-star general insisted that his role as the main supporter of Army club PS Angkatan Darat met that condition. Toisutta said he had been backing the club since 2004.

However, the PSSI said the Army football squad was not one of its registered members.

Timbul said Toisutta would submit evidence to the PSSI that he has served as vice chairman of Division Three side PS Bandung Raya. He did not reveal the grounds on which Arifin planned to challenge his exclusion.

Timbul said he believed “both can win their appeals.”

“We are making these appeals because we cannot accept the [committee’s] decision and its line of reasoning for disqualifying them from the PSSI elections,” Timbul said.

He also criticized the PSSI’s over its assessment of the credentials of the candidates.

“The committee never asked the candidates to come [to be interviewed],” he said. “They should have called them to verify everything if there was something they wanted to ask. This is sports, and there should be fair play.”

Should the appeals committee reject Toisutta’s and Arifin’s challenge, only incumbent chairman Nurdin Halid and deputry chairman Nirwan D. Bakrie will be left to contest the PSSI leadership.

Tjipta Lesmana, head of the appeals body, told state news agency Antara that a decision could be reached as late as next week. “We need to examine the nature of their appeals and how the election committee came to its decision. We can’t say much right now,” he said.

Meanwhile, the state minister for sports, Andi Mallarangeng expressed concern over the exclusion of Toisutta and Arifin, saying “the people have been demanding change.”

“We and KONI [the National Sports Committee] urge the appeals committee to correct the decision barring the two candidates from running,” Andi said on Monday.

“The upcoming election should be a start to the reform and restructuring within PSSI that the people of Indonesia have been demanding.” - JG.

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