Sat, 06 Aug 1994

PSSI to start `Liga Indonesia' in November despite criticism

JAKARTA (JP): In a move to end a recent debate, the All Indonesia Football Federation (PSSI) launched Liga Indonesia as the country's sole soccer league yesterday and vowed to start it up next November.

The new semiprofessional league, which will be open to foreign booters, will encompass 33 football clubs in its first division -- perhaps the biggest number of clubs in a soccer league in the world.

Soccer is the most popular sport among Indonesia's 180 million people although the country does not have much of an international reputation.

"We reached this decision and all of us have agreed to revamp the football system to develop competition," said PSSI's chairman Azwar Anas, who is also Coordinating Minister for People's Welfare.

PSSI officials have been in the middle of an emotional debate over whether there should only be one PSSI league.

The opponents of a single Liga Indonesia argued that the existing system, consisting of the semi-pro Galatama and the amateur Perserikatan (inter-city), are so popular that the new idea is not attainable.

In contrast, the proponents of the new league, believe that the procedures of the two leagues and their divisions are just too complicated.

Liga Indonesia is a melting point of all the 17 clubs registered in the Galatama league, 16 of the primary division teams in the Perserikatan league and 16 teams of the latter's first division.

The semiprofessional league was introduced in 1979 by former Jakarta Governor Ali Sadikin, and allowed imported players. PSSI then banned foreign players in the late 1980s, saying that they adversely affected the local talents.

However, the decision cost the league popularity.

During yesterday's press conference, Syarnoebi Said, one of PSSI's senior officials, told journalists that the new league created a fresh opportunity for Indonesian clubs to revamp their quality and reputation.

The Galatama league were known to be a vicious arena of bookmakers rather than qualified soccer players. (hdj)