Ami Afriatni & Wimbo Satwiko
The inaugural Java Cup met an early demise after it was canceled on Wednesday, with organizers threatening to sue two European clubs for their withdrawal.
Turkish giant Galatasaray and Everton of the English Premier League were initially set to join the Indonesian and Malaysian Under-22 national teams in the tournament, which was scheduled to kick off on Thursday.
Java Cup organizer Liga Prima Indonesia Sportindo said that it had no choice but to “reschedule the tournament for a future date.”
“We’ll probably move it to mid-August or after the Olympics,” LPIS chief executive Widjajanto said on Wednesday. “Malaysia will still play in the tournament, but we have approached several top clubs [to replace Everton and Galatasaray]. I can’t announce details right now.”
Indonesia and Galatasaray were supposed to meet at Gelora Bung Karno on Thursday, with Everton facing the Harimau Muda on Friday and third-place and championship matches set for Saturday and Sunday.
However, Galatasaray withdrew last Friday. It did not give a reason, but Turkish media suggested that the club could not send its squad on the same flight and chartering a plane would have eaten up almost half its reported 1 million euro ($1.2 million) appearance fee.
LPIS replaced Galatasaray with Indonesia senior national team despite rumors of a Uruguay Selection or Uruguayan club Nacional taking part. Galatasaray’s withdrawal had raised fears about the tournament’s future, and news of Everton pulling out on Tuesday sealed its fate.
Widjajanto said neither club had provided an official letter explaining it did not travel to Jakarta, adding that organizers would take legal action against the European clubs.
“As of [Tuesday] night, we were still discussing with Everton and we didn’t have any impression that they would pull out. But suddenly, on their website, they announced their withdrawal. We will take legal action as we’ve already made full payment to them,” he said.
“They are lying if they said they did not know the opponent in the tournament because in the contract Everton agreed to come regardless whoever they would play.”
Widjajanto refused to give details on the clubs’ appearance fees, though local media reports indicated Everton’s was slightly larger than Galatasaray’s. He also said that all tickets would be refunded.
LPIS has appointed Belgian lawyer Patrick Mbaya to take legal action against Everton and Galatasaray. Mbaya said at a news conference on Wednesday that organizers demanded both clubs return the payment they had reportedly received or LPIS would take the case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
“We have transferred the full match fee to Everton. To Galatasaray, we made the first payment for them to book the flight,” Mbaya said.
Mbaya is the same lawyer hired by supporters of Indonesian Premier League financier Arifin Panigoro and George Toisutta to challenge a FIFA ruling barring the pair from running for Indonesian Football Association (PSSI) chairman.
English media reported on Tuesday that Everton’s Jakarta trip was in doubt. The club asked for clarification on the fourth team and guarantees on logistical and security concerns.
It announced its withdrawal on its website on Tuesday, saying it was forced to abandon its plans after organizers were unable to give assurances “following a number of recently uncovered issues”.
“Club officials here in the UK and our forward planning/security team deployed to Jakarta at the weekend have repeatedly asked for clarity and assurances from the organizers on the issues but unfortunately have not received the answers we required in the timeframe necessary to ensure our participation,” an Everton spokesman told the club’s website.