National team coach Nil Maizar made a crucial step toward bringing peace to the fractious football family on Tuesday.
Of the 23 players Nil called up for Saturday’s exhibition match against Valencia, 12 were from the official Indonesian Premier League while 11 came from breakaway Indonesian Super League.
That means that Saturday’s exhibition match against the Spanish club at Gelora Bung Karno in South Jakarta will mark the first time players from both leagues will turn out for the national team since their duel tore apart Indonesian football.
In December, world football governing body FIFA banned ISL players from suiting up for the Merah Putih. On Tuesday, though, Nil said that did not matter.
“There is no such thing as IPL or ISL players. There are only the best Indonesian players who deserve to wear the Merah Putih jersey,” Nil said.
“I salute ISL players such as Bambang Pamungkas who answered my call and came here for the Merah Putih,” he added. “I hope this can open everyone’s eyes so they will end their differences and get together for the national team.”
Indonesian football has been in turmoil in the past two years as power struggles within the Indonesian Football Association (PSSI) have divided the sport.
The disputes spawned two competing leagues and a shadow football association called the Indonesian Football Savior Committee (KPSI).
FIFA had given Indonesia a June 15 deadline to restore order or face sanctions. Just before the deadline, the rival factions signed a deal at the Asian Football Confederation’s headquarters in Kuala Lumpur pledging to work toward ending the conflict by forming a joint committee.
The committee has yet to meet or produce anything substantive toward resolving the problem, though.
Ponaryo Astaman, a midfielder for ISL champion Sriwijaya FC, said the players wanted speed up the process of returning Indonesian football to normalcy.
“This is to show the unity of Indonesian players despite all the conflicts in the association,” Ponaryo said. “Our utmost pride as a player is to play for the national team, to play for the country.
“We realize that several parties out there are hurt because of our decision, but we hope they understand that this is for Indonesian football. We just want to give our best for the Merah Putih.”
Sriwijaya last week announced that it would not let its players play for the national team until the rift was resolved.
“I know the consequences [of my decision],” Ponaryo said. “But right now, I just want to play for the national team.”
Persija Jakarta striker Bambang said he hoped the players’ unity would help resolve the conflict.
“We have the [Asean Football Federation] Cup in front of us,” he said. “We need to field the best team in the competition.”