Even playing in its hometown, Persija Jakarta is still searching for a stadium.
The Kemayoran Tigers made a splash in their first game back at Gelora Bung Karno Stadium in nine months, coming from two goals down to beat Persebaya Surabaya 4-3 on Sunday.
Any further offensive fireworks will likely take place in more intimate surroundings. Today’s home match against Persik Kediri will take place at Lebak Bulus Stadium after a church group booked Gelora Bung Karno through Saturday. Kick-off was also moved from 3:30 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Gelora Bung Karno management gave the church group priority as it paid its bill in advance. Persija, meanwhile, still owes Rp 194 million ($20,540) in rental fees from last season.
“That religious organization had booked the date and paid two years ago,” stadium management chief Mahfudin Nigara said on Tuesday. “If Persija has the money to rent the stadium for [Wednesday’s] game, then go ahead. But they have to earn permission from the church.
“We’ve never forbidden Persija from playing at the stadium as long as they show a willingness to pay their debt. Just send us an official letter stating that they will pay the debt in one lump sum or in installments.”
Because of the outstanding debt, Indonesian Super League administrator PT Liga Indonesia took over organizing duties for the Persebaya match.
Securing the stadium cost PTLI approximately Rp 400 million and a Rp 300 million bank guarantee, on which stadium management insisted. However, PTLI said it earned Rp 400 million from ticket sales at the 60,000-capacity Gelora Bung Karno.
PTLI will allow Persija to use the 12,000-capacity Lebak Bulus for its next two matches — home against Persik and PSPS Pekanbaru on Saturday —while it settles its debts with Gelora Bung Karno. After that, though, it said Persija must return to Gelora Bung Karno, its registered home ground for this season.
PTLI chief executive Joko Driyono said the league acted in the best interests of the competition.
“We’re not protecting Persija, but we have to protect the league,” he said on Tuesday. “We allowed Persija to play at Lebak Bulus as we have to consider our sponsors’ and partners’ interests.”
Joko also said Persija claimed it had secured police permits for matches at Lebak Bulus. Club management refused to comment on the matter.
A hearing between PTLI and Persija is scheduled for Dec. 7.
Persija’s fortunes on the field are only slightly better. Coach Maman Suryaman said he plans to address the team’s lack of creativity in midfield by starting Paraguayan Richard Caceres, who has yet to start since joining the club in the offseason.
Maman has holes to fill as Agus Indra is still on the hajj and Mustafic Fahrudin is nursing a foot injury. In addition, defenders Baihakki Khaizan and Ismed Sofyan are suspended after picking up their second yellow cards of the season against Persebaya.
The coach said he plans to use Leonard Tupamahu or Aris Indiarto to fill Baihakki’s shoes, while Erick Setiawan is likely to replace Ismed.
With those absentees in his opponent’s lineup, Persik coach Gusnul Yakin said his team stands a good chance.
“There will be a big hole in Persija because of those absentees, and we’ll surely try to capitalize on that,” he told state-run news agency Antara.
Also today, it’s Pelita Jaya vs. Arema Malang, Persiwa Wamena vs. Persib Bandung, Persipura Jayapura vs. Sriwijaya FC, and Bontang FC vs. PSM Makassar.