SP/Imron Rosyid Taufikur
Solo. The ongoing rivalry within the Indonesian Football Association has not only caused the country’s declining achievement in the sport but has also taken its toll on players’ wages and welfare, officials and fans said.
Football in the country has been split into two factions between the Indonesian Football Association (PSSI) and the breakaway Indonesian Football Savior Committee (KPSI).
The seriousness of the split came to the fore when Paraguayan footballer Diego Mendieta, who played for the Indonesian club Persis Solom, died from a viral infection on Monday night.
“The KPSI and PSSI should set aside its differences and unite. What happened to Diego Mendieta must not happen again next season,” Persis fan Anwar Sanusi said.
Mendieta played for Persis in the Premier Division, run by Liga Indonesia, which is also the organizer of the Indonesian Super League, recognized by the KPSI but not the PSSI.
The team has been struggling to pay its players and its financial solvency, and future, are unknown. After his contract expired Mendieta stayed on in Solo because the club still owed him four months of back pay of around Rp 120 million ($12,500).
The doctor said the 32-year-old striker died after the cylomegalovirus and candidiasis fungal infection spread through his body. For several months Mendieta also suffered from typhoid and dengue fever, his friends said.
“He suffered typhoid in August,” Persis teammate Taji Prasetyo said. “But the club hadn’t paid his wages for four months so he was treated at home. His illness got worse and he lost a lot of weight. He was big, but he lost 17 kilograms in three weeks due to his illness.”
Taji also said Mendieta wanted to go home to see his wife and children in Paraguay. “He just wanted a ticket to go home. He said ‘I don’t want to die here, I want to go home,’ ” Taji said on Tuesday.
He added that he and his teammates tried to help their friend by collecting money to pay Mendieta’s hospital bills.
“He played in unofficial games between amateur teams to pay for his hospital bills and to get by,” Taji said. “We have done everything for four months to ask the club to pay our wages. But management said that it had not received the money from the sponsor.”
Persis fans on Tuesday staged a tribute to Mendieta by marching from the Persis office to Gladag traffic circle, protesting the ongoing rivalries.
Solo mayor F.X. Hadi Rudyatmo, a member of the KPSI said the PSSI must also share the responsibility of getting Mendieta back to Paraguay.
Rudyatmo said he would use his own money to pay the player’s hospital bills and other expenses, including the coffin.
“But to return him [to Paraguay], it should be handled by the Indonesian Football Association,” Hadi said. “This is a warning for the PSSI. PSSI as the organization in charge of football in Indonesia must resolve this matter well.”
Rudyatmo is also calling for a reconciliation between the two rival groups.
“If the PSSI is united and together, they can focus on managing the national football. If they are constantly in a state of conflict what happens is this. Clubs are emerging but they can’t afford to pay salaries,” he said. “If PSSI is united there won’t be any more club which can’t afford to pay its players.”
Mendieta is survived by his wife and three children, who reside in Paraguay.