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Indonesian FA in warning before FIFA deadline


footballIndonesia’s football association warned Thursday the future of the game in the country was “at stake” a day before a FIFA deadline to resolve a row with the government or face a ban from international competition.

But the sports minister insisted he would not back down in the dispute, as FIFA has demanded, and suggested the corruption crisis engulfing football’s world governing body might stop them from carrying out their threat.

The row erupted in April when the Indonesian football association, the PSSI, halted the country’s top-flight league due to a disagreement with the sports ministry over the participation of two clubs.

The ministry then froze all activities of the PSSI, and said it was setting up a transitional body as a step towards replacing the association, which has long been dogged by allegations of corruption and mismanagement.

FIFA, which takes a dim view of governments interfering in domestic football associations, has backed the PSSI. The association insists it remains in charge of the game in Indonesia, although its attempts to continue staging matches have been unsuccessful.

The international governing body warned Jakarta at the start of the month it had until May 29 — Friday — to backtrack on its decision to suspend the PSSI, or face a ban from world football.

In an open letter, PSSI chief La Nyalla Mattalitti said it now looked likely the sanction would be imposed as last-ditch efforts to find a way out of the dispute had failed.

“On behalf of the PSSI, I apologise to all Indonesians, especially to football fans and the big family of Indonesian football,” he wrote. “The future of Indonesian football is now at stake.”

“The efforts by the PSSI to make the sports minister revoke the decree have up until now not succeeded.”

Sports Minister Imam Nahrawi said Indonesia was ready to face any punishment but suggested that the crisis gripping FIFA meant the body may not impose sanctions just yet, the Jakarta Post newspaper reported.

Top FIFA officials were arrested Wednesday after being accused by US authorities of taking huge bribes, while Swiss police are investigating the awarding of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to Russia and Qatar.

“It means there is a problem,” the minister was cited as saying. “That’s why we don’t need to feel worried or nervous (about the threat).”

Authorities insist that taking on the PSSI is an effort to improve the domestic game, which has been beset by numerous crises in recent years, although they concede a ban would mean Indonesia’s footballers would miss out on competitions such as the Southeast Asian Games and the Asian Cup.

The row comes as Indonesian football was only just recovering from a feud between the PSSI and a breakaway association, which led to the creation of two separate leagues.

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