Friday, February 18, 2011

Indonesia Premier League (IPL) - A Change for the Better?

The need for change has always constituted the catalyst for a revolution. This doesn’t just stop in the field of politics, it can span its wings into the football pitch. Numerous examples have been shown worldwide: the formation of the A-League in 2005 in Australia, the breakup of the Yugoslavia to form the various Balkan national leagues, the introduction of Major League Soccer (MLS) in 1993 which saw the rise of professionalism of football in the United States.

Fast forward to 2011 and a breakaway league is underway. Not it’s not in a major league in Europe, but in the South East Asian nation of Indonesia. A new, 19 team league has formed, known as “Indonesia Premier League” or in Indonesian “ Liga Primer Indonesia (LPI)” It is a separate independent league not run under the supervision of the Indonesia’s governing football body Football Association of Indonesia (PSSI). In turn, many punters believe that no footballer who plays in a team which competes in the LPI is allowed to be selected and join the country’s national team. As this league is run independently and not under the auspices of the PSSI, it is therefore not affiliated with the world footballing governing body, FIFA.

But why the breakaway? An idea of oil and gas company Medco chairman Arifin Panigor, the league was established amongst allegations of corruption in the PSSI and the neglect of the PSSI towards the state of the league, as well as games being played behind closed doors and issues with referees. The league has a spectacular television deal, as LPI clubs are also entitled to receive revenues from match broadcasts.

As mentioned, 19 teams will compete in the LPI, including three teams (PSM Makassar, Persema Malang and Persibo Bojonegoro) who were apart of the Indonesian Super League (ISL). Each team is allowed to sign up to five foreign players from any of the FIFA confederations, with many teams making some very adventurous signings. Players have come from everywhere, including the A-League and various state leagues in Australia (Aleks Vrteski and Andrija Jukic from Perth Glory FC to name a few) as well securing the high profile regional signings of Filipino brothers Philip and James Younghusband. Former Aston Villa and Derby County midfielder Lee Hendrie has turned out for Bandung FC as their marquee signing.

The teams that will be competing in the inaugural 2011 season are:

  • Atjeh United
  • Bali Devata
  • Bandung F.C.
  • Batavia Union
  • Bogor Raya F.C.
  • Cenderawasih F.C.
  • Jakarta F.C. 1928
  • Manado United
  • Medan Bintang
  • Medan Chief
  • Minangkabau F.C.
  • Persebaya 1927
  • Persema Malang
  • Persibo Bojonegoro
  • PSM Makassar
  • Real Mataram
  • Semarang United
  • Solo F.C.
  • Tangerang Wolves

This league is hoped to raise the level of quality and entertainment in Indonesian football as well as trying to improve the overall status and overall game in this country of around 238 million people. The LPI hopes to improve the football’s level in the country ranked 129th by FIFA and is backed by the country's sports minister. So will the IPL improve the standard of the game in this football loving nation?
We’ll just have to wait and see…