05 February 2012

Safee Sali :Even Indonesia's naturalized players are worried

Victor Chukwuekezie Igbonefo, born & bred in Nigeria, now  a citizen of Indonesia.
Many of us Malaysian don't really understand what is actually happening in the football arena in Indonesia. I have no intention to meddle in the issue what so ever. But since the weird fiasco involved our striker, Safee Sali who against all the advises and criticism chose Pelita Jaya even though the league is banned by the world football governing body FIFA, I feel there is an urgent need for us to learn a bit more. 
Yesterday (Saturday), I found this article in the Jakarta Post. Highlighting the concerned of an African player who made a massive decision of his life by switching his Nigerian citizenship and become an Indonesian.
I deliberately waited for today if any of the Malaysian media pick-up this story, in relation with Safee Sali's decision. Unfortunately, not many sports writer read the Indonesian papers yesterday (I don't blame them, it's the weekend of yet another 4 days public holidays in Malaysia).
My point is not to lambast Safee unnecessarily. My point is to learn and understand more of the Indonesian league. Of course it is interesting to observe that even the Indonesian naturalized players have voiced their concerned of their future due to the absurdity of the republic's football league. To switch citizenship, is certainly a big decision for any one to make, especially when it is closely related to your livelihood and survivability.
Read for yourself, and you probably would see why I am so worried about Safee Sali's future in the Malaysian national team.

PSSI conflict hurting naturalized players

Agnes Winarti, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta | Sat, 02/04/2012 

From his hometown of Enugu in Nigeria, it takes Victor Chukwuekezie Igbonefo 14 hours worth of flights to reach Indonesian soil.
Last year, the 26-year-old defender took an oath to become an Indonesian citizen so that he could play for the red-and-white national team. 
However, more than three months after landing at Soekarno-Hatta International Airport, Igbonefo’s dream remains vague due to the drawn out dualism of the country’s domestic soccer situation, which has resulted in the formation of two top-tier leagues: the Indonesian Super League (ISL) and the Indonesian Premier League (IPL). 
“The reason I wanted Indonesian nationality in the first place was to train and play for the national team,” Igbonefo told The Jakarta Post recently. Igbonefo was one among five foreign soccer players, including Tonnie Cusell, Stefano Lilipaly, Johny Rudolf van Beukering and Greg Nwokolo, which were naturalized as Indonesians last October.
Igbonefo played for the Indonesian Selections team in the friendly against Los Angeles Galaxy late last year. His brief stint for the national senior team saw him called to train for matches against Iran and Qatar in the Asian zone of the 2014 World Cup qualifiers.  
Igbonefo’s club, Pelita Jaya, is currently competing in the ISL, the league that is not sanctioned by the Indonesian Soccer Association (PSSI).  The status of the league has made it impossible for Igbonefo to play at national team level, because the PSSI has banned players from playing in the ISL from taking any part in the national team.  
“I really hope everything will be good soon [as] I still have that dream of playing in the national team. But I won’t leave my club,” assured Igbonefo, who despite his dream, pledged to stay loyal throughout his three-year-long contract with Karawang-based Pelita Jaya. 
“I’ve never regretted coming to play here. Indonesia is my home, I won’t go anywhere else. It’s a wonderful place to play. Everybody here likes soccer,” he added. 
While Igbonefo has firmly set his feet on Indonesian soil, his Dutch-born teammate Ruben Wuarbanaran, has snatched the first opportunity to return to Europe, as his affiliation with Pelita Jaya has hurt his chances of being fielded in national team matches. 
Just last week, the 21-year-old midfielder completed his transfer from Pelita Jaya to a Belgian second division club CS Vise, which is also owned by the Bakrie Group. Last year, after receiving his citizenship, Wuarbanaran briefly trained for the SEA Games U-23 squad under then coach Rahmad Darmawan. He did not make the cut into the final squad. 
“We were facing difficulties in completing his International Transfer Certificate [ITC] from his previous club, FC Den Bosch [in the Netherlands] to Pelita Jaya. We then offered him a transfer to Vise,” said Pelita Jaya manager Lalu Mara Satriawangsa, adding his belief that the conflicting leagues caused an administrative hurdle. The ITC is the required document that must be approved by the PSSI for any naturalized players to be able to play for the country’s national league.
“When we explained the problem, he agreed to be transfered as along as he could develop himself and keep playing,” said Lalu. 
Continents apart, 22-year-old Dutch-born Indonesian midfielder Stefano Lilipaly, who plays for the Netherlands main division league club Utrecht, regretted the harmful effect of the prolonged league conflict on players. “I had a headache everytime I thought about the unstable and chaotic football situation in Indonesia. It’s clearly not good for the players,” Lilipaly, who took the Indonesian citizenship oath last year, was quoted as saying by Netherlands Radio Worldwide recently.
Lilipaly, who still has one year left on his contract with FC Utrecht, said he did not want to think much about the situation in Indonesia as he hoped to maintain focus on his club, which was currently ranked 15th among the 18 clubs of the Dutch Eredivisie. 
The Indonesian national team is now preparing play for the country’s last Asia Zone 2014 World Cup qualifier against Bahrain on Feb. 29. The result will have little bearing for Indonesia, which is firmly rooted to the bottom of its group with no points. 
Despite the insignificance of the match itself, the prestige of being shortlisted in the squad still matters to the likes of 21-year-old Dutch-born Diego Michiels, who is reportedly among the 10 players already selected in the squad. Eight more players will be reportedly announced within the week. 
To keep alive his dream of ever rejoining the U-23 squad, earlier this year Michiels made headlines by abandoning an unfinished contract with Pelita Jaya and moving to Jakarta-based Persija 1928 club that competed in the PSSI-approved IPL. 
Although dealing with a change of position from defender to winger-striker, Michiels said: “I will work harder to join the national team because playing in the [World Cup] qualifier is good for my name.”
For him, flying back home is not a priority, as he recently said: “I’m Indonesian. This is my home. If I can’t play here then maybe I will have to go to another country.” - Jakarta Post

1 comment:

Frank Martin said...

This is not good sign for the game.I think FIFA should take steps to stop the fixing in the game
nigeria cheap flights



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