JAKARTA (REUTERS) - Officials have insisted the delayed Indonesian Super League season will kick-off next week, but how many clubs will be eligible remains unclear in another sorry soccer mess in the country.
The league was to start on February 20 with 18 teams but the Indonesian Professional Sports Agency (BOPI), an arm of the government, postponed that date until April 4 over concerns about the finances and administration at 15 clubs.
The issues had been highlighted by the government's new verification process, brought in for this season after the death in 2012 of Paraguayan player Diego Mendieta, who had gone unpaid at his club for months and had no money to pay for his care.
The following year, players from PSMS Medan claimed they had gone unpaid for 10 months and protested in Jakarta outside the offices of Indonesian Football Association (PSSI), a body once run from a jail cell by previous president Nurin Halid.
FifPro, the world player's union, lambasted the crisis-hit PSSI, which had gone through a power struggle that had left the country with two domestic leagues, two national teams and one massive headache.
"Clubs cannot treat their players haphazardly," Sriwijaya FC goalkeeper Dian Agus Prasetyo told the Antara news agency previously. "There are many clubs who turn a blind eye and do not pay players for months, especially at the end of the season."
The new entry requirements showed how bad things had become. Persik Kediri and Persiwa Wamena were relegated earlier this year because of financial trouble, leaving the league with 18 teams. Of those, BOPI only gave a green light to three - champions Persib Bandung, runners-up Persipura and Sriwijaya FC. Nine teams were deemed to have met up to 70 per cent of the requirements, while BOPI were still waiting on six teams to present more than half the required documentation leading to the PSSI to agree in February to delay the new season.
An irritated Sriwijaya contemplated joining Singapore's S-League but there was no room and a further delay would irk them more.
"To date, the verification process is still ongoing," Gatot S Dewa Broto, an official with the Youth and Sports Ministry, was quoted as saying by Wednesday's Jakarta Post. "This week will be crucial for the teams as BOPI will make a decision and issue a recommendation on whether the ISL will still kick off on April 4 with whichever teams that qualify or announce another delay until all the teams meet the requirements."
The paper said three teams - Pelita Bandung Raya (PBR), Arema Cronus and Persebaya Surabaya - had still to file the required information.
BOPI chairman Noor Aman warned the league would not wait for any team.
"No matter how many teams qualify, the ISL will still kick off on April 4," he said.