February 21, 2023
JAKARTA – Youth and Sports Minister Zainudin Amali has said that President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo gave him permission to focus on his new position as deputy chairman of the Soccer Association of Indonesia (PSSI), triggering a potential Cabinet reshuffle should he step down.
Zainudin’s statement came after he and the rest of the new PSSI leadership roster met with Jokowi at the State Palace on Monday to outline their plans for Indonesian soccer, with the aim of hosting a FIFA World Cup in the 2040s. In May, Indonesia will host the U-20 World Cup, which takes place in six cities across the country.
“[The President] has permitted me to concentrate on managing Indonesian soccer together with [PSSI chairman] Erick Thohir, [deputy chairwoman] Ratu Tisha Destria and fellow [executive committee] members,” Zainudin told the press, as quoted by Kompas.com.
He stopped short of saying that he would resign from his ministerial position. But if he steps down, it could pave the way for someone else from the party to replace him.
Golkar executive board member Dave Laksono told The Jakarta Post that the party was still waiting for the President to accept a potential replacement.
“We will make an announcement after the President gives his approval,” Dave said on Monday, while also insisting that the party had more than enough capable members to fill his seat if needed.
Jokowi has yet to make an official statement, but Cabinet Secretary Pramono Anung confirmed that the President was aware of what Zainuddin planned to do.
“If Pak Zainuddin Amali said [he is focusing on soccer], then it is what it is. Please wait [for the President’s response],” Pramono was quoted by Kompas.com as saying on Monday.
Zainuddin is not the only active minister sitting on the PSSI’s roster, with Erick also still performing his duties at the State-Owned Enterprises (SOE) Ministry. On Friday, President Jokowi said that he had no problems with his ministers leading sports associations as long as they could manage their tasks responsibly.
“Pak Basuki [Hadimuljono] leads the rowing association, Pak Airlangga [Hartarto] leads the wushu association, Pak Luhut [Pandjaitan] leads the athletic association and Pak Prabowo [Subianto] leads the pencak silat association,” the President said as he listed the names of his Cabinet ministers who are also pulling double duty.
Conflict of interest
Article 19 of the FIFA statutes stipulates that “each member association shall manage their affairs independently and without undue influence from third parties”. The global soccer governing body has taken a harsh stance on members who have been found to violate this provision, which included banning Indonesia from participating in international competitions in 2015 after alleged government interference.
But Erick dismissed these concerns, saying that FIFA’s presence during his and Zainuddin’s election at the PSSI’s extraordinary congress (KLB) on Thursday was a sign of support.
“If my election was a form of state interference, then FIFA would’ve banned us. But they sent us a congratulatory letter instead,” Erick said at the Palace on Monday.
Four FIFA representatives, including chief member associations officer Kenny Jean-Marie, were present during Thursday’s elections, and voiced no complaint on the ascendancy of the two ministers.
But while Erick’s position in the PSSI has little bearing on his duties as SOEs minister, Zainuddin’s position as sports minister, which is responsible for overseeing all sports in the country, poses a possible conflict of interest.
On Sunday, as Erick in his capacity as PSSI chairman outlined his plan to combat match-fixing in the country, Zainuddin appeared by his side as minister representing the government, not as Erick’s deputy.
“I’m of the opinion that the federation and the government should work together. If they don’t see eye to eye, none of the plans will come to fruition,” Zainuddin said in the press conference.
He added that the President hoped to see a clean and better soccer ecosystem, and was prepared to support the new PSSI leadership with its reform plans.
Calls to reform the PSSI, and the country’s soccer management in general, have been growing louder since the Kanjuruhan Stadium tragedy that left 135 people dead in October.
Soccer-crazed Indonesians also voiced their disappointment after a weaker-than-expected performance in the 2022 Asian Football Federation (AFF) Cup in January, when Indonesia was eliminated in the semifinals by eventual runners-up Vietnam.
Erick’s resolve was immediately challenged after his appointment as PSSI’s head honcho, after a second tear-gassing incident at a soccer stadium broke out on Friday, following a clash between local fans and the police outside Jatidiri Stadium in Central Java in protest at a closed-door match between PSIS Semarang and Persis Solo.
An ad hoc committee involving supporters was set up in response, with Erick promising they would be involved in future efforts to reform soccer in the country.
Meanwhile, analysts have noted the importance of the PSSI for the political ambitions of those competing for a place on the leadership roster, particularly with regard to the money that flows through the governing body and the influence that comes with managing one of the nation’s most popular sports.
Erick has been named, including by Jokowi, as a potential candidate to run for vice president in the 2024 presidential election.