Indonesia on brink of FIFA abyss

JAKARTA, May 21, 2011 (AFP) - The Indonesian Football Association (PSSI) was on the brink of expulsion from FIFA on Saturday after the governing body called off a crucial leadership vote that had descended into bitter deadlock.

Rancour between supporters of rivals for the post -- two of whom had been banned from the nominations -- brought the general congress to a standstill and left the national association mired in chaos.

PSSI normalisation committee head Agum Gumelar, tasked by FIFA to contest the election after the world governing body took control of the league last month, closed the meeting after more than six hours of dispute.

Ninety minutes into the congress, FIFA representative Thierry Regenass expressed frustration that delegates were still arguing over who should be on the list of candidates.

"This is an extraordinary congress ... you cannot change the agenda of an extraordinary congress," Regenass said.

"I really hope that I can go back to Zurich and bring good news to the FIFA president," he added, to a mixture of cheers and jeers from the floor.

Army chief of staff George Toisutta and oil tycoon Arifin Panigoro have been banned from contesting the vote for chairman, amid deep divisions over how the game should be run in the country of 240 million people.

Panigoro started a breakaway Indonesian Premier League in January, introducing privately owned clubs instead of the PSSI model where teams are funded by regional governments.

The rogue league, featuring ex-Aston Villa midfielder Lee Hendrie, triggered fury from PSSI, which threatened to deport its foreign players and bar its Indonesian players from the national team.

FIFA was forced to step in and order the PSSI to elect a new leadership team by May 21.

In a bid to start again with a fresh slate of leaders, the world body banned chairman of eight years Nurdin Halid, who has been tainted by corruption, as well as Toisutta and Panigoro.

As the "reformist" camp behind Panigoro repeatedly demanded his inclusion on the list of nominees, Regenass reminded delegates that FIFA could not tolerate a runaway league.

"This is a taboo for FIFA, you cannot do that. The national association must control its football," he said.

FIFA could impose sanctions on Indonesia in the wake of Friday's debacle, including a possible ban on competing in World Cup qualification matches.

Indonesia were runners-up to Malaysia in Southeast Asia's AFF Suzuki Cup last December, and were successful co-hosts of the 2007 Asian Cup, but the national team's record is poor for a country of Indonesia's size.

Indonesia is 130th in the FIFA rankings -- below Ethiopia and Yemen -- and has never made the World Cup finals.

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