Sriwijaya mulls transfer to S-League

Sriwijaya mulls transfer to S-League
Sriwijaya FC's coach Rahmad Darmawan (in black) speaking to his team during a training session at Jalan Besar Stadium in preparation for the AFC Champions League tournament against SAFFC on 29 January 2010.

Upset at the confusion and disruption surrounding its domestic football scene, Indonesian club Sriwijaya have threatened to quit their country and are considering a move to join Singapore's S-League.

The Indonesian Super League (ISL) was scheduled to kick off last Friday but it was pushed back for two weeks at the last minute owing to administrative issues.

Further unhappiness among the 18 ISL clubs was caused last weekend after it emerged that the league will be delayed until at least April.

Officials from Sriwijaya had voiced their frustrations concerning the chaotic nature of Indonesian football - dogged by infighting, payment disputes and breakaway leagues in the past - with team manager Robert Heri highlighting the Republic as an attractive and alternative destination.

But with the 20th season of the S-League kicking off this Sunday and all fixtures for the 10 clubs already confirmed, the addition of the Palembang-based outfit is unlikely to happen this year.

No approach from the 2011-12 ISL champions has been made yet, stressed the Football Association of Singapore (FAS).

Its spokesman Gerard Wong added: "We have not heard officially from Sriwijaya FC."

The Sumatran club regularly attract over 20,000 fans to their Jakabaring Stadium. Former Lions defender Precious Emuejeraye was on their books from 2009-10 while, this season, they boast ex-Balestier Khalsa marquee player Goran Ljubojevic.

The experiment with foreign clubs in the S-League has met with mixed success since Sinchi FC, a Chinese team, became the first to join in 2003.

While Brunei DPMM and Japan's Albirex Niigata have been successful both on and off the field, Chinese sides such as Liaoning Guangyuan (match-fixing) and Beijing Guoan (mass brawling on the pitch) were involved in controversies.

Sporting Afrique, a club of African imports, lasted just a year before folding in 2006.

Yet, this has not dissuaded the heads of local clubs from leaving the door open for foreign sides.

Said Hougang United's chairman Bill Ng: "As long as the FAS does its due diligence and ensures that these clubs are self-sufficient and their accounts are up to the mark, we should continue to welcome foreign clubs.

"The league has become cosmopolitan and should remain so."

Nevertheless, priority has to be given to local clubs should they be able to fulfil the requirements set by the league, stressed Balestier Khalsa boss S. Thavaneson.

In a bid to revitalise the league and consolidate resources, the S-League announced last November that it would downsize the number of clubs from 12 to 10.

Tanjong Pagar United were asked to sit out the upcoming season while Hougang have merged with Woodlands Wellington, shrinking the number of local clubs to seven. The foreign sides are Brunei DPMM, Albirex Niigata and Malaysia's Harimau Muda.

Said Thavaneson: "If we're going to add another club, it should be one of those that had to sit out this year. Our main goal is to grow local football and give opportunities to local clubs and players.

"We must also send the message that the S-League is not a platform for other foreign clubs to come when they have issues with their own domestic league."


This article was first published on Feb 24, 2015.
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