He dies poor and unpaid

'HE HAD GREAT HOPES': Mr Beliby Ferdinand Bengondo holding a picture of his late brother, Salomon Bengondo.

It was a dream of sporting glory that drew talented Cameroonian striker Salomon Bengondo to Indonesia.

But his story ended in poverty, illness and an untimely death.

The withholding of wages by Indonesian clubs has reached "catastrophic proportions", said international players' union FIFPro - and Bengondo is the second foreign player known to have died after going unpaid.

In 2012, Paraguayan striker Diego Mendieta died of a viral infection after he, too, was unable to afford treatment, following months without wages.

Bengondo arrived in Indonesia in 2005.

"He had great hopes," his brother, Mr Beliby Ferdinand Bengondo, told AFP.

Bengondo died in November last year at the age of 32, unable to afford hospital treatment for a mystery illness.

His former club, Persipro Probolinggo, still owed him large sums of money, said his brother and Indonesian football officials.

Bengondo took to the streets to beg in protest with his African teammates in 2012, apparently with little effect.

"The club still did nothing," his brother, 27, alleged.

Mr Brendan Schwab of FIFPro warned that the issue of Indonesian clubs failing to pay players had reached "literally catastrophic proportions".

"We can't think of a country in the world of football where the problems of the players are more pronounced or more serious than Indonesia," Mr Schwab, head of FIFPro's Asian division, told AFP.

It is not just foreign players going unpaid. The Indonesian professional footballers' association said 14 clubs in the country's two top-tier divisions still owe salaries from the 2012/2013 season.

SIGNED BY PERSIPRO

Bengondo played for several clubs and was signed by Persipro, based in Probolinggo in the east of the main island of Java, for the 2011/12 season. The club is in the Premier Division, the second-highest level of football in Indonesia.

But his brother said Bengondo received only 20 million rupiah (S$2,100) when he started with the club, and nothing afterwards.

He was supposed to receive an extra lump sum and 16,625,000 rupiah a month for eight months, according to a copy of his contract seen by AFP.

Despite the lack of salary, Bengondo played for the club until the end of the season before returning to the city of Tangerang, outside Jakarta, where he lived with his brother.

He died in the early hours of Nov 29. The autopsy results are still not out.

Indonesian Football Association (PSSI) chairman Djohar Arifin Husin said clubs were having funding problems as competition for sponsorship was tough and since 2011 professional teams have been banned from getting local government funding, a vital source of revenue in the past.

Attempts to improve players' rights have also been overlooked in recent years as Indonesian football chiefs struggled to resolve a feud between two rival federations, which spawned two top-tier divisions.

Despite the distractions, Mr Djohar insisted the PSSI is trying to resolve the issue of players going unpaid, saying all clubs had been given a deadline of Jan 15 to pay outstanding salaries or face being banned from competitions.


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