Bambang: “This is the worst”
EXCLUSIVE: Scott McIntyre
One of the leading advocates for player welfare and rights in Indonesia is the country’s top international goalscorer and its most capped player, Bambang Pamungkas.
Bambang addresses the players during the week
The Persija Jakarta striker was at this week’s historic player’s union meeting in the Indonesian capital where a deadline of June 7 was imposed for both ISL and LPI clubs to meet their obligations regarding outstanding player salaries.
More than 70% of clubs across both the sanctioned IPL and the ‘rebel ISL leagues were in attendance where the meeting heard that the majority have at least two months salary and bonuses unpaid.
In the worst cases players have been unpaid for more than half a year and some have already decided enough is enough. Bambang’s side, the ISL version of Persija Jakarta have refused to train for the past three months but the threats have suddenly now escalated.
Asian Football Feast’s Scott McIntyre spoke with the 32 year old Persija Jakarta and Indonesia striker after the breakthrough meeting in the Indonesian capital.
AFF: Bambang, are you happy with the outcome from todays meeting.
BP: I have to say yes because this is the first time we could get the players together as a group and sit down. Now we have to wait for the 7th of June and see what happens but I know the players are fully together and this is a key point.
AFF: It’s been such a long time that most clubs haven’t paid their players, why do you think June 7 will see a change.
BP: I think they simply have to pay. If they don’t we have plans and it’s going to be difficult for them. Also, they know that on the 15th they’ll be brought before FIFA. Now is the time, it’s been a long time and today we have 70% of the clubs represented. We’re running out of time.
AFF: Is a strike a realistic option?
BP: I’m not going to say that’s it’ll definitely happen soon. We’ll wait until the 7th of June and if they respond in a nice way then we’ll also be nice. But if the response is not so good then we will have to discuss it again. But for now we want to show the public that we are together but we have an online group set up and we’ll be discussing things every day.
AFF: If you look at some other Asian nations, such as Australia, where there is 100% PFA membership and then you look here in Indonesia where the numbers are very low I imagine that one of the major challenges is trying to convince all the other players to follow your lead.
BP: What you say is correct; it’s very hard here in Indonesia because ma y players still don’t think they have to be inside the association. They think they can take care of themselves but with all the problems now and this kind of meeting with the senior players I’m sure they’ll start to understand it. If we obtain a positive result by the 7th of June then I’m sure they’ll all come to us.
The Indonesian players sent a message of solidarity during the week
AFF: You’ve played for a long time here in Indonesia, is this the worst that you’ve seen things?
BP: For sure, this is the worst. I mean, players aren’t getting paid and the federation is spilt and there are two competitions. Some players can’t play for the national team, it’s incredibly hard for the players and this is a very difficult situation.
AFF: You’re one of the most respected players in the history of South-East Asian football; you could be staying clear of trouble and reflecting on your career, so what’s made you get so heavily involved in the players union here?
BP: No, for me this is so important. I love football and I especially love Indonesian football and I want it to be here forever. We have an opportunity to be one of the biggest nations in South-East Asia because we have so many players and so much passion but now the players are in a difficult situation. I’ve come here to fight along with the other senior players to make sure this doesn’t happen to the next generation, our younger generation. If we don’t start it now, it’ll never happen. If the young players speak, nobody listens but if we speak, everybody listens. This is the responsibility to our younger generation.
Scott is currently travelling through Asia discovering the amazing stories to be told right across the continent. You can read more of his updates on Asian Football Feast over the coming months and through his regular blog on The World Game website.
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