Indonesia's Arema promised 07 Champions League

The decision of the Football Association of Indonesia (PSSI) to promise Arema Malang FC a place in next year's Asian Champions League continues to be protested by other clubs, the Jakarta Post reported.

In 2006 Indonesia's two slots in the Asian Football Confederation's top club tournament were allocated to the National League (Liga Djarum) grand final winner, Persipura FC of Jayapura, Papua and to the Copa Dji Sam Soe champion, Arema FC of Malang, East Java.

However both clubs were expelled from the Champions League because PSSI and its autonomous National League Board (BLI) had been late in sending the clubs' players' registration documents to AFC House in Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia. The AFC set 12 February as the deadline for the clubs to send the list of players but the Indonesian details were not received in time.

Arema was particularly incensed by the clerical error as it confidently stated it had sent its list to BLI on 9 February.

While Persipura seemed resigned to its fate, Arema demanded that the PSSI board resign and sought automatic inclusion for the 2007 edition of the AFC event. In February, under pressure from demonstrating Arema fans, PSSI chairman Agusman Effendi promised to meet the demands of automatic inclusion, which many commentators believed to be impossible.

On 31 February, BLI chairman Nirwan D Bakrie, accompanied by BLI executive director Andi Darussalam, BLI secretary Rogandi Soemadipraja and BLI manager Joko Driyana, met with Arema in Malang. Bakrie reportedly admitted that BLI had made internal mistakes which caused Arema and Persipura to be barred from the Champions League. He said that although it would be against the AFC ruling for Arema and Persipura to be allowed in the 2007 event, he promised to try.

Bakrie later told a press conference that all demands would be addressed by PSSI "and within two weeks, there will be a decision."

PSSI finally issued a letter to Arema Malang FC advising that it will be guaranteed one of Indonesia's two slots in the 2007 Asian Champions League. The PSSI decision, SKEP-24/III/2006, was signed-off by chairman Agusman Effendi and secretary general Nugraha Besoes on 25 March.

According to the Arema Malang supporters' website, the letter mentioned that Arema will play in the 2007 Asian Champions League but Persipura would receive "different compensation", which Arema fans labelled as "nominal".

As for their own club's superior 2007 guarantee? "PSSI didn't want to play a joke with death," the Arema fans commented.

See also: Arema to get answers on Champions League errors (12 Mar) and Indonesian club demands FA accounts for debacle (28 Feb) and AFC sacks ASEAN four from Champions League (25 Feb)