Indonesian football in limbo as players, coaches and presidents wait

It was a reminder of Indonesia's love for football at the highest levels, while underlying the futility of the ban that has excluded Southeast Asia's largest nation from FIFA since June.

Former Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who ruled the nation for a decade until October, was happy to talk football as he was presented with a state jersey at the University of Western Australia last week by former Indonesia Super League star Robbie Gaspar.

Gaspar, 34, is a proud Perth boy who was as an import player for four different ISL clubs over seven years, becoming a regional celebrity. Now retired, he combines Indonesia and accounting studies at Murdoch University while representing the interests of Asian footballers through the players' union, FIFPro. So it cuts him deep to see Indonesia isolated by the world's governing body.

"It just breaks my heart that Indonesia is banned with no resolution in sight," Gaspar told ESPN FC. "To see leagues like Thailand and Malaysia doing so well really hurts because Indonesia has more football potential and passion than any other country in Asia.

"But this is what happens when people get involved in the sport for all the wrong reasons."

FIFA banned Indonesia on June 5 after the government's sports ministry and local football association (PSSI) failed to resolve their dispute over who was in charge of running the game in Indonesia.

It meant that the national team couldn't take part in the joint 2018 World Cup and 2019 Asian Cup qualifying campaigns.

Interim national coach and technical director Pieter Huistra, a former Dutch international who was part of the successful Glasgow Rangers team of the 1990s, said he hasn't been paid for three months and is seeking employment elsewhere in Asia.

"It's taking too long to fix the problem so all the initiatives, AFC coaching courses, the U16s, the U19s, the grassroots program ... everything is on hold," Huistra told ESPN FC.

"Instead of a period of building up, we are tearing down, and Indonesian football is losing three or four years progress as other Asian nations grow. As a result, we will lag behind in the future."

Unsanctioned tournaments, such as the President's Cup and Independence Cup, have been going on under the auspices of Indonesia's defiant sports ministry, adding to an already chaotic picture.

In the meantime, radio and television shows, are dominated by discussions on the English Premier League, La Liga and Serie A in the absence of the beloved ISL.

"The local players and fans suffer. The game suffers. It is going to take a lot of hard work and time for Indonesia to recover from this," Gaspar said.

Gaspar, who was a youth team player at Hajduk Split in Croatia and had trials with Perth Glory in the A-League, would make a conscious decision to pursue his career in Southeast Asia. After two seasons with Sabah in the Malaysia Super League, he joined ISL club Persita Tangerang in 2005.

"I was blown away by the fanatical support for clubs in Indonesia and the love and commitment that supporters have," Gaspar said.

His final stop in 2011-12 was glamour club, Persib Bandung, who are the reigning ISL champions and a team that many Indonesians, including East Java-born Dr. Yudhoyono (better known as SBY) have a soft spot for.

"I was invited to be one of 10 students at round-table discussion with SBY and spoke to him about how football might improve relations between Australia and Indonesia because people just don't realise how popular it is over there," Gaspar said.

"He also told me about how much even his wife loves football."

Yudhoyono was accompanied to Perth by Dino Patti Djalal, the former Indonesia ambassador to the United States, who confessed to Gaspar that he was a big fan of his from his playing days with Persib.

Politics and football seem to be so intertwined in Indonesia, often to the detriment of the sport's well-being. Indeed, at the heart of the divisions in the game is a bitter feud between Youth and Sports Minister Imam Nahrawi and PSSI head, La Nyalla Metalitti.

The pair agreed to meet last month and were pictured shaking hands, without any definitive solution. But AFC sources told ESPN FC that a FIFA delegation, led by Kozo Tashima of Japan, is planning to visit Indonesia in late October, with a meeting with current national President Joko Widodo on the agenda. They will report back to December's FIFA Exco meeting, providing a ray of hope for a resolution.

Whatever happens, 48-year-old Huistra -- who arrived in Jakarta in December after spells in charge of Eredivisie sides Groningen and De Graafschap, plus a stint as an assistant at Ajax under Martin Jol -- faces an uncertain future.

"There's not much I can do anymore because the money has run out," he said. "I want to work again, to coach again, and I want to feel the adrenaline. But Indonesian football is just going backward."