- Indonesian player association APPI will be hosting the 2024 FIFPRO General Assembly in Bali
- APPI is about to celebrate its 15th anniversary
- The organisation struggled in its early years, but has developed into a steady union thanks to some of the country’s most prominent players
The FIFPRO General Assembly will be held in Bali, Indonesia in November 2024 and hosted by Indonesian player association APPI.
The story of APPI is different from almost all FIFPRO members. The organisation started around 2008 when former FIFPRO board member and FIFPRO Division Asia/Oceania Chairman Brendan Schwab contacted a former national team manager to ask if he could help set up a player association in Indonesia, the biggest football nation in South-East Asia.
The manager reached out to Vennard Hutabarat and together they started organising footballers. With the help of some of the country’s top players, such as Kurniawan Yulianto, Bambang Pamungkas, Ponaryo Astaman and Firman Utina, they established APPI.
However, after a successful launch, APPI struggled to develop until legal officer Valentino Simunjantak stepped up in 2011 and revived the organisation. Around that time, current deputy chief executive Gotcha Michel got on board. “We had a lot of work to do – we didn’t have an office and were not registered with the government. That is why it took until 2013 before the government officially recognised APPI.”
Back then, Indonesian professional football was in turmoil. Hundreds of players were not getting paid, as a majority of the professional clubs did not respect their contracts and wellbeing. It even led to a casualty, as Paraguayan player Diego Mendieta passed away because he didn’t have sufficient money to pay for medical help.
“There was dualism,” Michel recalled. “We had two federations, two leagues, two national teams. Some clubs even had two teams, one playing in each league. We had the weird situation that our president Ponaryo Astaman was playing in one league and for one national team, while our vice-president Bambang Pamungkas was playing in another league and for another national team.”
After a lot of efforts from APPI, FIFPRO and FIFA, this bizarre situation ended in 2013, and Indonesia finally had one FA (the PSSI), one league and one national team. However, one important issue remained on the table: the PSSI still refused to recognise APPI and supported another player association that didn’t represent active players. It lasted until 2017 when the PSSI finally recognised APPI as the only official representative of all professional football players in Indonesia.
The current situation is much improved, according to APPI Chief Executive Officer Mohamad Hardika Aji. “The establishment of the National Dispute Resolution Chamber in 2019 was important. It offered us clarity on how to best protect player rights. Before, we were knocking on every door when we had a player case, but everyone – the clubs, the federation, the league, the government – chased us away.
“Now we have a much better collaboration and communication with the PSSI and the league (Liga 1 and Liga 2). For example, we have arranged that the league withholds club’s royalty payments when a club fails to pay their players, and that clubs cannot register players when they have outstanding player cases from previous season.”
The numbers illustrate Hardika Aji's words, as this season’s only player cases are concerning clubs playing in the second league, while in previous years there would have been various cases in Liga 1.
Michel said: "Since 2017 we have been invited to the general assembly of the PSSI. Before, they used to ‘forget’ us, but now we are always there. This shows that things have changed positively."
Two former Indonesia players have been very important for the development of APPI: Ponaryo Astaman and Bambang Pamungkas. "Ponaryo had a very good relationship with all stakeholders. If there was a problem, he would call stakeholders, or the stakeholders were calling him," said Hardika Aji.
"And Bambang was and still is the most famous player of our country, even though he ended his career," Michel said. "He is the most capped player, a public figure, a role-model, and has a huge following on social media. He was a perfect spokesperson for us, and players still look up to him."
Making a difference
APPI now has around 800 members and current president Andritany Ardhiyasa welcomed around 25 players to the player association's general assembly in Jakarta in December 2023.
As Indonesia is one of the biggest countries of Division Asia/Oceania, it is quite challenging to arrange meetings with players or to visit teams. "There are teams located in the eastern part of our country," said Hardika Aji. "It takes up to seven hours to fly there and tickets are almost as expensive as a return flight to Tokyo. So, that’s why we schedule our general assembly during a holiday period and ask the teams which of their players are staying near Jakarta around this time."
Michel added: "And to make it efficient, we organise team visits when they come to play in or near Jakarta."
APPI’s support has also developed. They have provided education to players on their rights as professional footballers, the strength of the collective and how to take care of their physical and mental health, as well as helping players prepare for their career after football. They are collaborating with Safin Pati University and Johan Cruyff Institute, which offers education programs for players that can also be studied online, and APPI also organise soft skill workshops.
With the government, APPI signed a Memorandum of Understanding that provides players with social security, and they also have a special arrangement with a hospital, as Hardika Aji explains: "One month ago there was a women’s player from Papua who needed an operation on her anterior cruciate ligament but didn’t have the money for surgery. We invited her to Jakarta and paid her flight, the government arranged the insurance, and the hospital provided the facilities for the surgery."
In November this year, APPI will be hosting the 2024 FIFPRO General Assembly in Bali. Hardika Aji said: "It’s a pleasure and privilege for APPI, Indonesia and Division Asia/Oceania to host this year's FIFPRO General Assembly in Bali – a place filled with stunning beauty and known as the ‘island of the gods’. This event gives us the opportunity to highlight our support to our players, and to share knowledge and best-practice with player unions from across the world to better serve our members."