Indonesia denies using money to attract foreign players

By Trung Thu   June 5, 2024 | 04:00 am PT
The Football Association of Indonesia (PSSI) has denied rumors of using money to persuade foreign players to naturalize and play for their national football team.

Since 2022, Indonesia have successfully naturalized 12 players from nations such as the Netherlands, the U.S., Spain, and England.

The PSSI will soon naturalize two other Dutch-born players, defender Calvin Verdonk and striker Jens Raven.

The use of naturalized players was a suggestion from coach Shin Tae-yong. The policy has helped Indonesia achieve some success, such as progressing past the 2023 Asian Cup group stage for the first time, reaching the 2024 U23 Asian Cup semifinals, and moving closer to getting past the second qualifying round of the 2026 World Cup.

Indonesia players celebrate a goal against Vietnam in the 2026 World Cup qualifiers on March 26, 2024. Photo by VnExpress/Hieu Luong

Indonesia players celebrate a goal against Vietnam in the 2026 World Cup qualifiers on March 26, 2024. Photo by VnExpress/Hieu Luong

However, Indonesia is alleged to have paid players to convince them to switch nationality, as Indonesian law says its citizens can only hold one nationality.

"The players have never asked for or expected any kind of payment," PSSI general secretary Yunus Nusi told CNN Indonesia. "We have contacted the parents of the players and they also want their children to represent Indonesia."

PSSI selects the players based on suggestions from coaches and technical directors. The selection criteria are players with outstanding qualifications, or playing well in positions that local players cannot take on.

On Monday, the Ministry of Youth and Sports had a meeting with PSSI, which recommended that the national team must still prioritize local players. One official suggested that each game should have at least 60% native players in the lineup. However, according to PSSI, the final decision is up to the manager.

PSSI president Erick Thohir emphasized that having more naturalized players helps increase the strength of the national team and competition among players. Therefore, he expects all players to take the policy seriously.

"If someone doesn't want to play, we will find players who are willing to," Thohir told CNN Indonesia. "We don't want to force anyone."

Indonesia are heading towards the final two games of the 2026 World Cup second qualifying round, against Iraq on June 6 and Philippines on June 11, at home ground Gelora Bung Karno. They need to earn three more points to ensure their place in the third round.

Currently, Shin and his team are second in group F with seven points, five behind Iraq and four ahead of Vietnam.

go to top