The continuous postponement of the 2020 Indonesian football season didn't stop the Football Federation of Indonesia (PSSI) from assessing their top flight clubs' AFC licenses for 2021. After Thailand, Malaysia, and Vietnam had announced their list of clubs eligible for AFC licenses in 2021, it was Indonesia's turn to announce theirs on Thursday. Out of the 18 Liga 1 Indonesia clubs, only six of them are eligible for AFC licenses, allowing them to participate in AFC-sanctioned competitions should they qualify.
PSSI members from the federation's club licensing committee convene at the Harris Suites in Jakarta's fX Sudirman shopping centre on Thursday as they discussed about which clubs have done well enough throughout 2020 to earn themselves AFC licenses for the upcoming new year. There are five criteria that clubs must fulfill in order to attain their AFC licenses - sporting, infrastructure, personnel, legal administration, and finances. And after a day's worth of discussion, six Liga 1 clubs are deemed eligible for AFC licenses in 2021.
The six clubs are 2019 Liga 1 champions Bali United, perennial giants Persipura Jayapura, Indonesian Police-backed Bhayangkara FC, Samarinda-based Borneo FC, and two clubs that have consistently attained their AFC licenses in recent years, Persib Bandung and Arema FC. This year's list did not include 2018-19 Piala Indonesia champions PSM Makassar as well as 2019 Liga 1 runners-up Persebaya Surabaya, who were included in the previous year's list of AFC-licensed clubs. 2018 Liga 1 champions Persija Jakarta and East Java-based rising force Madura United were also the notable exclusions from this year's list.
"We hope that with the presence of more professionally-run clubs in Indonesia, the nation could prove to the world that they're on the right track in regards of footballing development," said PSSI caretaker secretary general Yunus Nusi on a press release, "With more professional clubs in Indonesia, the country's footballing scene will become more and more better. The PSSI will prepare our very own national club licensing scheme that will be applied for both Liga 1 and Liga 2 clubs in the near future."
Other than the six clubs that have already attained their AFC licenses, clubs who had fulfilled most of the criteria set by both the PSSI and the AFC will be able to attain provisional AFC licenses through an appeal, however the PSSI did not disclose about the clubs who fell into the "provisionally licensed via appeal" category.
With the PSSI still yet to appoint representatives for next year's AFC Cup, the identities of the clubs who could make their way into Asia's second-tier club competition are made clearer by the newly released list of AFC-licensed clubs within Indonesia. As the 2020 Liga 1 season is still postponed until at least 2021, the results of the 2019 season will be likely used to determine Indonesia's representatives for the 2021 AFC Cup, combined with the licensed clubs list.
With those factors put into mind, Bali United as league champions in 2019 should qualify to the 2021 AFC Cup as Indonesia's representative number one, while Indonesia's second representatives is likely to be 2019 Liga 1 bronze medalists Persipura, as both PSM (2018-19 cup champions) and Persebaya (2019 league silver medalists) had failed to attain AFC licenses for 2021. Should either PSM or Persebaya fail their appeal for a provisional AFC license, the stage would be set for Persipura - Indonesia's most successful side in the AFC Cup - to make their comeback to the Asian stage for the first time since 2015.