Jakarta, Indonesia — Indonesia Monday unveiled a new top-flight football league after two years without one, seeking to draw a line under a crisis that engulfed the game in Southeast Asia’s biggest nation.
Liga 1 kicks off Saturday and replaces the Indonesian Super League, which was halted in 2015 due to a row between the country’s sports ministry and football association.
The dispute over who should compete in the super league led to the collapse of the competition, and then to world governing body FIFA suspending Indonesia over government meddling in a domestic association.
The ban was lifted in 2016 after a year when the government and the association finally resolved their differences, and football in Indonesia has since been slowly getting back onto its feet.
Eighteen teams will compete in the new Liga 1, which is sponsored by motorbike taxi app Go-Jek and travel website Traveloka, including Indonesia’s top clubs Persib Bandung and Arema.
The two sides will face each other in this weekend’s opening match.
“We are trying to develop our football — this nation needs to be lifted up by football,” said Edy Rahmayadi, head of the association, known as PSSI, as he unveiled the new league.
While waiting for the new top-flight league to get up and running, teams last year competed in an interim tournament, called the Torabika Soccer Championship.
Football in Indonesia has been suffering from problems for years, from the creation of a breakaway association that tore the football establishment apart to cases of foreign players being treated badly.
The new competition will run until November this year.