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Indonesia footballers hope success at SEA Games have resolve FIFA row

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The Indonesia team in action against Singapore in the Football First Round. Photo: SINGSOC

The prospect of winning the men's football tournament at the SEA Games means more than just a gold medal to Indonesia, whose players are hopeful success could bring an end to the row that has seen the country suspended by FIFA.

The under-23 side will line up against the title favourites Thailand at Singapore's National Stadium on Saturday in the semi-finals, having eliminated the host in the group phase.

This tournament is the last action Indonesia will see for a while after the sport’s world governing body banned them last month for government interference in the local football association (PSSI) following a disagreement over which teams are eligible to compete in the domestic league.

"Even though we have our problem in our country, it's not a problem for us," assistant manager Ferry Yuniarto Kono said.

"For the players maybe they have a bit of a dispute but we are aiming for the gold medal in the SEA Games and hopefully we can do our best. There are no political issues here.

"The motivation of our team, players official and supporters, we are very strong so hopefully the government will see that the spirit of the players is strong despite the ban."

The men's full national team was supposed to open their joint World Cup and Asian Cup qualifying campaign on Thursday in Taiwan but the ban meant they were kicked out.

SEA Games captain Manahati Lestusen said he and his team mates were trying to focus on playing Thailand and a possible final against Myanmar or Vietnam.

Indonesia fans celebrate their team's win against Philippines in the Football First Round. Photo: SINGSOC

Indonesia fans celebrate their team's win against Philippines in the Football First Round. Photo: SINGSOC

"The players are very disappointed at the ban," he said. "But when we enter the playing ground we try to forget."

Indonesia last won the SEA Games gold in 1991. They lost their opening match this time, 4-2 to Myanmar, but have since won three on the trot, beating Cambodia, Philippines and Singapore.

"Our team has their own fighting spirit,” said assistant coach Muhammad Zein Alhadad. “And maybe we can help the federation (PSSI) and ministry have a resolution (by winning gold). After the SEA Games they will have their own match up."

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