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'The show must go on'

April 1, 2011 - 4:40pm

FOCUS on the football and block out the chaos that's happening off it.

This is how Lions duo Shahril Ishak and Baihakki Khaizan are choosing to look at the turmoil plaguing the Indonesian football scene at the moment.

Last month, The New Paper broke the story that four Singaporean footballers – Noh Alam Shah, Ridhuan Muhd, Precious Emuejeraye and Agu Casmir – plying their trade in the Indonesian Super League (ISL) – have not been paid their salaries in full.

There were doubts then whether Shahril and Baihakki, who play for Medan Chiefs in the breakaway Indonesian Premier League (LPI), would get paid, despite signing a lucrative two-year deal worth around $380,000 in February.

Yesterday, Shahril told TNP: "Yes, both of us have got our pay, and we are enjoying the football here."

Shahril and Baihakki (left) are enjoying their stint in Indonesia’s breakaway football league, the Indonesian Premier League. TNP FILE PICTURE

Title challengers

Indeed, since the 27-year-old pair moved to Medan from ISL's Persib Bandung, they have helped propel the club from mid-table status into title challengers.

In the six games they’ve played, the Chiefs have won five and lost just one.

While Baihakki shores up the defence, Shahril is banging in the goals and already has four goals to his name, scoring against Real Mataram on his debut, then Jakarta FC 1928 and Persema Malang.

However, the controversy shrouding the Indonesian football association (PSSI) as it braces itself for the upcoming elections have had a direct knock-on effect for Shahril and Baihakki.

The PSSI disciplinary committee has banned 57 LPI officials, including Arifin Panigoro, the oil entrepreneur credited with the launch of the rebel league, from participating in the election on Apr 29.

The suspension extended to revoking the certificates of LPI referees and the foreign coaches, including Chiefs coach Jorg Steinbrunner.

Shahril said: "I am not going to pretend that there's nothing going on.

"Jorg is no longer in the dugout during matches and training has been taken over by the assistant coach who is a local.

"Things are rather chaotic as the election draws closer. Am I worried? Yes, and we haven't brought our families over yet.

"But since we made the decision to come here, we are prepared and we will continue to do our best on the pitch.

"Everyone can see that we are doing very well in the league."

Last Saturday, a scheduled assembly to organise PSSI's first leadership election in four years was called off after it descended into chaos.

Opponents of PSSI chairman Nurin Halid, who was jailed in 2007 for misusing fund, stormed the meeting in Pekanbaru, Sumatra, after finding they were not on the list of 100 delegates eligible to vote.

Despite the ongoing mess, Baihakki said: "We believe the LPI is the future of Indonesia football, so for now, the show must go on."

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