PETALING JAYA: Malaysia’s first football millionaire Mohd Safee Sali is set for the big time with Indonesian club Pelita Jaya FC but it may come at a heavy price.
The hugely popular 28-year-old former Selangor striker yesterday extended his stay with Pelita Jaya in the controversial Indonesian Super League (ISL) when he signed a two-year contract reported to be worth more than RM2mil.
But the million-ringgit question is whether Safee has shot himself in the foot in deciding to play in a rebel league which is not sanctioned by FIFA.
The sport’s world governing body had issued a letter to the All-Indonesia Football Association (PSSI) stating that it did not recognise the ISL as it was not endorsed by the PSSI.
The letter, signed by Fifa secretary-general Jarome Valcke and Asian Football Confederation (AFC) secretary-general Datuk Alex Soosay, stated that the ban also extended to all players, officials and referees involved in the ISL.
It said that a freeze had been imposed on transfer of players from the ISL, effectively preventing them from playing in leagues or competitions in countries which are FIFA affiliates. FIFA have given Indonesia until March 22 to sort out its domestic problems, failing which harsher action would be taken while the FA of Malaysia have advised Safee that he risks being banned from playing for the country.
Safee’s manager Zakaria Rahim, however, dispelled the threat of sanctions as he had “negotiated a fool-proof contract” for Safee.
“The report that the ISL has been banned is not true,” Zakaria said in a telephone interview from Jakarta yesterday.
“FIFA have never banned the ISL and PSSI are set to have a meeting on March 22 to decide the fate of the leagues and PSSI itself.
“In a worst-case scenario, if the ISL is banned, Safee has the option to join Pelita Jaya’s sister clubs here and abroad. I don’t see any problem as his playing career is not under threat.”
Under the new contract, Safee would receive numerous incentives, including fixed match bonuses, a house, car, driver, return tickets to Kuala Lumpur and a tax-free salary of about US$30,000 a month.
The new deal is worth double his previous one-year contract which expired yesterday.
Zakaria said Safee would also receive an additional ‘image rights’ package for commercial endorsements of products and the opportunity to play for any clubs fully owned by the Pelita Jaya Cronus group.
Other Pelita clubs include Brisbane Roar FC in Australia, CS Vise in Belgium and SAD Uruguay in Uruguay.
Pelita Jaya also have close affiliations with five clubs in the Brazilian league, one of which is the renowned Flamengo FC, and several European sides, including Ajax Amsterdam.
Pelita Jaya Cronus once owned former English Premier League side Leicester City, and, despite having sold the club, still have close ties with the management.
“Safee was also appointed ambassador for the Pelita Jaya Football School in Sawangan, West Java, and a football academy owned by Pelita Jaya. We are negotiating a stake in the academy for him,” said Zakaria.
“The academy has 600 students in Jakarta alone. It also has branches in other districts in Indonesia.
“The club are also prepared to help Safee venture into business in Jakarta after his playing days.”
Zakaria said Safee had given it a great deal of thought before signing the new contract.
Safee said he chose to stay with the Indonesian club because of the progress he had made in his game.
“I have improved so much playing here. That is why I chose to extend my contract. The best part is I am assured more playing time,” said Safee.
“In fact, it would also benefit the national team,” added Safee, who is confident that the controversy surrounding ISL and PSSI would be resolved.
Other than Pelita Jaya, Safee also had offers from Muang Thong FC and Buriram FC in Thailand and four teams from Malaysia.
He also received an offer from Cardiff City but declined as he had to undergo the process of playing with an affiliated club for at least a year before he could obtain his work permit.
Prior to that Safee had offers to undergo trials with five German clubs last year but had to pass over the opportunity due to injuries and because of the national team’s preparations for the pre-World Cup competition.
Safee moved to Pelita Jaya last February after helping Malaysia win the AFF Suzuki Cup for the first time in 2010.
The prolific striker is due to return to Malaysia on Feb 22 to join the national team for the friendly against Saudi Arabia two days later. - theStarOnline