Indonesia's Crazy Lions for sale due to debts

JAKARTA - Co-founded by a man called "Lucky" and Indonesian Super League champions only last year, East Java club Arema FC has gone on sale to the highest bidder after falling into heavy debt.

Arema officials have declared the club is on the lookout for new ownership and could be purchased for as little as $2.3 million, local media reported on Friday.

"The best thing to do is sell the club," Muhammad Nur, chairman of the Arema Indonesia Foundation which owns the Malang team, told the Jakarta Globe.

"We hope the new ownership can end the club's financial problems and help the team achieve more."

Arema's troubles are the latest embarrassment for Indonesian soccer, whose federation (PSSI) narrowly escaped a FIFA ban recently over alleged government interference.

An election crisis at the PSSI following violent protests calling for a change of leadership has cast a further shadow on the game in Indonesia.

Arema's firesale comes as a shock after the 'Crazy Lions' captured their first Indonesian Super League title in 2009/10.

The anticipated financial windfall from that triumph for the club, one of only four professional Super League clubs, failed to materialise, however, leaving them staring into the abyss.

One of the country's best-supported teams, the warning signs appeared for Arema earlier this year when players began to complain about not being paid, even threatening to strike.

"We're tired," said midfielder Ahmad Bustomi. "We've been complaining to management but nothing has happened.

"We've agreed to play until the end of the season. Let's just see what happens after that."

Arema owes its players an estimated Rp 3.6 billion in wages, while over 30 front office workers are also said to be owed salaries.

The club, formed in 1987, has debts of Rp 5 billion ($583,000), according to the Globe, and has failed to make a dent in the lucrative Asian Champions League.