With league action finally cancelled, Indonesia have to bounce back in 2021

It will be more than a year since Mangkualam Asnawi Bahar and the rest of Indonesia's professional footballers have played in a match. Mark R. Cristino/EPA-EFE

The Indonesian league's 2020 campaign was officially cancelled on Wednesday -- almost a year after play began in February.

The initial plan in the immediate aftermath of the COVID-19 shutdown was to extend the campaign into 2021, but the continued and escalating situation with the pandemic finally forced Indonesian football's governing body to scrap it all together.

It is the latest blow to a passionate football nation that has overcome its share of obstacles -- including FIFA suspensions in 2012 and 2015-16.

With international football -- such as the joint-qualifiers for the 2022 FIFA World Cup and 2023 AFC Asian Cup -- also called off last year, the majority of Indonesia's footballers will have gone more than 12 months without competitive play.

At the youth level, 2021 is supposed to provide a platform for Merah-Putih's rising stars to shine at the AFC U-19 and U-16 tournaments, also postponed from 2020. But there is now increasing concern that the two competitions may not go ahead as planned.

That would be a huge missed opportunity given the Indonesians have never had problems producing promising talent, including many from the team which reached the quarterfinals of the last AFC U-19 Championship in 2018.

Still, it is far from all doom and gloom.

Rising star Egy Maulana scored his first goal for Polish outfit Lechia Gdansk's senior side -- albeit in a friendly against lower-league opposition -- giving hope he could be nearing a first-team breakthrough.

Meanwhile, 19-year-old Witan Sulaeman's move to Serbia's Radnik Surdulica in February means he's been playing at a higher level after making his debut in June. For the rest, plenty is riding on how much action they see in the next 11 months, especially with the World Cup and Asian Cup qualifiers scheduled to resume in March.

Sitting at the bottom of Group G with no points from their first five games, Indonesia are already out of the running to qualify for the World Cup. They could still enhance their prospects for reaching the Asian Cup with a handful of points -- something that would be impossible if matches are further delayed.

The new domestic season's start will be decided at the end of PSSI's next annual congress at the end of February, making it unlikely that recent rumours of a March kickoff will be true.

But as Indonesian football has proven before, they can and will bounce back.

Be it restoring pride on the international stage, battling for continental glory with Bali United and Persipura Jayapura competing in the AFC Cup, or just having football played on home soil, Indonesia have plenty to play for in 2021.

Provided they get the chance to play.