Robbie Fowler’s wrongful dismissal war with Brisbane has taken a twist, with the Liverpool legend confirming he was pitched a move to sister club Persija Jakarta by the Roar’s own chairman Rahim Soekasah, just three months into the A-League season.
The bizarre plan was vetoed by Roar vice-chairman Chris Fong amid fears fans and sponsors would desert the club should Fowler be transplanted to Indonesia.
The offer came from Bakrie Group overlord Nirwan Bakrie, who wanted to leverage Fowler’s star power in the football crazy nation at the powerhouse club in which he has a controlling interest.
Sources at the Jakarta-based conglomerate claim Fowler - who parted company with Brisbane in June - was keen to work in “a much bigger football market”.
But Fowler insists he was placed in an invidious position, in which rejecting the overtures of the company kingpin may have brought repercussions.
“When you’re the manager of a club whose boss owns two clubs, one of which is in Indonesia, and he tells you ‘we want you to go here’ then it’s a conversation that needs to be had,” Fowler explained.
“When you’re getting these messages off the big boss then of course you need to think about it.
“I told them I needed to go away and mull it over but ultimately it was like your boss telling you you’re moving offices. Ultimately, you’ve got to do it.”
Deputy Tony Grant was slated to join Fowler at the team which has won 11 league titles and plays in front of 50,000-plus crowds, until Fong and Roar CEO David Pourre successfully lobbied to kibosh the in-house Bakrie Group bid to poach their own coach.
“It was an awful situation to be in, to be honest,” added Fowler. “It was one of those where if this is what the boss wants then it needs to be done.
“It was really awkward. What would 99 people out of 100 do?”
The fact details have been leaked at a time Fowler is pursuing Brisbane through FIFA’s Disputes Resolution Chamber for unspecified damages over his contentious departure, is seen by the former England striker as a “cheap shot” designed to “tarnish” his name.
The same Bakrie Group source contends that Fowler “wasn’t interested in a long-term role”, was talking to Championship club Birmingham City just months into his brief tenure and had “no intention of returning to Australia” after decamping to the UK in March to reunite with his family when the A-League was suspended due to COVID-19.
Fowler’s alternative narrative is that he “couldn’t wait to return”.
“We were fourth in the table at the time and I wanted to get back and finish the job,” added Fowler.
“We had an unbelievable chance of getting to the grand final and I thought an unbelievable chance of winning it.
“We had four home games in four months, and you need to get that camaraderie with the crowd. So it was quite tough.
“To say I wanted to walk away - well, to me, that’s a ridiculous statement. I couldn’t wait to get back and give something for myself and the team.
“If I’ve got to defend myself then I’ll do it because I’ve done absolutely nothing wrong.
“It was sad really. You want to be successful and the players to be successful.
“I don’t believe, in all fairness, the club did enough to get me back.”
Reacting to claims he had his eye on other possibilities during his debut year as head coach, Fowler shot back: “It’s naive to expect anybody to spend untold years anywhere.
“Of course you have plans and aspirations but at no time did I think to myself ‘I’ll only come here for a few months and then look to get away’.”
The crux of Roar’s argument in the FIFA case hinges on a TV interview in which Fowler asserted they wanted him to pay his own way back Australia to resume the season.
The club claim his comments breached his contractual obligations and maintain there was subsequently a mutually agreed separation.
Fowler, 45, is hoping to return to coaching - and is open to offers.
“Right now it’s a bit of a waiting game,” he said.
“I think I’ve done well enough to warrant another chance somewhere else, whether that’s in the UK or if it’s in Asia again, then brilliant.”
Brisbane declined to comment when approached by The World Game.