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Sunday, December 24, 2017

 

New Age Limits Add To Coach's Pressures

I  must admit to a feeling of massive underwhelment at the recent 'changes' announced by the Football Association of Singapore as they bid to improve the state of their flagship SLeague. Remember, this is a league where the last eight trophies have  been won by just one team, Albirex Niigata, which features precisely zero local players.

Local giants Tampines Rovers, Home United and Warriors have struggled to play catch up as the Japanese side reinvents itself each season and still goes on to dominate the Singapore scene. Will the latest proposals provide the impetus to end the White Swans' local domination as well as provide a conveyor belt of young talent for a moribund national team?

The main change appears to be the introduction of age quotas. Local clubs must have a squad of between 19 and 25 players. If a squad has 22 players a minimum of six players must be aged 23 or under while a further eight must be aged under 30. I must admit age limits leave me thinking 'meh'. Isn't it just tinkering round the edges of the problem especially when the Young Lions will continue to exist? Surely if you want to introduce age limits then do so but disband Young Lions as well and disperse the squad around the league?

Each team must start a game with a minimum of three local Under 23 players. If a coach wants to replace an Under 23 player in the first half they must bring on another Under 23 player. In the second half they can bring on who they want. See what I mean? Meh.

Albirex Niigata now have the option of signing two Under 23 local players. Woo. Why would they want to given they dominate the game without any locals? On the other hand why limit to two? If the aim is to make Singapore football more professional and Albirex Niigata are obviously the most professional side in the country why not open the door to more local lads?

A coach's job is to get the best out of his team and the key word here is his team. He should be the final arbiter of who gets signed, who plays and who gets replaced, not some desk jockey. If a coach is being forced to field teams to fit regulations rather than a game plan and his team loses will the club be sympathetic to the extra demands placed on him by these new regulations?

Some good news at least from these new proposals. The pointless League Cup is to be ditched.



 

Local Sides See Merit In Attracting Foreign Teams Pre Season

It is heartening to see some of the more ambitious Indonesian sides look to foreign shores when it comes to preparing for the 2018 season.

Both Madura United and PSM have lined up intriguing pre season tournaments that go beyond the usual dull old trofeo format that has become popular in recent seasons.

Suramadu Super Cup 7 - 11 January

Madura United, Persela, PKNS, Selangor

PSM Super Cup Asia 19 - 21 January

PSM, Adelaide United, Negeri Sembilan, Home United

Let's hope these tournaments do go ahead. They not only provide local teams the chance to pit their wits against regional rivals but also the opportunity for supporters to see players and teams from different lands.

 

APPI Needs To Respond To 'Traitor' Slurs

The PSSI chairman has been in the news recently. The military man who is also a candidate for the governorship of North Sumatra has reacted angrily to the prospect of Indonesian footballers having the gall to go and ply their trade overseas.

He first made the comments when Bhayangkara duo Evan Dimas and Ilham Uddin were signed by Malaysian side Selangor, calling the pair unpatriotic, whatever that means.

Sadly the notion of nationalism is never far from the surface in political discourse and it's not just Indonesia as we see countries like UK and USA dress up obscene policies in the bows and ribbons of patriotism.

This though is the first time I have seen footballers being accused of lacking a love of their country because they want to try their luck overseas. Football has long embraced globalisation and it is common to see players pack their boots for foreign lands. 

Indonesia of course has benefited. The national team is coached by a Spaniard. A Scotsman led Bhayangkara to the title. A Brazilian is one of the most successful coaches in the country. A Montegran and a Uruguayan have become naturalised Indonesians in recent years. 

However the PSSI chief hasn't backed down. he has now taken to saying any players that don't answer their nations call up are traitors! As he cranks up the flag waving rhetoric it is easy to see how impressionable young men who have been brought up in a culture where deference to 'superiors' is imgrained (part of the nationalism I guess?), may have second thoughts about advancing their careers overseas.

Where is the players' union APPI in all this? Are they standing up to the PSSI by explaining ow football works and how the national team can benefit from players being exposed to different environments? Surely if there was a time for the likes of Bambang Pamungkas and Ponaryo Astaman to speak up it is now? For a generation leagues and players have benefited from trying their luck in different leagues. Now is not the time for Indonesia to go inward looking but it needs the experienced pros to stick their heads above the trenches and speak out.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

 

Forget DPMM, Coventry City Would Be Perfect Liga 1 Fit

Golly. A month off. Things have been pretty hectic as I struggle to adapt to my latest country but am still keeping in touch with Indonesian football and all that entails. As I try and wean myself back into the writing habit something gentle to start off with. 

So, DPMM want to join Liga 1? The Brunei side it seems are a bit peeved by some of the new regulations imposed by the Football Association of Singapore and have been casting around in search of a new home. For some reason they think Indonesia would be a good fit and, given their history, traditions and fan base seem to think they are eminently qualified to jump straight into the top flight and pass by minor inconveniences like promotion from Liga 3 upwards.

Unlike Singapore and Malaysia I don't recall any foreign teams taking part in the Indonesian football eco system. Simply put Indonesia doesn't need an outsider to come along and make up the numbers. Wanna add a team to Liga 1? PSS? PSIM?

The PSSI admit the suggestion from DPMM is being discussed. Football's governing body does move in mysterious ways so who knows what they will decide but when you consider the current chief is a military type who recently slammed a couple of Indonesia's finest young talents for having the temerity to play overseas, he said they weren't patriotic enough, it does seem unlikely DPMM will get the green light, whatever the sultan of that nation may offer.

Still, if Indonesia does want to take on a foreign team might I suggest Coventry City? DPMM have their own home ground and everything. Coventry already have many of the criteria a proper Indonesian football club needs.

The Sky Blues have fallen on hard times since they were relegated from the Premier League at the end of 2000/2001 the club have lurched from one disaster to another. They left their home off 106 years, Highfield Road in 2005 to move into the brand spanking new Ricoh Arena but the team's inability to regain their top flight status meant they were struggling financially and with all the big TV deals being signed in their absence Coventry found themselves missing out on both riches and a home.

With attendances falling and Coventry falling down the divisions, they were relegated to the third tier at the end of the 2012 season. Fans fell out with the owners who in turn seemed to fall out with the stadium owners forcing the club to look elsewhere for a home. There were rumours of groundsharing with Walsall and even an offer of Ricoh Arena rent free but ultimately the club decided they would play their home games in Northampton, a round trip of 70 miles.

Now by Indonesian standards 70 miles isn't that far but many Coventry fans turned militant. The club made the move in time for the 2013/2014 season and large numbers of supporters boycotted their team. Their one season in Northampton was marred by small attendances and the unusual sight of some fans standing on a hill overlooking the stadium cheering on their team while refusing to buy any tickets. They hired buses, went through the usual match day rituals and sang their songs...they just point blank refused to hand over any money to the club and its owners.

The following season and Coventry returned to the Ricoh with over 27,000 seeing their first game of the campaign. The return home sadly didn't end the sorry saga. The stadium was bought out by Wasps, a rugby union club who used to play in Wycombe and once more Coventry City are mere tenants, a proud, famous football club left homeless in the brutal modern age where money is the arbiter of all and history counts for shit.

Having seen Coventry City games at Highfield Road and in Northampton it seemed appropriate I take the opportunity to see the Sky Blues at the Ricoh. And how disappointing it was. Make no mistake, the stadium is owned by Wasps, they get the crowds and the football club get the scraps. I got the impression they were very much unwanted tenants; there was little to indicate a football club founded in 1883 exists at all. Any branding was Wasps related. Finding the Coventry City ticket office was a mission and as for the club shop? It's located under a railway line in a nearby retail park!

Coventry City are now in the fourth tier of English football. They defeated Wycombe Wanderers last night 3-2 to climb into the top four as they aim to get promoted. But having seen the old Highfield Road in its glory, an old school stadium big on fences, rocking to a full house it is sad to see how the football club has fallen to this uncomfortable existance.

A nomadic club with a supporter boycott and unpopular owners; Coventry Cit would seem to be a perfect fit for Indonesia!

Saturday, November 18, 2017

 

Vujovic To Leave Persib But Will Remain Club Legend

Persib Bandung were trailing 1-0 against Arema in the Indonesia Super League semi final at the Jakabaring Stadium in Palembang. The only goal of the game had come in the first minute of the second half. Persib’s Montegran defender Vladimir Vujovic failed to anticpate the bounce of a ball lofted into the penalty area.

Arema’s Brazilian striker Alberto Goncalves took full advantage of the slip, driving the ball across the keeper I Made Wirawan and into the far post. The East Java side, ISL champions back in 2009/2010, had one foot in the final.

With seven minutes remaining, however, Vujovic redeemed for his earlier error. This time it was the Arema defence that failed to clear and the tall defender stooped to sweep the ball home from close range. The goal took the game to injury time and further goals from Atep and Konate Makan set Persib up for their first ever ISL final appearance.

As this paper goes to press, thousands of Persib supporters, known as Bobotoh (a Sundanese word meaning follower) are looking at how they can get to Palembang in time for Friday’s final against Persipura Jayapura. The city in South Sumatra will slowly but surely turn blue as the Persib hoardes take over the place in a bid to win the ISL for the first time in their history.

That the West Java are in the final at all is in no small part down to Vujovic. The goal against Arema was his sixth in 11 games; no mean feat for a striker let alone a player bought to the club for his height at the back.

And in the manner of great goalscorers the world over, when Vujovic scores it usually means something. It was his injury time penalty against Mitra Kukar in the play off  round that earned Persib a 2-1 victory while his team were struggling to break down a resolute Persik Kediri towards the end of the season before Vujovic nroke the deadlock halfway through the second half. Persib went on to win that game 3-0.

Cometh the hour, cometh the man. While Persib have looked to more traditional outlets for their goals this season, think Atep, Makan, Fedinand Sinaga, Djibril Coulibaly, it is the journeyman defender who has come up trumps at the business end of the campaign time and time again.

Yet Vujovic would be the first to admit he makes an unlikely hero. Persib are his 13th team in a 14 year career that also includes three spells with his hometown club Mogren Budva. He was played football for a living in Montenegro, Serbia, Macedonia, Ukraine, Saudi Arabia, Russia, China, Hungary, Kazakhstan and Lebanon; a resume that would leave career diplomats gasping for breath, let alone a professional footballer!

It is unlikely though that Vujovic will have engraved his name so indelibly within a club’s psyche as he has at Persib. His goals during their run to the ISL final will have given him a special place in the hearts of Bobotoh everywhere and as his compatriot and one time Persib player himself Miljan Radovic can tell him, once a Bobotoh, always a Bobotoh.

NOTE - this was written ahead of Persib's game against Persipura when they were crowned Indonesia Super League champions in 2014. The defender has just announced he will be leaving the football club. The story also appeared in the Jakarta Globe at the time where for a few memorable hours it was the most read article.


Monday, November 13, 2017

 

ASEAN Average Attendances 2017

Indonesia (top 6 attendances)

46,359 Persebaya v Semeru
36,545 Persib v Persija
34.056 Persib v Arema
29,673 Persija v Persela
29,669 Persija v PS TNI
29,640 Persija v Bhayangkara

Indonesia Average

23,051 Persija
18,006 Persib
13,779 PSM
13,423 Bali United
12,392 Persipura

Malaysia 

17,051 Johor Darul Ta'zim
14,693 Kedah
  7,542 Pahang
  7,097 Kelantan
  6,474 Perak

Thailand

13,890 Buriram United
  9,359 Muang Thong United
  7,493 Suphanburi
  6,316 Chiang Rai United
  6,059 Nakorn Ratchasima

Vietnam

9,333 Thanh Hoa
8,538 SHB Da Nang
8,417 Hoang Anh Gia Lai
7,583 Hai Phong
6,750 Than Quang Ninh

 

Persib Season Ends In Disgrace After Perseru Loss

Following on from their 2014 Indonesia Super League title success it looked like Persib were set fair to dominate the domestic game for years to come. They had the squad, they had the supporters and they had the vision off the field. 

Then came the FIFA suspension. Persib had reached the last 16 of the AFC Cup but the rug was pulled from under their feet and domestically the ISL was halted. The winning mentality hung around for a while and they still won the President's Cup but by 2016 key components of the title winning squad had moved on including coach Djadjang Nurdjaman.

With no official league Persib joined the other ISL teams in the Indonesia Soccer Championship in 2016 and after a slow start fan pressure forced out coach Dejan Antonic and the club were forced to welcome back Djadjang to salvage a rudderless ship.

For the 2017 Persib went out aggressively recruiting high profile players like Michael Essien, Carlton Cole and Raphael Maitimo but struggled to gel as Djadjang tried to juggle his squad with the demands of an interfering management. He was on a loser and tried to resign but the club wouldn't let him.

Eventually he did manage to step down and Persib found a 'suitable' replacement in Emral Abus but results didn't improve and the team blessed with so many riches went into freefall. 

Fan discontent that had started in the 2016 season showed no signs of going away with some invading the pitch after losing away to Bhayangkara to express their disgust at the way the club was being run. 

Manager Umuh Muchtar was banned from football for six months after Persib stopped playing in Solo after seeing a perfectly good goal disallowed by the Australian ref. While many supporters were happy to see him go the results didn't improve and Persib ended the season with three straight losses.

The Bobotoh kept supporting their team and more than 20,000 saw their Under 19s play in the final against Persipura in Cikarang. The Black Pearls won 1-0 and elements of the Persib support responded by trashing parts of the newly built stadium.

Persib's final game of the season saw them hosting relegation threatened Perseru. The visitors secured their spot in Liga 1 next season with a surprise 2-0 and, humiliated, Persib fans kicked off again, invading the pitch and throwing rocks at the team coach. That 23,000 supporters showed for this end of season disaster says much about the loyalty of the Bobotoh; that Persib should lose, their first home loss of the season, says much of the disharmony around the football club.

Persib ended the season just six points clear of the relegation places and with four losses in their last six games. The season hasn't been all doom and gloom as the faithful have seen young players like Febri Haryadi, Billy Keraf and Gian Zola come in and make an impression.  But they were handicapped by a lack of goals. Carlton Cole was regularly attacked by the manager during his stay as he struggled for fitness and Sergio van Dijk missed most of the season through injury. That midfielder Rapahel Maitimo ended up as top scorer with nine goals only highlights the lack of potency up top for the season.

Persib need a serious overhaul if they are to challenge the new breed of teams that have arrived on the scene/ Champions Bhayangkara, Bali United and Madura United and even PSM and Persija have shown clubs need to appoint a coach and let the coach do his job. You get the impression that is not the case in Bandung. That requires a shake up of the club culture and it remains to be seen whether or not the club want to go down that road.

 

FIFA Congratulate Bali As Bhayangkara Lift Title

I received a message from my brother yesterday. 'Why,' he wanted to know 'weren't Bali United champions?' Long story I replied.

It wasn't only a West Ham United fan with no knowledge of Indonesian football who was asking questions about Bhayangkara's surprise title success.

The game's world governing body was caught out as well. They congratulated Bali United on winning Liga 1 and showed a screenshot of the final table.

The ASEAN Football Federation followed suit, congratulating Bali United.

Even Bali United got in on the act. They defeated already relegated Gresik United 3-0 and held a party after the game with the players wearing t shirts describing themselves as The Real Champions! The flares and smoke bombs won't go down well with the league and the club could face sanctions.

Meanwhile in Bekasi the actual champions Bhayangkara took the lead against Persija through the prolific Ilija Spaosjevic only  for the visitors to fight back with two goals from Ramdhani Lestalahu to give them the three points and cementing their spot in the top four and the AFC Cup next year.

While the league have been clamping down on pyrotechnic displays inside stadiums they seem less concerned with people being involved with more than one team and some social media wags described this game as the GW Derby. 

Despite winning the league Bhayangkara won't be playing in Asian football in 2018 despite sharing the same stadium as Persija. Why? I don't know...As for my brother? He shrugged his shoulders and went to see Wimbledon play Peterborough United.

 

Madura United's Odemwingie Takes To Social Media

Madura United's Peter Odemwingie has been sucked into an online spat with his club following the team's back to back losses at the end of a season that had gone so well. The East Javan club president Achsanul Qosari took to social media to explain to the team's supporters that Odemwingie would be leaving the club.

'Since the game with Bhayangkara (when Odemwingie was sent off after being on the receiving end of some bad challenges) Odemwingie has been felt unhappy about continuing his career in Indonesia. He was really angry with opponents who he felt were trying to provoke him in a way that went against the spirit of fair play.'

Odemwingie seemed to have really taken to life in Indonesia, he started the season on fire with 13 goals in quick succession and his social media accounts showed a guy happy in his skin in his adopted country and not one reflecting on his past career as other high profile names have done. A few months back it was announced he would be signing on for a second season with Madura United but that seems to be over now.

'He (Odemwingie) has returned the down payment he had already received from Madura United,' continued Qosari, 'and he is not available to play in Indonesia again.'

Odemwingie hasn't responded well to Qosari's comments. In a tweet addressed to the club president he says 'can you please not quote me in the press? Especially things I never said. Thank you.'

He followed up a couple of hours later with a longer post saying the club shouldn't use 'my name to complain about the league operators because we didn't become champions'. He went on to say 'Yes poor decisions from referees (like it happens everywhere in the world) we can only complain and speculate about corruption until proven'. 

The Uzbek born striker goes on to admit he and the club are parting ways and are working to find a solution that is win win for both parties. 

It is ironic that Indonesian football can be so transparent at times. No English club for example would come out and say what Qosari did. Former Chelsea and west Ham United striker Carlton Cole was also taken aback to read about often negative comments about him in the local media from the club manager; Cole to having been brought up in England where dirty linen was washed within the club and not aired in public.

Odemwingie has had a good season in Indonesia and has proven to be a model professional, exactly the type of player the country needs. Hopefully a win win solution can be found for both parties.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

 

Marquee Players Leave Indonesia Less Than Impressed

With the Liga 1 season coming to an end it's time we look back at the marquee players and how they did over the course of the campaign. Were they any that stuck out from the crowd? Were there any flops? What memories will they take from Indonesia?

The notion of the marquee player came pretty late. From my understanding Persib signed Michael Essien, the former Chelsea midfielder, then the league announced clubs would be entitled to sign four foreigners and one marquee. 

Other players followed, some familiar, others less so. Madura United signed ex West Bromwich Albion striker Peter Odemwingie, Semen Padang brought in the former Spurs midfielder Didier Zokora and Mitra Kukar added ex Liverpool player Mohammad Sissoko to their ranks.

They are perhaps the best known examples but that is not to say other clubs shunned the programme. Borneo for example recruited New Zealan international Shane Smeltz who had impressed in Malaysia last season. PSM announced Wiljan Pluim, who they had signed during the second half of last season, would be their marquee while Arema brought in Juan Pino to little acclaim.

Bali United went Dutch when they signed Nick van der Velden while PS TNI's Elio Martins impressed when he first arrived. Flushed with cash from sponsorship most clubs went down the marquee route with varying levels of success.

Zokora was gone by the middle of the season. Semen Padang, normally such a stable, well run club, failed to build on the relative success of last season, in part down to Marcel Sacremento scoring far fewer goals, struggled to find any kind of consistency and come the transfer window Zokora was allowed to leave. Things didn't improve and the Padang side were ultimately relegated.

Essien was involved in one of the most controversial incidents of the season. The high risk game between Persija and Persib was moved to Solo, as usual, and Essien's Persib thought they had taken the lead in the first half when Chad striker Ezechiel N'Douassel thought he had scored with a header from close range. The ref however had different ideas and disallowed the goal and Essien, who had a perfect view of what had happened, led the protests as Persib couldn't believe their perfectly good goal had been disallowed.

Mohammad Sissoko has left his unique own mark on the title race. In fact you could say he had a direct role in Bhayangkara being crowned champions. He was sent off in the Mahakam derby between Mitra Kukar and Borneo and his team left him out of their next game which they lost 4-0. With Sissoko restored to the line up for their next game, at home to title challengers Bhayangkara Mitra Kukar drew 1-1 and it looked for all the world like Bali United would go on and be crowned champions.

The league then announced that in actual fact Sissoko had been suspended for two games, not one, hence was illegible to play against Bhayangkara and awarded the game 3-0 to the men in green. You can of course imagine the outcry this caused as those two extra points meant Simon McMenemy's team were back on top of the table and, thanks to better results in a head to head with Bali, only needed to beat Madura United to win the league for the first time in their history.

And it was in Madura where Peter Odemwingie. The Uzbekistan born striker seemed to have really taken to life in Indonesia and his 13 goals in the first half of the season helped put Madura United in the mix for the title. Then he was injured and was forced to miss a couple of months. By the time he returned Madura had lost ground on the leaders and all that was left to play for was personal pride. 

Odemwingie scored twice in his first three games on his return. Then came the game with Bhayangkara. The game was played behind closed doors, police kept fans away from the main entrance to the stadium, thronged the corridors in the main stand and the kick off was delayed as the TV channels were showing some wedding reception apparently. 

For a title decider the game was dreadful. The tackles were flying thick and fast and when Odemwingie lashed out at Bhayangkara's Indra Khahfi after being on the receiving end of some dodgy tackles, the Iranian ref had no hesitation in brandishing a straight red. Odemwingie had lost it and he looked like the kind of guy who had just had enough. Think Joey Barton playing for Queens Park Rangers against Manchester City when they won the Premier League. 

In a controversial end to a controversial season three of the highest profile marquee players played key roles in the action for good or bad. Neither of them featured in their team's last games. It could take a good agent to convince them to stay another season. Sadly for Indonesian football Essien, Sissoko and Odemwingie have many friends in football. Next time an Indonesian club comes calling for one of their mates can you imagine the type of reference they would be given?

People may want to flex their muscles. They may want to show they have 'power' and 'influence'. But beyond Indonesia's shores their names mean nothing. Football is the global game and footballers are global players. When Odemwingie, Essien and Sissoko tell the world about their experiences here, about the way a result was changed, a letter was misplaced, a kick off delayed there will only be one loser. 



Thursday, November 09, 2017

 

ASEAN Domestic Champions Five Year Record

Indonesia 

2013 - Persipura
2014 - Persib
2015 - Gresik United*
2016 - Persipura**
2017 - Bhayangkara

* season halted following FIFA suspension
** Indonesia Soccer Championship is not recognised as an official league

Malaysia

2013 -  LionsXII
2014 -  Johor Darul Ta'zim
2015 -  Johor Darul Ta'zim
2016 -  Johor Darul Ta'zim
2017 -  Johor Darul Ta'zim

Singapore

2013 - Tampines Rovers
2014 - Warriors
2015 - DPMM
2016 - Albirex Niigata
2017 - Albirex Niigata

Thailand

2013 - Buriram United
2014 - Buriram United
2015 - Buriram United
2016 - Muang Thong United*
2017 - Buriram United

The 2016 season was cut short when the Thai king died

 

Bhayangkara Champions After Spaso Hat Trick

The circumstances may have been controversial but then what in Indonesian football isn't? Bhayangkara have been there or there abouts all season, impressing many with their open, attacking football. Coach Simon McMenemy has shown he isn't afraid to make the big shouts along the way for example replacing Thiago Fortuoso with Ilija Spasojevic mid season or placing his trust in 20 year old rookie keeper Awan Setho Raharjo.

Nine wins in 11 games seemed to have set Bhayangkara on course for their first ever title when they travelled to Banjarmasin to face Barito Putera. Jacksen F Thiago's team had made a name for themselves giving the leading teams nervous moments and indeed earlier in the season had nicked a 1-0 victory in Bekasi against Bhayangkara despite playing on the back foot for most of the 90 minutes. History repeated as they defeated McMenemy's men 1-0 again, their first loss since the end of July.

Four days later Bhayangkara had a chance to reassert their authority when they hosted fellow title challengers PSM but two goals early in the second half saw them slump to a second defeat in less than a week and suddenly Bhayangkkara were looking up at the leaders rather than down on the chasing pack.

Fortunately for the coaching staff their next game wasn't for eight days and they were able to concentrate on doing their thing on the training ground. Bhayangkara aren't a big club by any stretch of the imagination. They started life as Persikubar in East Kalimantan and through a series of tortuous, and not always transparent, mergers and acquisitions now find themselves in Bekasi, West Java, a dormitory suburb of Jakarta as a police owned team, reliant on off duty coppers for support.

This low profile meant the team were able to get on with restoring any battered confidence they may have felt after straight losses far from the media spotlight that would have accompanied more established teams. They were put through their paces ahead of their next game against Persela, a side troubled having lost their legendary goalkeeper Choirul Huda following a tragic on field collision in a recent game.

There is no sympathy on the football field and with newly naturalised striker Ilija Spasojevic, boasting a fresh Indonesian passport, opening the scoring the police backed side went on to win the game 3-1. Bhayangkara were back but their run in was tricky.

Their game away to Madura United was postponed at the last minute when the hosts were unable to find an alternate venue; they had been slapped with a stadium ban following an incident at a previous game. For some reason no action was taken against Madura for failing to fulfil a fixture but Bhayangkara now knew they would face a busy final week to the season with three games in a week including a fair amount of travel.

Next up was Mitra Kukar away, never an easy place to play. McMenemy's team came away with a point and with Bali United winning away to PSM thanks to an injury time winner from Stefano Lilypaly it seemed the title had slipped away. Then, in the hours leading up to the rearranged Madura United game, an apparent administration oversight (I'm being polite here) saw the title race turned upside down. Mitra Kukar were found guilty of playing an illegible player, M Sissoko,  and the game was awarded to Bhayangkara 3-0. Despite having an inferior goal difference to Bali United, Bhayangkara had come out on top in their meetings so all they needed to do was win in Madura and they would be crowned champions.

And win they did but only in the strangest of circumstances. Despite being banned from watching the game inside the stadium Madura United fans had apparently been told they could gather in the car park to support their team. This permission was then rescinded and a large police presence ensured no fans could get near the stadium. Kick off was then delayed, apparently because a it clashed with a wedding reception. 

They finally did kick off and Bhayangkara won 3-1 thanks to a Spasojevic hat trick. It was an untidy game at best. Paolo Sergio missed an early penalty for Bhayangkara, striking the post. Peter Odemwingie, so impressive for Madura United, was red carded after lashing out at Indra Kahfi. Substitute Fandi Eko Utomo was on the field for about three minutes and was booked twice before being sent off. Madura United ended the game with eight players when substitute Rizky Febrianto, who had pulled one back, was sent off with five minutes remaining.

Bhayangkara celebrated like champions do. Let the controversies and conspiracies swirl this was their moment. Winning the title in any country is no easy achievement, in Indonesia it is even harder. Bhayangkara can be criticised for a number of things but not on the playing side. McMenemy has built a team that plays good football and works as a unit. Watching them play you can see the discipline he has instilled in his side. His signing of Spasojevic was a master stroke as the ex Persib striker responded with 12 goals in 15 games. When Bhayangkara blinked Spaso kept on scoring. Meanwhile in the midfield unheralded South Korean Lee Yoo Joon has been the glue that has held the team together.

While the hoary old pros can look back on a job well done, Indonesian football can feel excited about the progress some of its young players have made. Evan Dimas and Putu Gede were well known before the season started but Dendy Sulistyawan, Ilham Uddin and Awan Setho Raharjo have been impressive all season while Jajang Mulyana has played with maturity in a number of positions to show his versatility.

The concept of Bhayangkara, a police backed club born from a number of mergers is never going to achieve mass support from the Indonesian football community brought up on their own local side with their history and traditions. If Bhayangkara were Thai for example where clubs have less history and bandwagons come easier the reaction to winning the title would be far more positive. And Bali United may have a sexier image, look where they come from after all, but they, along with the likes of Madura United, are doing their bit to shake up the cobwebs of the long dormant football scene on the pitch at least.

Simon McMenemy deserves kudos for the job he has done, for the team he has built and the way the team has played football. The coaching staff and the players have nothing to do with management or Liga 1 'forgetting' to send out letters. Their job is to play football and over the season they have done that pretty well.

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

 

Mystery As Liga 1 Decision Puts Bhayangkara In Pole Position

Bhayangkara - Champions Elect?
A few months back I wrote about wayang, a puppet show where the puppet master sits behind a screen and manipulates puppets while telling a story. Understanding the concept of wayang goes a long way to understanding Indonesian and the myriad WTF moments that colour life here. Whenever something happens a little out of the ordinary, which is quite often, my first thought is who benefits? Why has this happened, why now and who benefits?

That there are hidden puppet masters pulling the strings of football's stakeholders is nothing new of course. You think the rebel Liga Primer Indonesia was about football? Think again! And sadly the 2017 season is perhaps even more evidence football isn't just about 90 minutes. For some football is about ego, power and, more importantly, having the power to project that power.

When Bali United defeated PSM in Makassar thanks to Stefano Lillipaly's injury time winner it seemed the Liga 1 season had taken yet another tortuous turn in a season of tortuous twists and turns. That late, late victory, which produced surely one of the iconic pictures of the season with the PSM goalkeeper Rivky Mokodompit slumped against a goal posted looking thoroughly dejected, embracing a couple of sobbing supporters, ended PSM's title challenge and surely thrust Bali into pole position.

The three points saw them go two points clear at the top of the table with a superior goal difference ahead of Bhayangkara with the latter facing tough games against Madura United and Persija needing maximum points to be crowned champions themselves. Advantage Bali United. Or so we thought.

On 23rd October middle of the table Borneo beat middle of the table Mitra Kukar 4-0 in the Mahakam Derby. A surprise result perhaps but not one that would have had any great significance on the title race. One would have thought. Mitra Kukar's midfielder M Sissoko, yep the player who used to play for Liverpool, was red carded in the last minute. 

Normally a red card sees a player sit out the next game and dutifully Mitra Kukar left the Malian international out of their next game away to Persib. 

Twenty four hours before Mitra Kukar's next game, against Bhayangkara no less, Liga 1 apparently sent a letter advising advising 26 year old defender Herwin Tri Saputra would be illegible to play against Bhayangkara because of accumulation of yellow cards. The game went ahead 3rd November sans Saputra, but with Sissoko back in the line up, and ended 1-1. No one seemed to think too much about it at the time. Valuable points dropped by Bhayangkara yes but they were still in the title race.

Now comes news Sissoko shouldn't have played with Liga 1 claiming Sissoko should not have played in this game. Apparently the league had discussed the Sissoko case on 28th October but had, so it seems, left out details of his suspension from their letter they sent on 2nd November. Despite this apparent oversight/SNAFU, Liga 1 have decided to award the game to Bhayangkara 3-0 thus putting them back on top of Liga 1 ahead of Bali United based upon their head to head.

Tonight sees Bhayangkara play Madura United and that is another story. The teams were due to meet last month but Madura United were told they could not play a couple of home games in Madura following crowd disturbances. The club claimed they couldn't find another venue in time but rather than be punished for failing to hold a fixture the game was rearranged. Tonight's game will be played in Madura but spectators are not allowed inside the stadium. They are however being encouraged to gather outside!

Bhayangkara's last game of the season is against Persija in Bekasi. Officially a home game, given their support, and Persija's it will be to all intents and purposes a Persija home game. To add more twists and turns the Persija president was at one time the president of Bhayangkara. Indeed until recently Bhayangkara's official Instagram account used to hashtag this guy's name.

With everything now pointing to Bhayangkara winning the title, though we can expect more twists and turns in the final few days, we now know if they are crowned champions they won't be allowed to compete in the AFC Champions League because they don't have the proper licencing the AFC requires. 

As you can imagine, many football fans aren't happy with the way things are panning out. Most recognise Bhayangkara are a good team. Well coached by Simon McMenemy, they boast promising young players like Putu Gede and Evan Dimas as well as experienced players like Firman Utina and Ilija Spasojevic. But there is little respect for the football club which is mocked for having no history and no fans. 

There are also deeper concerns over what a Bhayangkara title success would say about the state of Indonesian football. Bhayangkara are of course a rebranded PS Polri, the police side that has only recently embraced professional football. And the PSSI are no run by a serving military officer. There is of course much discussion over this recent uniform interest in football and, in true wayang style, what is going on behind the scenes. The events of the last few days have done nothing to ease those concerns.


Tuesday, November 07, 2017

 

Persija's Bright Future After Ignoring Fans' Call For Coach Ouster

Remember earlier in the season when Persija were struggling to find a win? When they went on that run which saw them winless in six games, scoring two goals along the way? The fans were calling for coach Teco to be sacked, there were protests at games, banners held up calling for change at the football club?

Teco stuck to his guns and to their credit the football club did as well. Too often clubs pander to the whims of their supporters and sack the coach as soon as they feel it is what the supporters want.

The problem is of course a football fan is a fickle beast. For the fan the last result is everything and when you keep failing to score then you're not going to win, no matter how good your defence is.

And Teco was building a good defence. In fact that's what good coaches do. They build a team on a strong back line. Sadly for coaches building a defence is neither sexy nor quick. Ask the likes of Sam Allardyce or George Graham. But good teams are built on the foundation of a good defence and for all Persija's woes in front of goal they were still a tough nut to crack, conceding just five goals in that run.

In Andritany Ardhiyasa between the sticks they have a serious contender for player of the season. While the defence were getting used to each other there was Andritany on hand to rescue Persija time and time again with saves taken from the top drawer.

The back line ware one of the most imposing sights in Indonesian football with height and physical presence to intimidate the small, slightly built but agile local strikers. At the heart of the defence Brazilian William Pachecho has been a revelation. This guy is massive and has chipped in with a few goals along the way, forming an ever improving partnership with the veteran Maman Abdurahman. 

Its not all about age and experience. Left sided Rezaldi Hehanusa has come in and performed consistently well over the season and the 22 year old , happy birthday today, has been rewarded for his efforts by national team coach Luis Milla who has played him against Puerto Rico and Cambodia. 

Now of course Persija can look forward to a bright future. Despite sitting sixth in Liga 1 with a game remaining, thanks to Bhayangkara, PSM and Persipura not receiving AFC licensing they could well be representing Indonesia in the AFC Cup next year. They can also look forward to returning to a renovated Bung Karno Stadium once the Asian Games have finished and the extra cash flow that entails. And stable management off the field are finally realising the potential in their football club which has, in recent years, been seen as a lesson how not to run a club.

To think, had the club bowed to fan pressure Teco would have been long gone and who knows where the Macan Kemayoran would be now!

Sunday, November 05, 2017

 

Bambang Responds To Disallowed Goal Controversy

Bambang Pamungkas holds a unique position in the football pantheon. He is perhaps the one player respected across the length and breadth of the 17,000 islands that make up Indonesia. Bepe, as he is nicknamed, is Indonesia's Mohammed Saleh, Omar Abdulrahman, George Best, Franz Beckanbauer. He is perhaps the only footballer a humble noodle vendor or a western educated high flying businessman might recognise.

He is intelligent, articulate and cares deeply about the game. He works with the players union, APPI, trying to educate players about their rights and responsibilities to the game and their employers as well as how to negotiate the tricky world of contracts.

Bambang posts videos of him playing the piano and gives cookery tips, a passion of his. Yep, he is not your usual footballer. Hell, I have even spoken to Persib supporters who said they would welcome him should he ever forsake the Persija orange for the Bandung blue; he wouldn't out of respect to the Persija support who have cheered him for some 15 years.

And now Bambang has got caught up in the controversey surrounding the recent meeting between the two bitter foes. For when Chad striker Ezechiel N''Douassel scored what he felt was a perfectly good goal, the net rippled(!), Bambang had a good view of the event. As Persib celebrated video evidence seems to show Bambang hurrying to the centre circle as if he felt it was a goal.

The ref of course disallowed the goal and irate Persib fans took to social media to complain Bambang should have done the sporting thing and told the ref that in his view yes it was a goal. It would still have been down to the Australian referee to make a decision of course but at least, so went the Bobotoh thinking, Bambang could have made a stand.

Bambang has since written a post explaining why he didn't take any action in the cauldron of a feisty derby and full credit to him for doing so. Not many players would do the same but then not many players share the highest pedastal with him.

What we need to do is accept there are two Bambangs. The one many in football would like him to be, that rare voice of sanity in an asylum where it seems too often the lunatics have taken charge. Many, and I include myself, are crying out for someone untainted to rise from the dressing room and cast his purity over the game, magically ending match-fixing allegations, giving succor to honest match officials and telling errant supporters to put away their parangs.

And then there is a Bambang who plays for a football club and is trying to win every game he plays in for his employer and his supporters. The difference is so great any bridging is unlikely but it is to Bambang's credit, and an indication of the respect people across football have for him, they feel he is the one to speak up when injustice occurs.

In his post Bambang asks whether any Persib player would have tried to convince the ref the goal was valid had the roles been reversed. Had for example the game was being played in Bandung, there were no Persija fans present, the visitors had been taken to the game inside an armoured personnel carrier. If, for example, Bruno Lopes had scored for Persija and the ref disallowed it, as the home support rejoiced would an Atep or a Hariono have approached the ref and said, sorry mate you got it wrong?

Bambang goes on to suggest any person brave enough to have confronted the ref, risking the ire of his team mates and supporters, and said the goal was good would be possessed of wings and worthy of a FIFA Fair Play Award. 'Last time I checked, unfortunately I am still human' said the 37 year old striker.

Yes sir, you are still human. As is Paolo di Canio. The firey Italian was playing for West Ham United and with the Everton goalkeeper on the ground after failing to clear the ball and twisting his knee, was presented with an opportunity to score. Instead he caught the ball and gestured to the injured keeper suggesting he receive treatment. He was rewarded with a bollocking from his manager in the dressing room, worldwide praise for his actions and the FIFA Fair Play Award. And no one is suggesting di Canio is an angel!

As a footballing romantic I would like to have seen Bambang at least do the honourable thing. But as an Arsenal fan, had one of our players told the match officials a Spurs goal, which had been disallowed, was good I know I wouldn't be praising his honesty. 

Saturday, November 04, 2017

 

Good 'Evans. Shaun The Meek Leaves Persib Fuming After Disaster Showing

Controversy is never far away when Persija and Persib meet. Earlier in the season fan disorder in Bandung resulted in a Persib fan being beaten to death inside the stadium. Other 'events' in recent years can be found in this post I wrote some 15 months ago. When these two teams meet something invariably happens and I'm not talking about a football match.

It was Persija's turn to host Persib yesterday and Liga 1 decided in their infinite wisdom the game should be played in Solo to minimise the risk of violence. They also decreed Persib fans should not be allowed to travel to the game. Persija fans did of course, in their thousands.

One innovation in Liga 1 this season has been the introduction of foreign referees for some games, the feeling being local refs may not always be the most reliable when it comes to big decisions in high pressure games. Not every one has been in favour of foreign whistleblowers with, perhaps ironically, PSMs Dutch coach Robert Alberts arguing for other measure to clamp down on dodgy decisions by the men in the middle.

So there we have it. Persija hosting Persib in the neutral city of Solo with an Australian referee, Shaun Evans, and no away fans present. Surely this most intense of games should pass off fairly peacably? What on earth could go wrong?

Do not underestimate Indonesian football's ability to take whatthefuckery to new levels. After all this is land of three leagues, two national teams, two players' unions, three Persemas last season and who knows what else over the years?

Early in the first half and Persija's veteran striker Rudi Widodo comes flying in on Persib's tigerish midfield player Kim Kurniawan forcing the German born player to leave the field and head straight to hospital. Remember, we are only a couple of weeks on from burying Persela's keeper Choirul Huda after he was on the receiving end of a much more innocuous one that clattered Kim. The ref gave Rudi a yellow card and Persib were seething.

Before the half hour mark and Persib were positively irate. Chad striker Ezechiel N'Douassel heads the ball in to the ground and rises up over the despairing reach of Persija keeper Andritany and in to the roof of the net. N'Douassel wheels away in triumph, former Chelsea midfielder Michael Essian punches the air in triumph. Persib had taken the lead against their bitterest foe. Or so they thought. The Australian ref says it was no goal! The ball rippled the fucking net! And, interestingly, Bambang Pamungkas, arguably the most respected player in the country, appears to be heading back to the centre circle. He was close enough to see what had happened.

As one the Persib players surrounded the match officials but of course they were not going to change their mind. First they had lost one of their key players, no they had a goal chalked off, the game was less than 30 minutes and things were not going their way. Surely the whole point of having foreign match officials is to assure players and supporters a game is going to be played in a fair and just manner? And here we have two game changing decisions in the first 30 minutes favouring one team over another under the auspices of foreign match officials!

In the second half the ref awarded Persija a penalty and followed that up with giving Persib defender Vladimir Vujovic a red card after giving Bruno Lopes a tug outside the penalty area and that was too much for the visiting team. The straw that broke the camel's back?

It is too early to consider whether the experiment with foreign refs continues but after the Shaun Evans horror show in Solo no doubt questions will be asked. Certainly Persib will have a thing or two to say about it. Suffice to say the Aussie whistler won't be a popular man should he ever venture down in West Java any time soon!

Oh yeah, the game. The result leaves Persija on the cusp of a surprise AFC Cup slot and Persib looking back on a woeful run of one win in 10 games.

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

 

Asia Beckons Not For PSM, Bhayangkara


Title challengers PSM, Bhayangkara and Persipura have been told they do not meet the criteria for AFC licensing and as such will not be allowed to enter AFC club competitions next season. Potentially three Indonesian teams could go through to either the AFC Champions League and the AFC Cup in 2018 with the Liga 1 champions entering the play offs for the ACL. The second and third placed teams go straight into the AFC Cup


The news comes as PSM and Bhayangkara at least hold out strong hopes of lifting the Liga 1 title at the end of the season which comes in a couple of weeks.

Quite why these clubs will not be allowed to qualify isn't clear. Certainly Persipura, who have represented Indonesia several times in the Asian club competition, most recent in 2015 before FIFA  suspended Indonesia, can feel hard done by.

Five teams have however been cleared for AFC competition; Bali United who lead the table on goal difference from PSM and Bhayangkara, and Madura United who sit five points adrift. Sixth place Persija, 9th placed Arema and 11th placed Persib could reap an Asian cup bonanza despite their perfromances falling short of earning a spot by merit.

As things stand Bali United and Madura United can start planning for next season leaving Persija to fill the final spot but of course this is Indonesia and anything can happen.

All this is of course mightily depressing for clubs like Bhayangkara and PSM who have led the table for most of the season. Coaches Simon McMenemy and Robert Alberts are to be denied the opportunity to pit their wits against regional rivals because of some pedantic last minute box tickers and promising young players like Evan Dimas and Puti Gede are likely to miss out on some valuable experience.

Not for the first time we are witnessing football authorities scrambling at the last minute to make decisions that should have been taken before the season had even started.

 

Liga 2 Quarter Final Groups, Venues Decided

The Liga 2 quarter final schedule and venues have finally been announced. The PSSI have said the two four team groups will be based in West Java for reasons of security and the chosen stadiums are easily accessible.

We are still awaiting details of who plays who on what date. For now the cities of Bekasi and Cikarang can look forward to a large influx of football fans with Persebaya and Persis supporters at least likely to travel in large numbers.

Anticipating trouble, from players or supporters, the PSSI have warned any clubs involved in misbehaviour riks being thrown out of the competition.

As things stand the top three teams will be promoted to Liga 1 where they will replace Gresik United, Persiba and one of Perseru and Semen Padang.

Group X - Wibawa Mukti Stadium, Cikarang (Match days 9/11, 12/11, 15/11)

Persis, PSMS, Kalteng Putra, Martapura

Group Y - Patriot Stadium, Bekasi (10/11, 13/11, 16/11)

PSIS, PSPS, Persebaya, PSMP

22/11 - Semi finals

25/11 - Liga 2 Final



Tuesday, October 31, 2017

 

Persija v Persib Switched To Solo At Last Minute

Yesterday was Monday. Persija are due to host Persib on Friday and like we do every year we are treated to this traditional dance where the home team suggest where they would like the game to be played while the league organisers, fluttering their eyebrows and acting demurely behind a colourful fan say little to discourage the come ons.

It has been suggested the game be played at the recently renovated Bung Karno Stadium. It is being renovated so Jakarta can welcome Asia to next year's Asian Games, a high profile event. The last thing the organisers want is their showpiece venue ripped apart by irate football fans and fortunately the stadium owners have said no, they can't play the highly charged game there.

Persija have of course been playing their home games in Bekasi this season at the Patriot Stadium. It's not far from the centre of Jakarta and is easily accessible. The problem is Bekasi sits in West Java and that is Persib land. Yes, we may have seen Persija and Persib fans come together earlier in the season outside the stadium in a public show of reconciliation and there have been high profile attempts on the ground to lessen tensions at street level between the two sets of supporters but would they be forgotten come match day?

So, on Monday, Liga 1 decided the game would be played at the Manahan Stadium in Solo this Friday. Assuming both teams would want to be in town a couple of days before the game that would leave less than 48 hours for Persib and Persija to source plane tickets, hotel rooms and book training sessions. And what about the fans who need to make their own arrangements to travel to Central Java by planes, trains and buses?

Why does it take the league so long to come to the most basic of decisions? They have known all along the venue for this game could prove contentious. Hell, I've been contacted by people from overseas wanting to watch this game asking where it will be played. 

Just for once it would be nice to have football authorities get ahead of the curve when it comes to matters like these and make decisions in advance and stick to them. Assuming of course the tail isn't wagging the dog. Professional football needs professional people in positions of authority taking professional decisions for the good of the game. Dicking around with the venue of a football match four days before it is due to be played is not professional.

Everyone knows this of course. However they just wheel out that old standby, that get out of jail free card. This is Indonesia. To which of course the answer is self explanatory. Football isn't going to make any kind of progress on the international stage, let alone domestically, when the answer to any question is just a mediocre cliche.

 

Persiba Fall Short And Face The Drop

Persiba's brave bid to avoid relegation ended in tears as they were cruelly defeated 4-3 at home by Madura United on Sunday when two late goals from the visitors guaranteed them the points and the home side the drop.

The Honey Bears battling qualities were never in doubt right till the end. Against Madura United they had some from 1-0 down to lead 3-2 with 12 minutes remaining. 3-0 down away to Barito Putera they clawed back to 3-2 thanks to Anmar Al Mubaraki in injury time. 3-0 down away to Bhayangkara in 30 minutes they fought back to 3-2 at half time. Leading 2-1 at home to Persib before they equalised with 17 minutes remaining.

Time and again Persiba found themselves either in good positions but unable to close the game down or with too much of a mountain to climb and the minutes ebbing away. Which ultimately sums up their season.

Should they be relegated, and given the lack of transparency over the quarter final stage of Liga 2 giving rise to conspiracy theories about no relegation/promotion this season, there is something to build on in Balikpapan if the nucleus of the squad can be kept together.

That is the nub of course. For many teams, relegation is an excuse not to invest, either time or money, in the local team. Power brokers don't like to be associated with what they see as losers and supporters often lose interest. The money probably won't be there to tempt the likes of Marlon da Silva and Srdan Lopicic to stick around for a campaign in the second tier.

In Persiba's favour is the attendances once they moved to Batakan Stadium. Nearly every game attracted a five figure crowd, something impossible at Persiba Stadium, and even when the final nail was driven into the coffin at the Madura game just shy of 8,000 saw the game.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

 

Balikpapan Hosting Arsenal, Liverpool Masters

It's very difficult for event organisers to host events outside of Jakarta and Bali. All too often the facilities don't exist that can attract world class events. We're talking venues for example, hotels. Even basics like international flight connections. With the best will in the world asking the internationally famous to visit anywhere which is a two hour drive from an airport that is a two hour flight from a major hub is always going to be a hard ask.

That's why the city of Balikpapan in East Kalimantan at least deserves credit for trying to enter the market. It has a gleaming, modern new airport with a handful of international connections. It has decent hotels. And now of course it has Batakan Stadium, a decent, international class stadium to offer as a venue.

The stadium has quickly become a source of pride to the good people of Balikpapan. The local team, Persiba, have struggled in the bottom three all season and their supporters have been used to seeing their heroes in the pokey Persiba Stadium where around 3 or 4,000 would turn up on a regular basis. Since moving to the Batakan the fans have turned out in large numbers averaging around 14,000 per game even as the drop was confirmed.

With Persiba's season all but over a huge, expensive stadium still needs to pay for itself so kudos to organisers for arranging a high profile event next month featuring former players from Indonesia, Arsenal and Liverpool. Now typically I'm not a fan of these type of events but for now I'm looking at it as an opportunity to provide people who live far from Jakarta and Bali to see the famous names up close and personal. Interestingly Persiba have a game on the same day, away to Persela.

No line ups have been confirmed yet as I understand it but Robert Pires, Freddie Ljungberg. Mikael Silvestre (!), Jan Arne Riise and David James are among some of the names being linked with the event.

The games take place next Sunday and the marketing is in overdrive as the organisers try to get the bums on seats, and their overheads covered, to make the promotion pay. Unfortunately for them the local health and safety people have decided only the lower tier of the 40,000 capacity stadium can be used meaning a capacity now of 20,000, much as it has been for Persiba's home games. Quite why nothing has been done to make the top tier ready for the domestic games let alone a prestigious event like this isn't clear. What it means of course for the supporters is cheap tickets are now at a premium.

VIP West - 84 GBP
East Stand -  42 GBP
North Stand - 18 GBP
South Stand - 18 GBP

It remains to be seen how many tickets will be sold at these prices.

As well as the games themselves a couple of other events are being lined up to allow supporters, or just the wealthy, the chance to get up close and personal with the retired pros. A welcome dinner with 32 players from both Liverpool and Arsenal is on the cards, no mention of the Indonesian players who may be available for Indomie at a local warung or not, I don't know. Anyway for a sit down nose bag with the players from the English giants, people are being asked to pay around 560 GBP which includes two VIP tickets for the two hour experience.

Where would we be without a coaching clinic? One will be held at the Batakan Stadium the day after the event, on Monday 6th November, and is limited to 200 kids. The three hour session will set parents back a cool 168 GBP which includes two East Stand tickets, a polo shirt and a tumbler.

I do genuinely wish the organisers well with this. Indonesia is a big country and has an expanding middle class and Balikpapan as a city is booming. Many will see this as a good chance to see famous names and of course make an impact on social media. I have my doubts whether it is the right product. Yes, put Balikpapan on the map but why not host Malaysia or Brunei in a full international? Or organise a trofeo with teams like DPMM, Sabah, Sarawak, Persiba and nearby Samarinda?


 

Bobotoh Keep The Faith Despite Poor Run

Persib finally ended their eight match winless run as they defeated Mitra Kukar 3-1 yesterday at the Si Jalak Harapat Stadium in Soreang. They made their supporters sweat for the victory mind. 

Febri Haryadi had given them the lead just shy of the hour mark with his fourth goal of the season but when Marclei Santos levelled 12 minutes later you could forgive the home supporters for rolling their eyes and thinking here we go again. Persib have after all drawn 14 games this season.

However injury time saw a tidal wave of relief sweep around the sparsely occupied terraces as Achmad Jufriyanto and Raphael Maitimo, from the penalty spot, confirmed that rarest of events; three points and a win. Their last victory had come back in early September when they had beaten Sriwijaya 4-1 in Palembang. Since then a monotonous landscape of draws and defeats has tested the patience of the Persib faithful.

Unlike the Arema supporters, who have pretty much turned their backs on the team during their well documented struggles, the Bobotoh have stuck by their team as these numbers show.

09/09 v Semen Padang 2-2 21,617
21/09 v Bali United 0-0 23,515
24/09 v Bhayangkara 1-1 21,908
09/10 v Barito Putera 0-0 7,197
19/10 v Madura United 0-0 7,223
27/10 v Mitra Kukar 3-1 7,264

Yes, an unhealthy drop in attendances is nothing to crow about but the Persib fan base have shown a greater willingness to stick with their team through the lean times than for example Arema, a similarly sized club with a fan base to match.

18/08 v Persiba 3-0 1,664
30/08 v PSM 3-3 6,116
16/09 v Persela 2-0 6,008
24/09 v Persija 1-1 26,917
20/10 v PS TNI 1-1 4,363
25/10 v Gresik United 2-0 2,269

Arema's crowd figures make for interesting, if depressing, reading. Compare for example the attendance when they hosted Persiba. Not the most attractive game for the East Java side perhaps but when they met earlier in the season, when the Honey Bears were playing in Malang, the crowd was 20,000! Local derbies against Persela and Gresik United have failed to stir the passions among the Aremania and arguably the only good number from their game against Persija comes in part because of a large away support and the close relationship between the two sets of supporters.

Both Arema and Persib boast strong home records but find themselves mid table, mired in inconsistency and fan discontent but it is the Bobotoh who are showing greater signs of reliance when it comes to watching games. 

There is a suspicion Arema fans are turning their back because of the current management which they, now don't recognise as being the real Arema. There was another Arema playing in Liga 3 which some believe have a greater claim to the legacy of the founding fathers of this football club.

Persib supporters too have issues with management and recently took to the streets to express their disgust at what they felt was interference on the playing side. 

Football fans the world over are drawn when it comes to protesting at how they perceive their club is being run. No fan wants to miss a game, ask any Arsenal supporter if they would consider boycotting games to express their disgust at management and the answer would be a resounding No. It's different in Indonesia. Fans will walk away if they feel there isn't enough being done to make their club successful and that is what we are seeing to a certain extent with Arema and to a lesser degree with Persib.

The Indonesian football landscape is changing and it is frustrating for fans of the old order, clubs like Persib and Arema, to see a newer breed of club, more professional, overtake their heroes. You get the impression Persib only need to do some behind the scenes tinkering to get the fans back on side, at the expense of some egos. In Malang however the fissure runs deeper and without a wholesale rethink within the football club it is unlikely the Aremania will be returning in large numbers any time soon.

Friday, October 27, 2017

 

Boost For Luis Milla As Spasojevic Receives Indonesian Passport

Bhayangkara's striker Ilija Spasojevic is now officially an Indonesian citizen. The Montenegrin born 30 year old who was signed by Simon McMenemy's team during the mid season transfer window could now be a candidate for the national team. I say could be; recent squads announced by coach Luis Milla have put the focus squarely on young local players.

Over the years I have often likened Spasojevic to Zlatan Ibrahimovic, a lazy comparison now perhaps but appropriate in its way. Both have good body strength and both are technically gifted players, good both in the air and on the ground. 

Unlike many foreign players who head to South East Asia in the twilight of their careers, Spaso headed east at a relatively young 23 with an impressive resume that already included clubs like Vojvodina and Dinamo Tblisi. 

He arrived during the tumulutuos times of the Liga Prima Indonesia, the rebel league set up in 2011 as part of a political bitch fest, sorry a bid to improve the domestic game. He played for Bali Dewata in that season and scored a credible 10 goals in 14 games before the league was halted half way through.

He had done enough though to impress and has since played for PSM, Mitra Kukar, Putra Samarinda, Persib, Malaysia's Melaka United, arguably where he enjoyed his most prolific spell, and now of course Bhayangkara. As for wearing the merah putih of Indonesia? Who knows.

Bali Dewata 14 8
PSM             29 19
Mitra Kukar 16 10
Pusam          23 12
Persib            8 4 
Melaka Utd  35 30
Bhayangkara 12 7

Thursday, October 26, 2017

 

Borneo's Terens Puhiri Becomes Internet Sensation


Borneo are on a bit of a roll at the moment, winning three games in their last four. Especially sweet would have been their 4-0 demolition of Mitra Kukar in the Mahakam Derby. Now, as Indonesian derbies go this may not be on a par with some of the most intense in the country but that hasn't stopped one of the goals going viral.

Terens Puhiri has only just turned 21 and until now has been seen as perhaps just another speed merchant in a league full of them. The Papua born striker has been in Samarinda since 2013 but it has only been the current season when he has been making a name for himself with six goals in his 28 games.

But it is his most recent goal that has been making waves. When a Mitra Kukar attack breaks down just outside the Borneo penalty area Puhiri pounces. There is an MK defender closer to the ball and moving in from the centre circle but it is Puhiri who has reacted quickest and the advantage is eaten up as the Borneo striker goes into overdrive. 

Puhiri skips past the lunging defender but despite his touch being heavy he has the pace to catch up with the ball. Again his touch may have let more static strikers down as the keeper rushes out but Puhiri plays the ball wide, has the pace to catch up with the ball again and turn it into an empty net leaving him to celebrate by himself; his team mates are nowhere to be seen in the one man counter attack!

The lung busting run has gone viral in this internet age leaving Terens Puhiri being talked about around the world as media from Spain to Turkey have highlighted his effort. Gone are the criticisms over his poor touch as people marvel over his speed and endurance. A week and a half after the football world mourned the loss of the legendary Choirul Huda how refreshing to see an Indonesian player make the headlines for positive reasons!

Apologies for the commentator...we have to put up with this every game!

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