Monday, January 29, 2018


RD Return Has Sriwijaya Dreaming Of Glory

After two years in Malaysia with unfancied T Team Indonesia's most successful coach, Rahmad Darmawan, has returned home to one of his former clubs, Sriwijaya, with a simple brief; bring back the glory days.

Under RD first time round Laskar Wong Kito won the Indonesia Super League and added three Indonesian Cups to their trophy cabinet and since he left times have been pretty lean for the Sriwijaya faithful. But his return and the addition of some big name signings have them believing the good times may be just around the corner.

Certainly 2017 is one to forget for the Palembang based club. They decided coach Widodo Cahyono Putro wasn't the man to lead them for the season and replaced him with Osvaldo Lessa on the eve of the new campaign. Lessa struggled, despite the goals of veteran striker Alberto Goncalves they finished in the lower half of the table, while Widodo was gleefully snapped up by Bali United, leading them to second place and a campaign in Asian club competition beckons.

The arrival of RD has encouraged some big names to make the move to South Sumatra with Hamka Hamkah, Makan Konate, Patrich Wanggai and Esteban Vizcarra among those looking to help the team improve on last season's poor showing. Good teams need a spine and with Hamka, Konate and Goncalves down the middle RD certainly has experience and talent at the core of his team.

As well as the golden oldies RD is putting his faith in youngsters with goalkeeper Teja Paku Alam, a rare success last season, and Ichsan Kurniawan sticking around while midfielder Adam Alis and full back Alfin Tuasalamony have also been added to the ranks after signing from Arema and Bhayangkara. Alfin is of course no stranger to RD having teamed up together at Persebaya four or five years ago but his career has been blighted by injuries in recent seasons and he will be hoping to show the sort of form that marked him at as one for the future when he was younger and had him enjoy spells in Uruguay and Belgium.

Despite losing their opening game in the President Cup to hosts Persib 1-0 Sriwijaya had no problems qualifying from their group. They defeated PSMS 3-0 (goals from Alis, Konate and another new signing Manuchekher Dzhaliov, a Tajikistan international). Sriwijaya won their final group game against PSM with another goal from Konate, a penalty, and an own goal ensuring comfotable passage to the knock out round which will be held in Solo next month.

With all the positivity surrounding the return of RD the only blemish on the horizon could be the small matter of where the team play their home games. With Palembang co hosting the multi-event Asian Games their first choice Jakabaring Stadium will be out of bounds for at least the first half of the season forcing Sriwijaya to use the much smaller Bumi Sriwijaya Stadium. The team did use that stadium towards the end of last season though and perhaps the smaller crowds will be able to generate a more hostile atmosphere for visiting teams.

Saturday, January 27, 2018


An Indonesian Diaspora

I don't recall a time when so many Indonesian players have decided now is the time for them to try their luck abroad. Yes, we have seen officially sanctioned programmes which have seen young players sent to Italy and Uruguay but what we are seeing now is talented professionals deciding to go overseas in a bid to improve their experience and their life skills. And they're doing this against a crescendo of whining from the PSSI chief who bemoans their lack of patriotism.

There are now at least eight players who have signed for teams in Thailand and Malaysia and while the quality and profile may not be on a par with the likes of Thai internationals Teerathon and Teerasil heading to Japan at least a mindset seems to developing there is more to being a professional footballer than bakso and questionable management practises.

Ilham Udin Armayn (Bhayangkara to Selangor)

I have lost count of the number of times I raved about this 21 year old lad last season when he broke through under Simon McMenemy's astute management at the champions Bhayangkara scoring vital goals along the way to their surprise triumph. Ilham seemed unphased by opponents and there would be a genuine buzz around the stadium if he was brought on as a sub; Indonesia is full of speed merchants, Ilham brings quality and end product to the table. I was genuinely chuffed when he got his move to Selangor and that he also scored for the national team against Iceland was just the icing on the cake.

Evan Dimas (Bhayangkara to Selangor)

While Ilham's star appeared to rise overnight Evan Dimas has seemingly been around for years. He first made a national impact in Indra Sjafri's successful Under 19 squad and was soon promoted to the national team; indeed at one stage I seem to recall he had made more appearances for the merah putih than he had for his club side Bhayangkara which he joined in 2016 from Persebaya. Dimas is no stranger to football outside of Indonesia having had trials in Spain with a couple of clubs earlier in his career and while Selangor will not be unfamiliar to him it will perhaps offer the Surabaya born midfielder a larger shop window.

Ryuji Utomo (Persija to PTT Rayong)

Ryuji personifies the spirit of seeing football as a world game and not just one restricted to a few islands in his home country. He may only be 22 but the defender has already tasted life in Uruguay and Bahrain so won't be too phased by life in a quiet Thai beach town a few hours outside of Bangkok. Sadly his career has been blighted by injury and he has yet to make his mark over a sustained period of games but he will be hoping to change that breathing the see air on the Gulf of Thailand.

Ferdinand Sinaga (PSM to Kelantan)

I find it hard to believe Sinaga is pushing 30 years of age! After doing the rounds of lower league clubs Sinaga made headlines when he was part of the SEA Games side that reached the final back in 2011, a side that boasted Patrich Wanggai, Andik Vermansyah and Titus Bonai among others. He was playing for Persiwa at the time and his exploits in the international competition saw bigger clubs sit up and take notice. Most recently he has experienced something of a renaissance under Robert Alberts at PSM with 22 goals in his two seasons, catching the eye of suitors before deciding to join Kelantan. The North East side are very much fallen giants in Malaysia but have massive potential and the supporters there will surely take to Sinaga's all action style.

Yanto Basna (Sriwijaya to Khon Kaen)

The Sorong born 22 year old defender will find himself right outside of his comfort zone as he adapts to life in Thailand's North East but as another member of the Uruguay alumni shouldn't take too long to adapt. While Yanto has earned rave reviews for his cultured style of play he has also attracted criticism for his end of season exploits, most noticeably the will he, won't he transfer moves which haven't endeared him to some fans. Is Khon Kaen a step above Sriwijaya? Unlikely but many people regard the Thai league to be stronger than the Indonesian, questionable, and he will have the opportunity to parade his skills in front of a football fraternity with pretty impressive contacts throughout the region and beyond.

Achmad Jufriyanto (Persib to Kuala Lumpur)

Jupe's tearful departure from Bandung, his second stint at the club, sees the end of Persib's successfull centre half pairing (along with Vladimir Vujovic) and a first spell overseas for the 30 year old. Doubtless Jupe would have had offers aplenty locally but perhaps after winning two titles in Indonesia (Arema and Persib) he felt the time was right was new pastures? Certainly the contrast between KL and Persib is stark. Bandung may look like a large, sprawling city to the untrained eye but in football terms it is a village where everyone knows what everyone else is up to. KL will afford Jupe a degree of anonymity he hasn't enjoyed for a while and who knows, he may even have dreams of playing himself back into the national team where he 16 caps. 

Terens Puhiri (Borneo to Port)

This is perhaps one of the more interesting moves and is an indication of increasing contacts between Indonesia and the rest of the region. The 21 year old flyer has been in Samarinda since 2013 and signed for Borneo in 2015. For a while it looked like he would be just one of many small pacy players that Indonesia churns out like a production line, less than 5 foot 6 inches, light as a feather but as fast as the wind. Then he scored a goal, against Mitra Kukar, which went viral and he soon became known beyond the borders and people became aware of the Papuan born flyer and he signed for Port on loan for 2018. Hopefully the move is a success and not just one based on a few seconds of You Tube fame.

David Laly (Barito Putera - FELCRA)

I honestly don't know what to make of this particular move. The 26 year old Laly has been a steady performer throughout his career without disturbing any Ibu's carefully coiffured hair along the way. Just a steady pro making his way through an unspectacular career thath as seen him play for Persipura, Persidafon, Pelita Bandung Raya and Persib before ending up in 2017 under Jacksen F Thiago at Barito Putera where he did enough to earn interest from overseas. Let's face it, FELCRA are no Selangor or Kelantan. Hell, they aren't even KL, rather they are a government department better known as Federal Land Consolidation and Rehabilitation Authority, a name that hardly rolls off the tongue. This coming season will be their first ever in Malaysia's second tier and Laly will be part of history! 

Friday, January 19, 2018


Madura's Naturalised Vets Hit Ground Running

The President Cup, staged in five cities around Indonesia, is kicking off this week as clubs get earnest about their preparations for the new season and it seems one particular club have hit the ground running.

The 2017 Liga 1 season was Madura United's first as a professional club having bought the licence of Pelita Jaya in 2016 and they did admirably finishing the season in fifth place, earning themselves a place in this year's AFC Cup thanks in large part to the goals of ex West Bromwich Albion striker Peter Odemwingie.

The Nigerian marksman has since moved on Madura coach Gomes de Olivera has been kept busy looking to replace his goals but rather than look overseas for an experienced player lacking in the Indonesian experience he has looked closer to home and opted for experience over youthful promise.

Without doubt the highest profile inbound signing has been veteran Cristian Gonzales. Despite being on fire during last season's President Cup with Arema, scoring 11 goals as the Crazy Lions went on to lift the trophy, he struggled to make an impression in a poor side during the Liga 1 season as the team finished ninth.

The 41 year old Uruguayan goal getter came to Indonesia in 2003 when he signed for PSM and has been here ever since, playing for Persik, Persib and Persisam before signing for Arema in 2013. Any chance of El Loco slowing down in Malang didn't last long, despite last season's poor showing he still averaged a goal every two games.

His goals aren't the only asset Gonzales brings to the Madura table. He was naturalised in 2010, becoming the first foreign born player to go on and wear the red and white of Indonesia in an international and has since gone on to make 28 appearances for his adopted country.

Another naturalised player Gomes will be looking to for goals is attacking midfielder Raphael Maitimo. Unlike Gonzales the Dutch born Maitimo has an family connection with Indonesia. The 33 year old fine tuned his skills with Dutch giants Feyenoord before moving to Indonesia in 2011 to play in the short lived IPL. He has played for a good few clubs since then, last season being the top scorer with Persib.

As you might imagine given his Dutch roots Maitimo is an extremely talented player, comfortable with the ball played to feet and boasting an exquisite array of passing and a lethal shot. In the harem scarem world of Indonesian football, Maitimo is that rare player who can take a moment or two before moving the ball on.

The third player completing Gomes' collection of naturalised veterans is Greg Nwokolo. Born in Nigeria in 1986, Nwokolo has been in South East Asia since signing for Singapore's Tampines Rovers in 2003 apart from a short Portuguese siesta in 2009 with Olhanense. He was naturalised in 2013 and has made six appearances for the national team

When Gomes sent his team out to play Perseru in their opening President Cup tie in Surabaya he left Maitimo and Gonzales on the bench. Nwokolo opened the scoring on 13 minutes, using his body strength to make space in the penalty area to turn and shoot before Bayu Gatra made it 2-0 just before half time finsihing frpm close range. 

Nwokolo netted his second with a delightful free kick in the second half before laying on an easy side foot for Gonzales with 11 minutes remaining. Maitimo made it five with just eight minutes remaining with a typically calm finish inside the penalty area.

Two goals and two assists for Nwokolo and a goal apiece for debutants Gonzales and Maitimo, Madura's naturalised veterans have got their team off to a flying start but tougher opponents lie ahead with PS TNI (rebranded as PS Tira Bantul) and Persebaya next up. 

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