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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

 

SCTV Cup 2015 Draw



Monday, December 15, 2014

 

Malaysia FA Cup Draw 2015

First Round

Harimau Muda C v Kuala Lumpur
DRB-Hicom v PKNS

Second Round

Pahang v Johor Darul Ta’zim
Sungai Ara v Malaysian Indians
Negri Sembilan v Universiti Teknologi Mara
Penang v Perlis
Penang Water Supply Corp v Sime Darby
Police v Sabah
Sarawak v Kelantan
Ministry of Finance v Harimau Muda C/Kuala Lumpur
Felda United v Selangor
Malacca v Terengganu
Shahzan Muda v Perak
Kuala Terengganu T-Team v ATM
Kedah Malays v LionsXII
Public Service Commission v Kuantan
Hulu Terengganu Hanelang v Kedah
Johor v DRB/PKNS.

There are some great names in the draw! I guess the highlight is a repeat of the Malaysia Cup Final when Pahang go toe to toe with JDT but me, I would love to see Penang Water Supply Corp in action!

 

Australia In AFF Cup?

Australian Under 16s celebrate winning the AFF Championship in 2008
So, what do you reckon? Australia to enter the ASEAN Football Federation Cup in 2016? Apparently this is being mooted and a decision could be taken at a meeting this Friday.

Anything that raises the standards of local football has to be a good thing and surely pitting wits against a regional powerhouse on a regular basis surely falls into that category?

After all, look who the ASEAN teams played in the run up to the AFF Cup this year. No offence but are you going to improve by playing the likes of Papua New Guinea or Macau?

Let's face it...no one like Japan, Australia or South Korea is going to give up a precious FIFA date by playing some nonentity like Indonesia or Thailand...there is no benefit for them rankings wise. But put them in a competitive environment like the AFF Cup and hey presto...their reluctance may ebb as they way up the pros of blooding fringe players in meaningful games.

But this would not be about them. Any expansion of the AFF Cup has to ultimately benefit ASEAN football; there is no point having 10 teams battle each other only for Australia to meet Japan in the final. Perhaps opening the door to Australia and allowing one other team to qualify could be a good start?

From a local point of view there is an obvious benefit for local players coming up against the Socceroos on a regular basis. A different sporting culture, sledging, never say die, ASEAN has much to learn from other countries, lessons that don't always come across when watching games on TV where analysis amounts to blaming the defence or the ref.

Robbie Gaspar is a man with feet in both camps. Aussie born, Gaspar spent most of his career playing in Indonesia for Persiba, Persita and Persema among others and he is convinced letting Australia compete would be a win-win.

' I think it will be a good thing with Australia joining the AFF Suzuki Cup. It will be a good test for Australia and by no means a walk in the park for Australia. Hopefully help to lift the standard of the tournament to an even higher level and give the ASEAN teams an opportunity to play against Australia.

'Play against a different style of football. Maybe some players from the other countries could get picked up by A-League clubs.'

Yes, we know players from this region have talent and yes we know football has potential but that talent and that potential is not being realised on a regular basis. Amateur thinking forms the football dialogue  and that thinking comes from amateur administrators with their own agendas. Will they even want to have their naivety shown up on a regular basis by professional footballers and professional bodies?

Unfortunately the powers that be like to have the EPL clubs come and visit. Then they can show off their 'connections' get the selfies and pander to the masses. But those visits are meaningless and don't benefit the local game one iota.

Australia competing in the AFF Cup, having open training sessions for local schools, making themselves accessible to local media, holding clinics for local coaches (not the highly choreographed events by the likes of Arsenal etc)...that would be positive for football in the region.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

 

Wear Your Colours

I've written on more than one occasion about the almost total lack of marketing savvy that afflicts most clubs in the region with the possible exception of clubs in Thailand.

So it is good to see when one club does try and break the mould.

Johor Darul Tazim have come on leaps and bounds since the state royalty invested a few bob in the club. Not only have expensive imports been brought in, with varying degrees of success. Money has been ploughed into the club's training and medical facilities.

On my last visit last season, in a Super League game against Terengganu, there were so many changes from my visit before, when they were a second tier without fans nor royal patronage, including a small club store selling merchandiise.

It may not have been particular busy when I was there but judging by the fans milling around the stadium, plenty had handed over their cash to show their colours.

Now comes news JDT have inked an agreement with a Malaysian sports retailer to sell their merchandise through their outlets across the country.

It may seem simple but go into an average sports store and you fall over Liverpool and Brazil shirts. Now we have JDT putting their stuff out there and perhaps they could be the first of many? Certainly when you think of the likes of Kelantan and Selangor they too have the potential to go down the same road.

Indonesia? Nah, don't be silly!

Friday, December 12, 2014

 

Persija Go Back To The Future

Persija have responded to Persib's title success by bringing back some familiar faces. But will it be enough to spark an assault for honours? My latest Jakarta Globe column considers this question.

 

Thai Lessons

Did you see the way Thailand controlled the game against Philippines? Do you remember how the Azkals ripped Indonesia apart?

Then last night Malaysia went to Hanoi and crushed Vietnam 4-2. Another side Indonesia failed to get to grips with.

Indonesia finished third...neither of the top two made it to the final!

What can Indonesia learn from the Thais when it comes to football? My latest column for Prediksi 90 looks at that question. Available both in English and Indonesian.

 

Stags Getting Ready For New Season

Last season was a rarity for Tampines Rovers. After five consecutive top two finishes they finished just above the bottom half of the season in 3rd and the club will be looking for better in the 2015 SLeague.

Coach Rafiq Ali has been replaced by V Sundramoorthy, a legend in Singapore delighting in the name of The Dazzler (maybe he was involved with a washing detergent?) who spent last season in Malaysia with Negeri Sembilan.

One other change at the club sees Aleksander Duric hanging up his boots and taking over as fitness coach as well as assisting Sundram with the first team. I can imagine that news was greeted with a few good natured groans as Duric is well known for his own personal fitness levels and standards.

On the pitch the Stags have apparently brought in Guadeloupe international Eddy Viator. Me, I never knew there was a Guadeloupe international side but there is and good steady Eddy, formerly of SPA and Felda United in Malaysia (yes there really is a team called SPPA in Malaysia) is part of it. And aged 32 he is the right age for the squad known for the experience it packs.

Another signing has been Hassan Sunny coming off the back of a successful season with Warriors where he won the SLeague. A bit of a surprise really considering the fine form he showed last season, perhaps he is being brought in to add some youthful experience...after all he is only 30. Quite young for Tampines.

If Hassan is borderline young then Fabrice Noel, a Haitian striker who played in Malaysia last season with ATM is literally just out of short pants. At 29 he may well be one of the youngest players in the squad if the move is confirmed!

As well as the changes on the on the pitch and in the dugout, there will be a new stadium for Tampines. No, their new one isn't ready yet, don't be silly. Instead their new stadium will be Jurong West, even further from their home 'burb of Tampines in the east.

 

Persib's ACL Adventure

Before Persib can even contemplate taking on the best in Asia in the AFC Champions League they must overcome an obstacle that afflicts just about every player, coach and official in Indonesia. They face an away game against Hanoi T & T in Vietnam in February and that means dusting off the passports and packing the winter woolies.

I don't mean to generalise but Indonesian football doesn't travel well. If they could host the World Cup and provide their own referees, arrange the catering and lay out pot holed roads, Indonesia would be world champions. Unfortunately international sport doesn't work that way and that handicaps this country.

Getting out of tanah air means moving away from the creature comforts of bakso, kretek, teh botol and chili sauce. I have friends who have been on tour groups to places like Europe and their idea of a good time is to stand in front of a famous building, everyone take group pictures, get back on the bus, look at the pictures, update their social media before heading for the nearest Chinese restaurant.

Footballers find it harder. Getting beyond Sabang is a journey into the unknown; a land where match officials can't always be convinced to change a decision or are not easily seduced by a spectacular fall and roll like they are back home. They aren't used it it and their clubs aren't set up for it.

Arthur Irawan plays in Europe but remains ignored by national selectors while Irfan Bachdim moved to Japan as part of a tourist promotion but very few players try their hand overseas; Patrich Wanggai left T Team after a season as did Hamkah Hamza (PKNS). Fair play to Andik Vermansyah for staying another season but he is overlooked by the national team for his ambition and efforts.

What will the Persib fans and players make of Hanoi? I know plenty of Indonesians who have been there and they all complain about the traffic! Oh irony, how sweet thou sounds.

You can be sure ahead of the one off tie there will be plenty of stories about the weather there but need that be an issue, especially for Persib? They have Lembang just up a hill or two. Most of their players will have experienced the delights of a chilly dusk in Wamena.

If they do manage to overcome Hanoi T & T, their reward is another one off away time...to Seoul in South Korea. They are sure getting no favouurs in the draw, are they?

There has been some progress in recent seasons with Persipura, Semen Padang and Arema performing with credibility in the AFC Cup. But that is by far a weaker competition and the best of Myanmar, Maldives is no match for teams from South Korea, Japan or Australia.

The odds are heavily stacked against Persib making progress and much of that is mental. Indonesian football somehow needs to overcome its fear of playing overseas and stop acting the big fish in a small pond. On the world stage the country ranks pretty lowly and while the fans make the games a pretty awe inspiring experience on the pitch, as we have witnessed in the recent ASEAN Football Federation Championships, they are way behind the rest of the region.

Persib players may have nice new boots for the season ahead bought from their bonuses for winning the Indonesia Super League but it is the other baggage they, and the rest of football, carry that will prevent them making any headway in the Asian Champions League.



 

Home Comforts

In England, a football club's home ground is as much a part of the club's heritage as the shirts and the great names who have worn them in years gone by. Fans grew supporting their team and making a pilgrimage to their home ground and that home ground rarely moved.

The first team to move in my lifetime was, I think, Scunthorpe United which didn't concern. Many have moved since including of course my own team and not every fan has enjoyed the experience.

Of course in South East Asia there is little of that attachment to a home ground. For the simple reason clubs don't have the wherewithal (or savvy) to build their own stadium; notable exceptions include Buriram United and Muang Thong United.

Many others move willy nilly and there is sod all anyone can do about it. And given the shortage of adequate stadiums, especially in Indonesia, the moves border on nonsensical.

Persiram Raja Ampat, for example, are from Papua but last season they played their home games in Sleman on Java, thousands of kilometres and two time zones to the west!

News in Malaysia recently that Kuala Lumpur FA are looking at playing their home games next season at the historic Merdeka Stadium (left). Their fans have had a torrid time in recent seasons what with a slide down the leagues, a match fixing scandal and more homes than itinerant buskers. The move to Merdeka Stadium could well be a popular choice; certainly for me; with budget airlines and a convenient kick off time I could get there for a game and be home for a late dinner!

One of the beauties of the Merdeka Stadium is how central it is. Well served by public transport and close to plenty of dining opportunities. Many new grounds in Indonesia lack any of that. And Persib are looking to postpone their move to their new stadium, Lautan Api Stadium, because of poor access facilities. They will make their first foray into the Asian Champions League, or the AFC Cup, using Si Jalak Harupat Stadium which is hardly blessed with good access...a narrow lane it can best be described as.

The promotion of Pusamania Borneo to the Indonesia Super League has put Putra Samarinda in a bit of a spot. Last season they were using the cavernous Palaran Stadium for their games in front of a few hundred but Pusamania's rise suggests they may move on. Which is ironic because Pusamania were formed by fans of Pusam upset with the new owners.

Anyways, Pusam have been linked with moves to Sleman and most recently Bali. Perhaps they could move to Madura?!

PSM celebrate their centenary next season and to commemorate...they have done nothing. Last season they played their home games in Surabaya, another island another time zone, but things are less clear for the 2015 campaign with their own stadium in Makassar still considered unfit for use.

I could write a book on the ground changes in Indonesian football in recent years and there are no dount plenty of posts concerning this topic with the likes of Pelita Jaya and Persitara cropping up frequently but it's not just Indonesia that has these problems though they do have more than most and the sprawling nature of the country, 17,000 islands, three time zones etc, makes their issues much more fun. Tiny Singapore is struggling.

Next year it hosts the SEA Games and has already begun selling merchandise...which will no doubt be available after the event at knock down prices so just wait lah.

The games have caused the authorities to juggle their meagre resources with the skill of a geographically challenged card shark. Tampines Rovers come from Tampines in the east of the island. Their stadium was demolished to make way for some new kind of integrated, leveraged hub with inter connectivity and key nodal points that provide an aspirational lifestyle for the eternally deluded etc.

The Stags have been forced to play home games in Clementi, in the west of the island, in recent years and next season could be forced to play in Jurong which is even further west.

It does seem to be all change in the west as champions Warriors have been told they will not be able to use Choa Chu Kang Stadium and have been moved to Woodlands in the north. Of course, Woodlands won't need their stadium any more after they merge with Hougang United.

Oh, and Home United, who were forced to do without their Bishan Stadium a few years back, will also be on the move to accommodate the SEA Games.

Yearbooks with complete info on the season ahead and facts about the teams and the players and the stadiums have never caught on in this part of the world. While Kicker Sonderheft and Rothmans Football Yearbook are considered reverently by connoisseurs of the game, here anything you write today is usually redundant a few hours later!



Monday, December 08, 2014

 

Arcan Iurie Takes Over Pusamania

Arcan Iurie would never get a job managing an English football club.

The Moldavan coach has been part of the Indonesian football scene for yonks and over the years he has coached Persija, Persib, Persik, Persebaya, Persita and Persepam MU. And now he has taken over the reigns at newly promoted Pusamania Borneo for the 2015.

The first time I got to see him on TV he was coaching Persib and I couldn't believe my eyes. There was the coach of a professional football club ambling onto the field smoking a cigarette, sporting a denim jacket and with a packet of fags sticking out of the back pocket of his jeans.

He looked like he had just left the pub and wandered over to the pitch to see what was going on!

None of this designer wear that coaches in other countries like to wear, Arcan keeps it real and down to earth and judging by the clubs he has worked with over the years he is highly respected in the game here.

He is also pretty damned well fluent in Indonesian.

Nope, he would never work in the sanitised, PR fed world of the English Premier League and that is just one of the reasons I and many others are turning their backs on it.

Football in Indonesia is earthy and lacks pretensions and coaches like Arcan are down to earth and don't worry about bigging themselves up for the media.

 

Balinese Side Faces Tough Finale In Divisi Utama Bid

Will we see a Bali side in the Divisi Utama next season?

It's not looking good for PS Badung in the Nusantara Cup play offs. Their 0-0 draw with Persigar Garut leaves them bottom of their four team group; the top three will go into Divisi Utama.

In their first game they lost 2-0 to group leaders Perssu.

1 - Perssu 2 1 1 0 2-0 4
2 - Perserang 2 1 1 0 2-1 4
3 - Persigar 2 0 1 1 0-2 1
4 - PS Badung 2 0 1 1 0-2 1

In their last game PS Badung will go head to head with Perserang and we could end up with all four teams on four points which would be very interesting indeed.

In the other group, Persatu have confirmed their slot after two straight wins. Laga FC would seem to have one foot in the division with four points; they only need a draw in their final game against...Persatu!

And given PS Batam have a negative goal difference of -eight it would seem their chance of promotion border on zero

 

JDT To Ban Fans Involved In AFF Cup Violence

It appears that while Vietnam were coming from behind to defeat Malaysia 2-1 at the Shah Alam Stadium, a group of Malaysian fans were targetting Vietnamese fans, leaving them battered and bloodied.

It wasn't that long ago Malaysia was complaining fans travelling to Singapore with tickets for the game with the hosts were not being allowed in the country. Now this. Perhaps Singapore knew something?

Not all Malaysian fans are hooligans, of course they are not. The vast majority of the support put on a wonderful show in the stands and there was heaps of ASEAN friendship, selfie style, before the game.

But the harsh truth is one group of wannabe tough guys, fans of Johor Darul Tazim, attacked visiting supporters. And looking at the pictures, you get the impression they are not going for the lads prepared to go toe to toe.

Lets hope any travelling Malaysians are not targetted in Hanoi in supposed revenge attacks. Where will the tough guys be then?

Credit to Johor Darul Tazim. They have reacted by banning the Inter Johor Firms (?) from all of their games.

There have been growing instances of crowd trouble at Malaysian games. Let us hope this incident forces clubs to start and take it seriously.

JDT Statement



Sunday, December 07, 2014

 

Awaiting Hougang's Latest Name Change

As part of the super dooper forward thinking plan from the Singapore football authorities, Woodlands Wellington and Hougang United are to merge and form some kind of footballing hub somewhere on the island.

You must understand this is for the best in football because surveys have been done which show 10 clubs is the best Singapore can handle but no one has actually seen the surveys?

By the way a 10 team SLeague would only have seven Singapore teams so by their own twisted logic there would still be room for three more teams?

Anyway, this here merger. Perhaps they could leverage on each other's market place presence to bring all sorts of Key Performance Indicators and benchmarks into play as well as the sprint test and perhaps with a dash of a convergence sponsor thrown in?

No one seems to have decided on a name yet. Woodlands Wellington Hougang United perhaps? Or Sengkang Punggol Woodlands Wellington Hougang United? In a country where little attention is paid to club names and the marketing thereof, nothing would surprise me. My favourite would be Pole Dancing North Wellington United FC but that conjoures up images of scantily dressed ladies dancing in farmer clothes in sultry Singapore.

Hougang are of course used to frequent name changes and this cavalier attitudes to fans may well play a role in the public's disillusionment with football in the island. Or may not.

They started life as Marine Castle United (1998-2001) before changing their name to Sengkang Marine for two years then Paya Lebar Punggol for one season in 2005.

In 2006 they stormed the SLeague with a new name, Sengkang Punggol, and for four of their five years with this name, they finished 11th in the 12 team league. The other season they finished 10th, heady days for the faithful.

One of my abiding memories of Sengkang Punggol was watching them play Woodlands Wellington in one of the most boring games I have ever seen (on a par with Aldershot v Rochdale 1980 and Jakarta FC v Semarang United 2011). How boring? I fell asleep for a few moments only to be awoken at half time by the usual SLeague overexcited PA announcer who thought he had a packed crowd of 7 year olds and not half a dozen uncles in vests and flip flops.

2009 was time for another change with Hougang United which is where we stood at the end of the last season.

I wonder if there are any Marine Castle United fans still out there and how they feel about the shenanigans that have followed their club.

In their various entities the club have never finished higher than 7th and look destined to being also rans no matter what they are called. But they way the fans are treated at both clubs shows the contempt the powers that be have for the terrace fan. And as long as that attitude remains, no bugger will go to the games no matter how many free crisps are offered.



Thursday, December 04, 2014

 

Nusantara Cup Draw

Apparently, six of the eight clubs competing in the Nusantara Cup will be promoted to next season's Divisi Utama.

All games will take place at Sultan Agung Stadium in Bantul.

Group 11: Perserang Serang, Persigar Garut, PS Badung, Perssu Sumenep
Group 12: Persatu Tuban, Laga Surabaya, Persibas Banyumas, PS Batam

04/12 Perserang v Persigar, PS Badung Perssu
05/12 Laga v Persibas, Persatu v PS Batam
06/12 Persigar v PS Badung, Perssu v Perserang
07/12 Persibas v Persatu, PS Batam v Laga
09/12 Persigar v Perssu, Perserang v PS Badung
10/12 Persibas v PS Batam, Laga v Perssu

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

 

Who'll Succeed Riedl?

This week's Jakarta Globe column looks at the national team coach...and who may want it next! Read it here...

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

 

Stange Or Twist

Always happens. When a major team exits a major tournament there are the autopsies and the gut reaction is always to sack the coach.

It's the same in Singapore where everyone is queuing up to take pot shots at Bernd Stange following the Lions' exit from the ASEAN Football Federation Championship. That the exit was confirmed at the hands of bitter rivals Malaysia and come in such a dramatic fashion only increases the ire.

Football fans are born with  a sense of optimism. What else could drive fans of Cowdenbeath or Northampton Town to go week in, week out. However there is a fine line between optimism and entitlement and just because Singapore were the hosts and the holders doesn't mean all they have to do is turn up and they will win.

Stange has been in getting it from all sides in the wake of their 3-1 loss against Malaysia with players, fans and journos sticking the knife in but I can't help feeling a bit sorry for the fella.

Singapore are going through a renewal process and remember they have a tiny pool to draw on; there are not many Chinese names on the average SLeague team sheet and they are after all the majority in the country.

Since 2012 long serving players who have done their (adopted) country proud have fallen by the wayside as age has finally wearied them. A new generation is coming through and trying to make its own mark; players like Shafiq Ghani, Sahil Suhaimi and Faris Ramli.

Singaporeans like to talk about the Class of 94, overlooking the fact they have produced a few decent players since then. Unfortunately the generation of Baihakki, M Ridwan, Hassan Sunny et al never received the same kind of accolades; for some reason best known to the collective psyche, they fell short of the plinths created in lore for Fandi and the rest.

Pandering to the hysterical social media for Stange to be replaced won't do much for Singapore football. Raddy Avramovic is finished and over, much like the Class of 94 and while nostalgia is good and healthy in football there is also today to think about.

Stange needs to be given time to challenge for a place in the AFC Asian Cup. That has to be the next level for ambitious national sides in the region like Singapore and Thailand. Compared to that, the AFF Cup is a sideshow and if Stange is able to get the Lions into the frame for 2019 then the whiners will soon change their tune!

Monday, December 01, 2014

 

Singapore's New National Stadium

Was at the recent ASEAN Football Federation Championship tie between Singapore and Thailand and obviously it was my first visit to the new stadium.

Not impressed. It just seems to be the latest stadium from a kit with standard fare features including the now obligatory wavy roof,

As an aside, and to prove what a whiny git I can be, I was at Huddersfield Town, right, back in August...and how disappointing that ground is. I loved the old Leeds Road but this new thing, with wavy roof, seemed so artificial. Yes, there were good views from the seats but it didn't have the atmosphere of Leeds Road.

Back to Singapore...do all stadium designers go to the same school? Classic stadiums of yore developed organically, not the wet dream of some spotty graduate given a large budget to play with looking to include all the bells and whistles that float his boat. This scatter gun approach is what gave grounds a uniqueness and style all of their own.

Now, we get architects, management companies, clubs, consultants and uncle Tom Cobley and all telling us how wonderful their new stadium is. Note that, we are told it is wonderful as if we are not allowed our own opinions. Repeat the message often enough and folks will end up believing it; its a tried and trusted methodology practised around the world and in countries the west deems its enemies it is called propaganda. Or spin. Or hype.

Anyway, take a gander, so about all the geese references, at the stadium in Singapore and check out the coloured seats. Apparantly business school speak says the white seats placed randomly around the stadium are specially placed to give the impression the stadium is fuller than it really is. What a crock of crap...people get paid to come out with this nonsense and the sad thing is people actually believe it.

Still, it is Singapore and could well be the new home of the intimidating Kallang Roar, the noise not the website. I say noise, 'We Want Goal' was about all they came up with against the Thais despite the best efforts of an MC who tried to get some singing going. Serious!

The Mexican Waves got started early on and everyone got excited and took selfies.

Yeah there was a good view and all that but perhaps if they spent less time on imbibing business school speak and more time checking out other stadiums around the world they may have come up with something that looks a bit interesting.

Moan, moan, whine whine, blah blah.

Oh yeah, all that money spent but they couldn't get an accurate crowd figure? 32,000...in their dreams!






 

Samsul Arif & Khairul Amri

Two 29 year old strikers with impressive cameos in the opening games of the ASEAN Football Federation Championship are the focus of a Jakarta Globe column.

 

Support Your Local League

I suppose everything aspiring writer things they have an idea that is unique and never been attempted before. They, I, can't all be right though, can they? I?

I have just sent my manuscript for my first book to a publisher and one of the questions they ask is for me to list three titles similar to my proposed tome.

I could only think of one and that was Nick Hornby's Fever Pitch even though my work has nothing  to do with a lad growing up in Maidenhead even though we both support the Arsenal. Perhaps though it has everything to do with pushing the envelope?

There isn't a lot of literature out there about Indonesian football in English. A bit more exists about Singapore and Malaysia, not so much about Thailand.

#supportyourlocalleague is an attempt to change that. South East Asian football is, unfortunately synonymous with European clubs coming over on highly choreographed tours designed to turn the local populace into customers parting with their hard earned cash for the right to wear a replica shirt supposedly made from plastic water bottles and carrying at least three different brand names (think club, sponsor and kit manufacturer).

This book is an attempt to change that perception. There is no such thing as a homogenous South East Asia and there is no such thing as a South East Asian football culture, one size fits all.

What I have tried to do is introduce South East Asian football to football fans who know little or nothing about the region and I try to do this by talking to fans, players, ex players, hooligans, business people, taxi drivers, bloggers...you name it. Football is football and everyone has an opinion about football much as it pains the likes of Arsene Wenger and Safee Sali.

This is neither a warts n all nor a kiss n tell. I have tried to present the material in much the way I would if I was talking with some fans. South East Asia has been my home for about 20 years, I have been a football fan for twice as long. I am as passionate of one as I am the other and I hope that passion shines through.

Passion yes, but I don't try and use that passion to blind me to the ailments of the game. They are touched upon but in some cases I feel some issues are better coming from local writers; another fat white guy saying people should do this, do that doesn't always go down well in area that experienced colonialism for so long.

Anyway, I am sending out proposals to publishers this week and I hope to get to meet some folks over the next few days in a bid to move this project along a bit further. Not easy, I know but then hey! If you don't try and all that.

Ideally I would like to have English and Indonesian language versions available as well as possibly an e-book.

Here goes!

If you wish to know more about the book please feel free to contact me through the contact me button on the side panel!



 

Ferdinand's Sriwijaya Switch Leaves Hole In Persib Attack

Things are looking bright at Sriwijaya for next season with the club investing heavily in three of the country's brightest attacking talents, Ferdinand Sinaga, Patrich Wanggai and Titus Bonai but back in Bandung, no one is celebrating.

From the euphoria of winning their first ever title last month, ironically in Palembang, the Bobotoh are coming to terms with the fact they have lost their top scorer.

Ferdinand's fiery nature and eye for goal  endeared him to the Persib faithful and his goals played a major part in bringing the trophy to Bandung.

Ferdinand's departure comes hot on the heels of the news that transfer target Ilija Spasojevic could well be moving to Bandung but to Pelita Bandung Raya and not Persib.

As ever Persib are being linked with some big names including Emmanuel Kenmogne and Sergio van Dijk but unusually for the West Java club they are being slow off the move. Kenmogne, formerly of Persebaya, has been strongly linked with Kelantan in the Malaysia Super League.

And the striker may not be the last to leave with suggestion Vladimir Vujovic, whose goals played such an important part in Persib's run in, has yet to put pen to paper for the new season.

Kudos to Sriwijaya for moving quickly in the transfer window after a couple of relatively bland seasons but Persib fans will be feeling less charitable and the pressure will soon be on for a big name striker ahead of the 2015 season which is likely to begin in February. And with the club looking at Asian club competition next season for the first time in yonks, Persib will need to get busy recruiting players to build on the momentum of last season's success.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

 

Good Evan! The Boy Done Good

For many, the performance of Evan Dimas for Indonesia against Laos in their final ASEAN Football Federation Championship tie in Hanoi will have come as a surprise. It is not often teenagers are fast tracked to the full national side without having played in their own domestic league but then Evan can be considered a special case.

Since Indonesia lifted the AFF Under 19 title in Sidoarjo in 2013, Evan and his team mates have spent the last 15 months of so preparing for the AFC Under 19s in Myanmar and although they lost all three games there are widely considered to have restored some pride for Indonesian football after years in the doldrums.

Like young players everywhere, Evan brought a freshness and an eagerness to the national team that came as a breath of fresh air after the more static, turgid performances that marred the first two games (against Vietnam and the Philippines).

You would expect that of course from a young player keen to prove himself. But Evan played with a purpose. It may sound daft but he didn't just play like he knew what he was doing; he played like he knew what he wanted to do next.

Let's go back to 2010 when coach Alfred Riedl included another youngster, Okta Maniani, in his squad at the same competition. His pace thrilled many but oh boy you never knew what he would do and, crucially, nor did he.

He came on as a sub in one game and started going the wrong way before a team mate considerately pointed out which direction he should have been going! And then, attempting to clear his lines near the goal line, he attempted an audacious overhead kick which thrilled the folks who thing Mexican Waves are a part of the football experience but give coaches heart attacks.

Evan on the other hand will be remembered for what he did right. His goal early in the first half for example, unleashing a powerful drive from outside the box. Technically, he did everything right, head over the ball, keeping it low. Too often in Indonesia, players put those chances into the car park as they go for the big welly but not Evan.

But for me the most thrilling part of his performance came when he did a Michael Thomas (Anfield '89 for the Arsenal fans) and went charging through the middle, defenders backing off, before finishing tamely. Rarely do you see that kind of attacking midfield play in Indonesia, many of his peers would have attempted to put their boot through the ball at the first contact in the outside hope they could practise their latest goal celebration.

Not Evan, he drove forward purposefully and again, you get the impression he knew what he wanted to do. Even the finish, which ended up too close to the keeper, was deliberate and an attempt at placing rather than opting for power.

But while Evan showed what he could do others reverted to default mode. One classic moment occured in first half injury time when Evan's Persebaya team mate Manahati Lestusen went charging forward into the Laos half and on into the penalty box. He had a couple of options in the box but on he went before collapsing in a heap on the pitch. Laos countered and only poor finishing prevented them from scoring.

But while Evan looked like he knew what he was doing, Manahati just ran. And ran. And hoped for the best. And fell over. He couldn't just slow the play down and take it somewhere to run down the clock, he couldn't look up and find a team mate. He just did a Forrest Gump and Indonesia nearly paid the ultimate price.

It is worth pointing out Manahati has had some kind of footballing education having enjoyed stints in Uruguay and Belguim.

There was a similar incident of carelessness and rush of blood in the second half involving Mitra Kukar's Zulham Zamrun. On as a substitute, he had done well to find space down the left hand side but his cross was just far too powerful to allow the marauding Cristian Gonzales to connect with and quite rightly the naturalised striker bawled out his team mate.

Zamrun has had a good tournament, scoring against Vietnam and again against Laos as well as providing an assist against Laos, from the same position as his uber cross earlier., with a defender turning the ball into the back of the net. Gonzales, it is worth pointing out, led the applause.

Both of Zamrun's goals were well taken, placed with a degree of economy and in the second goal, from a difficult angle. The wayward cross that earned the ire of Gonzales may have been out of character but it is unfortunately common enough domestically.

So, Indonesia won 5-1. Had they turned up against the Philippines they would have finished second and be looking to a semi final place but they didn't. Coach Alfred Riedl may have had his last hurrah with the team, his future remains uncertain, but players like Evan and Ramdani Lestalahu, who scored a brace, suggests the future of the national team is bright. If the next coach is brave enough to give youth its head and that is by no means a given.

Friday, November 28, 2014

 

Rahmad's Return

With bitter foes Persib lifting their first ever Indonesia Super League title, you can imagine Persija would be pulling out all the stops to ensure they do not remain in the blue shadow for too long.

With Benny Dollo stepping down after failing to take the Kemayoran Tigers through to the play offs, the pressure was on for Persija to bring in a top coach to break their title drought. Names like Dejan Antonic (Pelita Bandung Raya) and Bojan Hodak (Johor Darul Tazim) were reportedly linked with the vacancy but instead Persija have gone for Rahmad Darmawan.

This will be RD's third spell with Persija and while he is perhaps the most successful local coach in the country having won the title with Persipura and Sriwijaya the last few seasons have seen his sides fall short; last season early favourites Persebaya (aka Persikubar!) disappointed at the play offs and failed to reach the semi finals despite boasting a side filled with experience, flair and goals.

Whether he can make it third time lucky with Persija remains to be seen and it is telling he reportedly asked the club about their financial situation. The club are notorious for struggling to pay salaries and despite boasting one of the largest fan bases in the country, their 66,000 attendance against Persib was the largest in the ISL last season, they have struggled to find alternative cash flow, an area ironically Persib excel.

For RD to succeed there will need to be a change in the culture at the club where things are traditionally left to the last minute, including squad building.

Emmanuel Kenmogne had a successful 2013 with the club but as they dithered over offering new contracts for the following season in stepped Persebaya and he headed east. This left Benny Dollo scrambling to find a replacement and when they finally secured Zelmir Terkes it didn't work out and he was later released from his contract.

They do have a handful of quality young players, Andritany Ardhiyasa in goal and Ramdani Lestaluhu spring to mind, but there does seem to be a preference for the tried and trusted in other positions, Ismed Sofyan and Ponaryo Astaman (both aged 35) spring to mind and reports linking them with ex striker Bambang Pamungkas suggest that policy isn't likely to be put to bed yet.

The Bambang move is an interesting window into the soul of Persija. Despite having been away from the club for a couple of seasons, in 2013 he took a year off and this last season has seen him play for Pelita Bandung Raya, such is the esteem with which the player is held among the fans, his presence alone would deemed sufficient to allow the team a certain amount of leeway.

Certainly in the eyes of the support Bambang can do no wrong and over the years he has proved his attachment to Persija but would bringing him back be a smart footballing move or would it be a case of heart ruling head? And is that always a bad thing in such an emotionally charged sport as football?

Ultimately, Persija want to win the ISL. Seeing Persib win the league will have grated with the support and perhaps the new season will see the expectations of the support increased a notch or two.

It remains to be seen whether a trip down memory lane will be enough to bring the success the fans crave.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

 

It's An Indonesian Thing

Not for the first time in recent weeks, an Indonesian league game ended in a brawl that saw the game halted on 62 minutes.

Laga were leading Persintan 1-0 in a Liga Nusantara game at the Brantas Stadium in Batu, East Java when the players from the losing side apparently started kicking off. The ref stopped the game and took the players off the pitch with the match commissioner saying he would report Persintan to the disicplinary commission.

The security officials in Batu refused to allow any more games to be played under their jurisdiction so the remaining 28 minutes were played out at Kanjuruhan Stadium in nearby Malang.

Persintan have since apologised for their players' behaviour but the club still face sanction from the PSSI for their actions.

Liga Nusantara replaces the old second and third divisions and sees clubs challenging for a place in Divisi Utama next season.

15 teams remain and spread among 4 groups with the top two in each group going on to the next stage.So far, Perserang, Laga and Persatu have qualified for the final round which will take place in Yogyakarta next month.

 

More AFF Cup Excitement

Well, that is the end of match day two of the ASEAN Football Federation Championship and there were certainly a few more thrills and spills.

In Hanoi, Indonesia again disappointed most people with another lacklustre performance which I covered yesterday while Vietnam defeated Laos 3-0 though the result did not take on a convincing air until a couple of late goals.

While my ranting was all about Indonesia, credit must go to the Azkals and their performance and as someone who is unfamiliar with the game there I will follow the crowd and highlight Phil Younghusband. The one time Chelsea trainee has been collecting goals and assists like they are going out of fashion (they already have in Indonesia) and he turned in another impressive showing against the wingless Garuda.

Admittedly most teams would have defeated Indonesia and Laos coach David Booth must be hoping for a similarly shocking display when they meet on Friday. Laos came to Hanoi as the underdogs and have lived down to that name with a couple of displays that at least show some promise but lacking any experience. Witness the flurry of late goals they concede.

1 - Philippines 2 2 0 0 8-1 6
2 - Vietnam 2 1 1 0 5-2 4
3 - Indonesia 2 0 1 1 2-6 1
4 - Laos 2 0 0 2 1-7 0

Moving down to Singapore and what a couple of thrillers were served up there. Malaysia took the lead against favourites Thailand twice but were left cruelly undone after the Thais scored a last minute winner for the second time in two games. Oh, and can I join the list of folks drooling over Chanathip Songkrasin with the proviso he stays away from either Buriram United or Muang Thong United?

In the other game, Singapore overcame Myanmar 4-2. Ahead of the comeptition many were asking where the goals would come for the Lions but Shaiful Esah and Harris Harun answered that little conundrum last night. The next question is where the fans will come from as another disappointing attendance made their way to the  new National Stadium.

Myanmar fought back well in the second half and at 3-2 looked to be asking the holders a few questions but Esah put the game to bed with a second free kick. The only dark clouds on the result, not those in the sky, came with the injury to Shahdan Sulaiman and Singapore will be hoping he won't be out for too long.

1 - Thailand 2 2 0 0 5-3 6
2 - Singapore 2 1 0 1 5-4 3
3 - Malaysia 2 0 1 1 2-3 1
4 - Myanmar 2 0 1 1 2-4 1

Last night's results in Singapore mean the Thais are through to the semi finals with six points from their two groups stage games while Singapore edge Malaysia into second place with three points. If Malaysia can  beat the old enemy at the weekend though then it is they who will go through to the semi finals!

Perhaps Singapore fans can get out and support their team in the decider...I guess much depends on whether Manchester United or Liverpool are being shown live on TV at the same time.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

 

Misunderstanding The Beautiful Game

I love Singapore. I love sitting in a coffee shop early in the morning eating roti pratha and reading the nonsense stories in the local tabloid. I enjoy being able to jump on a bus and get to almost SLeague ground from the area I stay in. Changi Airport is a great place to wait for a connection.

You are never far from a local guy wearing a Liverpool or Manchester United shirt and coffee shops are packed when there is a live game on TV. The price of watching the EPL or the World Cup is a national debate that fills the newspapers and on line message boards. Futsal is thriving.

Singaporeans love football.

But why is it the people who run the game don't get football?

Take the recent hoo haa which greeted a decision to limit the number of players aged 30 and over. With that decision, surely Singapore would have been the only nation in the world to implement ageist policies in football? The reaction was so powerful they were forced, after the face saving 'serious consideration' to rescind the policy but it was just one of many in recent years that suggests a massive disconnect between them charged with running the game and those that love the game.

What about Tampinese Rovers from the eastern suburb of Tampines no less. What a spiffing idea that was to move them to distant Clementi in the west while a new stadium goes up in their home town.

The classic example in recent weeks was the decision to have pole dancers at the league award nights!

Then there was the time when a league official told players from one club that is taking a year off that they 'must understand...'. Yes sir, of course sir, you are our better sir, bow, scrape, grovel.

And we have a decision to merge Hougang United and Woodlands Wellington. Two clubs with distinct identities, it has been decreed from on high they are to merge. Probably to form some super club with a hub in the north east where it can leverage on the local population's interest in football and become a hub for the region offering bespoke business school bullshit la di da di da.

There is also the small matter of how Singapore welcomes visiting fans. Specifically fans from across the causeway.

There was an incident earlier in the season when fans of a Malaysian side travelling to catch their team play LionsXII were refused admission to the country! Not the stadium but the country. Others were not allowed in the stadium either!

And reports circulated following the Malaysia game against Myanmar in the AFF Championship that travelling fans were again being refused to enter Singapore.

Away fans are an important part of football, check out my piece on Prediksi 90, they add to the atmosphere and god knows the new national stadium was crying out for some against Thailand. But to stop them even entering the country, even when they possessed tickets? There are plenty of crowd control experts out there who could advise on how to channel fans to and from a stadium with the minimum of fuss.

What would happen if for example the biggest team in Singapore, Liverpool, were to play Manchester United in the new nationa stadium? Would the authorities ban United fans from travelling south?!

I still maintain the SLeague is as exciting as any other league but the lack of marketing and the growing disconnect between those in charge and the potential fan is only widening and it is difficult to say it getting better any time soon.

 

An Autopsy For Indonesia

Following the oh so lucky 2-2 draw against Vietnam, Indonesian coach Alfred Riedl bemoaned the lack of preparation and said fans would notice the difference in the next game against the Philippines.

Umm, what difference?

As an Arsenal fan, I have grown used to displays where the players don't seem to know where they are going or what they are doing. Leaderless, powerless and clueless.

Why, as I watched Indonesia try to salvage their AFF Championship against the Azkals was I continuously reminded of the Arsenal?

The defending at times was borderline comical. In fact I did laugh. Firman's challenge that led to the penalty. The indirect free kick that led to a goal. And others besides. Too many others.

Riedl opted for Samsul Arif as a starter up to alongside Sergio van Dijk which meant Boas Solossa dropping to the bench. Firman also started in the midfield but they were the only changes. Surely Indonesia couldn't be so poor as they were in the opening game?

It is easy to hark on about individual performances or who should have gone but didn't but at the end of the day the buck must stop in a place where they are unsed to bucks stopping.

Consider recent events in Indonesian football. One of the worst teams in the Divisi Utama play offs gets promoted to the Indonesia Super League. An international goal keeper is throttled on the pitch by a club official. A team refused to play a game because they felt intimidated. Two other teams played a nonsense game they both tried to lose. Players still left waiting for their salaries.

Against this backdrop of uncertainty and confusion, just how can a coach and a team be expected to prepare properly? And this is before we take into account the ISL which only finished a few weeks before the AFF Championship began leaving Riedl with just a few players to work with.

Within that environment it is very difficult to expect any Indonesian side to excel on the international stage. And don't forget they are very poor travellers; merah putih played many friendlies at home, none away in the run up to Hanoi so little was done to prepare the side for intimidating atmospheres overseas, far from their safe Indonesian home of teh botol and bakso.

Riedl accepts responsibility for the defeat and as coach then so he should.  But anyone who works with the Indonesian national team takes the position with their eyes wide open. They are aware of all the stuff that goes on behind the scenes and unfortunately until that nonsense comes to an end then not even Jose Mourinho could lead the merah putih to the promised land.



Tuesday, November 25, 2014

 

Degrading Promotion

In most countries, promotion goes to the teams which have performed best over the season. You know, winning the most games, not losing too often, turning up for games. That sort of thing.

Indonesia? Nope, not always. That method is too unreliable, all them referees, dodgy pitches and players who don't score when they should.

Two new teams have been confirmed for the 2015 Indonesia Super League.

Pusamania Borneo meet Persiwa in the final later this week but it is just a formality to decide who goes in the record books as champions...and in this place there are no record books.

Once upon a time there was a team called Perseba Super Bangkalan on the island of Madura just off the coast of Surabaya. They are no more. Their 'licence' was bought by Pusamania, set up by disgruntled fans of Persisam (now known as Pusam) upset by the politics of the club management.

No one is sure what the fans of Perseba thought when they were told there team was moving to another city on another island with another name.

Still, at least the prospect of Pusamania taking on Pusam in a Samarinda would have been interesting!

And Persiwa? They were the worst team in their play off group and didn't t urn up for an away game.

Now there are stories PSS, who were involved in that game with five own goals, are looking to 'merge' with Pusam! Under the terms being discussed, Pusam would move to Sleman and be renamed PSS, thus allowing the Java Eagles into the ISL via the back door!

I wouldn't call that a merger!

PSS were one of the better teams in the Divisi Utama last season but they are being investigated for their part in the game with PSIS. To have them enter the ISL through such a method might give the wrong impression to other clubs in the league. And where would it leave PSIS?

 

Persiwa Are Back

That nonsense of a game between PSS and PSIS when the professional footballers decided they didn't want to win the game and scored a bunch of own goals continues to have repercussions.

As the two top teams in their group, PSS and PSIS would have gone through to the semi finals and though they were scared to play Pusamania at least they would have stood a chance of promotion and their fans would have been a credit to the ISL.

But because they decided to play silly buggers, Persiwa took their place in the semi finals and now we have the Highwaymen back in the top flight. The same Persiwa who refused to travel to an away game at PSS during the Divisi Utama play off.

Pusamania defeated PSGC on penalties while Persiwa overcame Martapura to confirm their spot in the final game to decide the champions.


But yes, Persiwa have been rewarded with a spot in next season's ISL.

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