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Friday, December 09, 2016

 

ISC B Quarter Final Draw

09/12 PSPS v Perssu, PSS v Perserang
10/12 PSCS v Persita, Martapura v Persekap

Games are being played at Bumi Kartini Stadium in Jepara. These games are being played over one leg and the winners will go through to the semi finals

 

Despite ISC Title Bid Arema Fans Stay Away

Arema's narrow 3-2 win over Sriwijaya last night was enough to see the Crazy Lions move level on top of the Indonesia Soccer Championship with Persipura on goal difference with two games remaining but surely of great concern to the club management will be the poor attendance of 8,376.

A game between two of the heavyweights of the domestic should have drawn a far healthier crowd but the poor turn out is merely the continuation of the trend we have seen where despite their team's fine form the fans have in large part stayed away.

Prior to the Sriwijaya game last night these were the latest crowd figures for Arema home games giving an average home attendance of 10,646, a poor return for a club so large. With Persib still to visit Malang in the final game of the season there is a chance for that final number to rise but the fact remains the numbers are poor.

PS TNI 2,851
Persela 16,751
PSM 10,607 (played at Gajayana Stadium)
Mitra Kukar 21,653 (Played at Gajayana Stdium)
Madura United 9,168
Pusamania 6,766
Bali United 10,701
Barito Putera 4,959
Perseru 4,338
Semen Padang 5,021
Persipura 10,146
Persija 23,764
Gresik United 4,877
Bhayangkara 29,650
Persiba 17,464

The question is why? There was talk of the club doing some kind of evaluation but I am not sure of anything came of that. As can be seen above there was a move to the more centrally located Gajayana Stadium and while there was an upturn against Mitra Kukar, not the most glamourous name despite being a well run club, it hasn't been sustained.

There has been some suggestion the return of a second Arema side has drawn some of the support. Meanwhile, perhaps in a bid to reclaim the position of the number one Crazy Lions in Malang this particular Arema, the ISC version, are looking at changing their name for next season, asking fans to vote for which they prefer...Arema FC or Arema Malang.

From what I can make out the returning Arema, called Arema Indonesia, can claim the legacy of the club's founder while Arema Cronus, to give them their full name, have links to a political dynasty long involved in football. Unfortunately the tale of two Aremas, with their origins in the era of two leagues in 2011, seems to be dividing the city of Malang. And with Persema making a come back does Malang need three teams?

 

Perth Glory Owner Hints At Asian Teams In ALeague

Hand on heart, how many Indonesians, Singaporeans, Malaysians, Thais have heard of Perth Glory? Central Coast Mariners? Melbourne City? Not too many I'd wager. Sorry to say this to my fair dinkum Aussie pals, one of whom was supporting Thailand last night at the Rajamangala Stadium as they defeated Myanmar 4-0 in the AFF Suzuki Cup semi final second leg, but my guess is there is little recognition of football down under in the region. 

Two Australian sides, Manly United and Bulleen Zebras
 competing in a pre season event
in Jakarta
The likes of Liverpool, Manchester United and even them upstarts from South West London may attract large crowds when they deign to visit the region but there is an awareness of English, and Italian, Spanish, German, football that goes back a generation or two. Names like Steven Gerrard, John Terry and Wayne Rooney are familiar to millions. Fans are used to shelling out big bucks on replica shirts so they can identify with their heroes from afar.

Without googling, is anyone familiar with Maximillian Beister, Milos Ninkovic or Nick Montgomery? Can we imagine these ALeague players encouraging fans to get down to the National Stadium in Singapore on large numbers?

If Perth Glory owner Tony Sage has his way it could happen in the future. It is all part of the ongoing debate as to whether the 10 team ALeague should expand. Sage thinks an expansion into South East Asia would be a win win suggesting a team in Singapore, KL or Jakarta could attract 50,000 fans plus of course a large TV audience. 

The timing for his suggestion is of course predicted by the expansion talks in Australia. However if the wise Sage was up to date over football in his backyard he would know there is ongoing debate over an ASEAN Super League which is attracting lukewarm support outside of Singapore. Given the apathy of an inter regional competition why would anyone be interested in a team playing in a league no one knows anything about?

The ALeague only started in 2004 with a bunch of franchises seeking to distance themselves from the ethnic roots of football that sustained clubs during the National Soccer League, when I lived in Australia, and before. I don't follow it but reports I see do suggest decent crowds against a backdrop of institutional paranoia over the round ball game by the more traditional Aussie sports that feature puffed out chests, tight shorts and odd shaped balls. That it needs to expand, the ALeague not the shorts, is for me indisputable. 

But parachuting themselves into South East Asia to attract more eyeballs on TV? Is that the right way to do things? Malaysians may be unhappy with the state of their football but would they get behind a Woy Woy Wanderers based in KL? Singapore fans don't even bother with their own slowly dying league. Would a Darwin Dynamoes raise any eyebrows? Would a LionsXII playing in the ALeague be a magnet for TV audiences? Or a team based in Jakarta or Bali?

Perhaps the wise one is only thinking aloud but there is a tinge of arrogance in the suggestion. Build a club and the fans will come, sod the local league? We will soon find out as Perth Glory are hoping to play a 'home' game in either Singapore or Malaysia as soon as next season.

The arguments against the notion are the arguments against the proposed ASEAN Super League. FAs have a duty to develop their own leagues within their own borders. For all its chaos Indonesian football doesn't need the ALeague and neither does Malaysia. An interesting talking point yes but ultimately if the ALeague wants to expand it needs to look closer to home.

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

 

Petaling Jaya Rangers Break Corporate Mould In Malaysia

I've been meaning for some time to knock out a piece about the involvement of big business in Malaysian football and the amazing success those clubs have enjoyed, or not, in attracting a fan base from those supporters who do get excited about following a highway or a plantation company. However I am loathe to just write negative pieces about Malaysian football...easy though it is and recent events suggest at least one individual has taken on board the errors of the many in his own plans.

The 2016 Malaysia Premier League boasted two such clubs; Sime Darby, a plantation firm, and DRB HICOM, a firm with its hands in many pies like the automotive industry. The latter, by the way took over the license from Pos Malaysia, or the Post Office, who decided for a while they needed a football club to supplement their main job of delivering letters,

Sime Darby, no relation to experienced coach Steve Darby, were relegated and DRB HICOM have decided to knock football on the head after their short flirtation. There was actually one thing the Mighty Bees had going for them; playing their home games in Tanjung Malim. Surely here was an opportunity for a new club to tap into an area lacking its own big name team? Surely a Tanjung Malim FC to appeal? But nope, never happened.

Despite the best efforts of ex Persib coach Drago Matic the club ended last season with just two wins and now seem to be looking forward to a campaign in the FAM League.

The season before we had the wonderfully named PBAPP finishing last in the Premier League. This was the football team from the Penang Water Supply Corporation and as you can imagine they hardly pulled the punters. A conveniently round number of 100 people saw their local derby against Perlis but against island rivals Penang an impressive 8,000 turned out...I don't imagine there were many fans to cheer on the lads who kept their taps flowing!

Proton is another corporate backed club that flirted with the dizzy heights of Malaysia's second tier. This after they won the FAM League at their first attempt back in 2007. However they stalled higher up the pyramid and lasted a couple of seasons before deciding perhaps football was not for them after all and they'd better stick to making cars.

Going up a level and who can forget the mighty PLUS FC? These guys were part of the company that runs the toll road that runs along the spine of Malaysia and despite boasting such luminaries as Bobby Gonzales and Adrian Trinidad among their alumni they suffered from mid to lower table congestion during their football flirtation with the exception of 2008 when they managed to earn promotion to the top flight. Unlike their roads, especially in and around KL, their terraces remained empty as for some reason no one could entice a football loving public to get behind a toll road operator.

I could go on but life's too short Suffice to say not just companies but civil servants and universities have been seduced by the glamour of football enough to try their hand with varying degrees of failure. Kuala Muda NAZA, My Team, SPA, PPUSM etc etc All have one thing in common. An inability to make a lasting mark on football in a football daft country. And last season in the FAM League we saw Air Asia. No prizes for guessing who they are associated with.

But they have only gone and rebranded themselves ahead of the 2017 campaign as they seek perhaps to build on the branding they share with the club they sponsor in England, Queens Park Rangers. For a start they have changed their name to Petaling Jaya Rangers, a nod to their locale and a fan base they hope to tap into?

Targetting the Premier League in 2018, PJR (!) have appointed Mat Zan Mat Aris, deemed surplus to requirements by Melaka United after back to back promotions, who has brought with him a number of experienced old pros including Tuah Iskander and half a dozen players from Melaka. PJR will be working closely with QPR to develop an academy to source and develop new players.

It will be interesting to see how PJR develop themselves. Naming themselves after their manor is a smart move, they want to use the MBPJ Stadium (pictured left), basically a venue for hire by any nomadic club but home to no-one, and it would be nice to see them get out and about in their community to build up a fan base. And it would be nice if they were in it for the long haul.

Air Asia chief Tony Fernandes has shown a midas touch with his airline. Can he repeat that success with his football club? 

 

Disappointment For Persib, Persipura As Admin Error Threatens AFC Cup

Happier days for Persipura when PSSI had a better filing system
Next week sees the draw for the AFC Cup and there could well be no representatives from Indonesia if a local story is to be believed.

Apparently the AFC sent out invites to member associations and Indonesia were planning on sending t he top two sides from the Indonesia Super League 2014 campaign. However it seems the official invite was left unanswered and we have now passed the deadline for applications.

We have been here before with Indonesia of course. Back in 2006 a similar 'administrative' error saw the office types forget to send in the PSSI nomination for the AFC Champions League.

The invite went out on 30 October but was overlooked as football's governing body was preparing for its congress that would elect a new leadership. 

A PSSI official says the organisation has just received an informal letter from the AFC saying Indonesian sides would not be represented at the AFC Cup this year as the deadline for registration has passed. 

The PSSI are hoping they get a chance to explain what happened to AFC in the vain hope they receive a sympathetic hearing. 

A Persipura official seemed less than pleased, being quoted as saying the lessons from the past haven't been learned while a Persib official says 'the chance to join the AFC Cup is ... a way to improve Indonesian football ...in the eyes of the world. This is important for people and the nation.

Both Persib and Persipura have a right to feel bitter. Their 2015 AFC Cup campaigns came to an abrupt end when the PSSI was suspended by FIFA over government interference. Now they look to be blocked from competing because some desk jockey wasn't doing his job.

Monday, December 05, 2016

 

Advantage Persipura As Arema, Madura Drop Vital Points

Madura United missed out on returning to the top of the Indonesia Soccer Championship as they fell to a 2-1 defeat away to Persela last night. They went into the game one point behind joint leaders Persipura and Arema and enjoyed the luxury of an early lead when Aussie Dane Milanovanic netted on three minutes but they were unable to build on that league against a dogged home side unbeaten in their last eight home outings.

Steven Imbiri levelled on 24 minutes and Brazilian Hedipo Gustavo hit the winner three minutes before half time to continue Persela's fine form over the last few months under coach Aji Santoso.

In yesterday's other game Bali United drew 2-2 with Arema with the visitors needing inspirational skipper Hamka Hamzah to rescue the point in the final minute. Bali took the lead on 28 minutes through Alsan Sanda and a second half penalty by Fadil Sausu seemed to have made the points safe for the home side.

With eight minutes remaining Esteban Vizcarra pulled one back setting the stage for Hamka's late show.

Wednesday sees Persipura travel to Mitra Kukar hoping to cash in on their rivals' slip ups while Thursday has Arema host Sriwijaya.

Other remaining fixtures:

10/12 Madura United v Perseru
11/12 Pusamania v Arema, Gresik United v Persipura

17/12 Arema v Persib
18/12 Persipura v PSM, Barito Putera v Madura United

1 - Persipura 31 17 8 6 44-24 59
2 - Arema     31 17 8 6 41-18 59
3 - Madura   31 17 7 8 49-38 58

Sunday, December 04, 2016

 

Meiga's Brilliance Sets Up Hanoi Test For Irrepressible Indonesia

Enjoying the ride? Seriously, how many people not only thought Indonesia would reach the AFF Suzuki Cup semi finals, they would also defeat the highly fancied Vietnam 2-1 at Pakansari Stadium, a result that flatters the visitors. 

Under Alfred Riedl it seems Indonesia have added something to their game. Something that has been missing for many a year. We all know typically Indonesian football is played at 100 mph. The ball pings around so quickly it too must be crying out for breath. Time is an ethereal essence that has no meaning on the football field, everything is in the now or sooner. 

Unfortunately it isn’t always possible for professional footballers to always keep that intensity. Booting it long for the latest speed merchant may have wooed fans back in 2010 when Okta Maniani was the latest out of the traps but it is not a tactic that is going to overly concern more savvy sides who have better discipline and stamina and understand the concept of a 90 minute football match. 

We saw this against Thailand in the opening group stage. Two nil down at half time Indonesia clawed themselves back to 2-2 only to ship two late goals. The Philippines was something similar. Indonesia deserved to lead 2-1, they deserved more but all the time they couldn’t add to their lead there was a danger they would leave themselves open at the back and that is what happened as the hosts equalised late on. 

Watching the Singapore game in the drizzle at Rizal Memorial Stadium I sensed a sea change.Yes, there was the ever present threat from the likes of Andik Vermansyah, Rizky Pora and Boas Solossa. But there was more discipline behind them from the likes of Dutch born Stafano Lilypaly. 

Against Singapore, the experienced, disciplined yet oh so dour Lions, Indonesia were getting at them down the flanks, turning the Singapore defence inside out and creating spaces for the midfielders to get forward at every opportunity. 

While that was thrilling to watch what caught my eye was more mundane. There were times when Indonesia slowed the tempo. It may not sound much, it may not sound thrilling, but they were dictating the pace of the game and they were playing the game with their heads, not just their hearts. This game management has been missing so long from the game in Indonesia where everything is played at a harem scarem speed and a more thoughtful player would be deemed surplus to requirements. 

Ok so it wasn't quite the 'keep the ball' so beloved by the crowd at Arsenal who can be roused from their slumbers and toss the odd 'ole' into the still North London air as the players stroke the ball around 15, 20, 30 times with the hapless opponents chasing shadows. No, this was Indonesian players just slamming on the brakes for even two or three passes before looking to press the button. It's almost as if the game has become 90 minutes and patient possession has suddenly been deemed a good thing.

Watching Indonesia come from behind and defeat Singapore was as thrilling as the manner of the performance but while the fans on the terraces talked about Hanoi I don't think many believed the side could repeat that performance against the AFF Suzuki Cup's second favourite even on home turf. Repeat it? How about better it?

There were times at Pakansari when Vietnam were reeling. They got lucky big time with the award of their penalty and the somewhat odd decision by the ref to keep their player on the field after a challenge that was less tackle and more assault. The biggest danger as Indonesia kept pressing was even with their new found discipline they would leave themselves open at the back but defensively they were giants. And when Arema's Meiga Kurnia made that save towards the end...Wow. If this was English Premier League they would be creaming themselves over that for years to come. 

Indonesia's failure to finish off Vietnam could well come back to haunt them in Hanoi next week but that they are able to carry even the narrowest of leads north is down to Meiga at a time when Riedl was coming in for some criticism for keeping with the 26 year old keeper in the gace of more youthful challenges from the likes of Andritany.

With Boas, Ferdinand Sinaga and Lerby always looking lively this Indonesia have goals in them. Eight in four games so far. But after a shaky start when they shipped four against the Thais and two against the Philippines they have conceded just two in the last two games, and one of them came from a dodgy penalty. 

Alfred Riedl's men may or may not triumph in the cold of north Vietnam but they have united the nation around the national team in a way we haven't seen in 2010. Quite simply Indonesia are fun to watch, they have almost become the neutral's team of choice and an early goal at My Dinh Stadium could see them facing a nervy Vietnam side struggling in front of their own noisy fans.

I have been negative all tournament about Indonesia's chances and have been proved wrong on every count so far, I see no reason to change. An early Vietnamese goal in Hanoi and they have enough about them to hang on in there to reach the final. But Indonesian have shown in their last three games there is more to them than many thought and an upset is on the cards. Let's hope I'm wrong again!

 

Barito Putera, Jacksen F Tiago & AFF Suzuki Cup

When Barito Putera host Persib this evening there will be a fluffy glow going through the veins of this unfancied football club from South Kalimantan. It hasn’t been the best of campaigns for them, they currently sit 16th in the Indonesia Soccer Championship with three games remaining and only three teams have conceded more goals. At the other end they h ave been fairly decent with 37 from their 31, the best in the lower half of the table.

With so little to cheer why the warm glow? Last week it was announced Jacksen F Tiago would be coaching the team from next season, the experienced Brazilian coach penning a three year deal. Why would JFT, a title winner with Persebaya and Persipura, hit on such an unfancied side when he surely had the pick of the Indonesian sides as well no doubt as offers from overseas?

Perhaps the clues to what makes Barito Putera so attractive lie several hundreds of miles away. In Cibinong to be exact where we can find the Pakansari Stadium. In the AFF Suzuki Cup semi final 1st leg Indonesia continued to overcome the odds when they defeated highly fancied Vietnam 2-1. And at the heart of that triumph were the performances of two players.

Let’s be honest. In an ideal scenario coach Alfred Riedl is not going to throw an untested central defender from a team with one of the worst defences in the ISC into the pressure cooker situation of a semi final. He would obviously much prefer to call on one of the more experienced practitioner of the art, one with a degree perhaps in the darker arts.

But Riedl was hamstrung by the clubs when they refused to allow more than two players from each club to be called up. Using skills more attuned to diplomacy than a football pitch Riedl called up Hansamu Yama Pranata, a 21 year old defender from Barito Putera with zero caps to his name and a role in a leaky defence.

No stranger to international football however, Hansamu cut his teeth playing in Uruguay as part of the Sociedad Anonima Deportivo Indonesia project which saw promising teenagers plucked from their kampungs and flown halfway round the world to play in the nether reaches of the Uruguayan leagues. He would go on to be part of the successful Under 19 team under Indra Sjafri later making his debut for the Under 23s, scoring against Timor Leste at Bung Karno Stadium.

Doubtless Riedl had done his homework and knew he wasn’t calling up some spotty youth to make up the numbers. Hansamu is the proverbial old head on young shoulders and when he gave Indonesia the lead last night against the strongly fancied Vietnam, anyone surprised would have been doing the lad an injustice.

Rizky Pora was less of an unknown quantity. Signing for Barito Putera in 2013 from Persita, the flying winger is the type of player Indonesia excels in producing. He made his debut for Indonesia in 2014 and has become a permanent fixture since FIFA listed their suspension on the PSSI earlier this year.

However it hasn’t been until the AFF Suzuki Cup that he has been showing some consistency and without doubt has been one of Indonesia’s star performers, first in Manila and last night in Cibinong. One flick last night was remiscient of Dennis Bergkamp’s flick and turn that bamboozled Newcastle at St James’ Park all those years back.

Ok, so the end result wasn’t the same but the impudence of the move, and that fact it came off, can only boost the27 year old’s confidence even more. JFT must be purring as he sees the Hansamu and Rizky shining at the highest level. And there is more with 21 year old midfielder Paulo Sittangang and 22 year old Adam Alis, who had a stint in Bahrain with East Riffa in 2015, looking to impress the new gaffer!

Interesting times lie ahead in South Kalimantan, don't say we haven't been warned!

Thursday, December 01, 2016

 

Fans Upset At Semi Final Ticket Process

Tickets for the first leg of Indonesia's semi final against Vietnam in the AFF Suzuki Cup at Pakansari Stadium in Cibinong went on sale yesterday through a website and as you may imagine things did not flow fluently. There were frequent reports of the site crashing and people being left to hold on for ages as it seems no one had anticipated demand.

The system, should it work, is complicated enough. Fans are expected to pay on line, print a receipt, present the receipt at Bung Karno Stadium then head to the game in Cibinong over a period of four days. Do the people who dream up these nonsensical schemes have any conception of the logistical nightmares involved here?


First getting on the website. Then setting aside the time and effort to make the journey into central Jakarta, not everyone lives in Kuningan or Senayan, before they can actually hold said ticket in their hands and feel assured they can actually see the game. Oh and Friday Jakarta could be the scene of a demo that organisers have said will attract hundreds of thousands of people. Take time off work to risk a journey into the centre of a city with some of the worst traffic jams in the world to queue for a ticket?


A PSSI official reportedly said his organisation is not unaware of the difficulties but added if people were to queue on matchday at the stadium they could be standing around for two hours. 'But if access on the internet...two minutes is a disaster.'

The official likened the process to buying a plane ticket. Ticket is bought on line, you go to check in at Bung Karno and you board your plane at Cibinong. Except the journey from check in to boarding your flight is about 50 kilometres. For fans hoping to fly in just for the game that makes for a long, tiring day out and not everyone has their own transport.

Now I get that the PSSI are trying to simplify the whole ticket purchasing experience for fans following years of controversy and disturbances at major events. But this method has too many unnecessary layers and while it may have worked at the Philippine Sports Stadium, and it was bonkers there with a queue to pay for your receipt and another queue to collect your ticket 10 yards away, there were smaller numbers to deal with.

Ultimately Indonesia will have to move towards a smart card system where supporters pay for a card, get a member number, and when they pay on line their card will be updated. Admission will be by automated turnstiles and fans will have dedicated seat numbers. I know, what works at Arsenal, may not work here but it is probably the only surefire way we can host these major events and be left to talk about the football rather than listen to disgruntled fans wailing against the system. Or even worse.

With some 3,000 tickets sold on the opening day according to reports there are now suggestions some tickets may be made available off line though no details have yet been made.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

 

Singapore's Annus Horriblus

Singapore boast two of the finest goalkeepers in South East Asia, namely Hassan Sunny and Izwan Mahbud not to mention the all round ability of Safuwan Bahruddin and the consistency of Hariss Harun. Not four years ago they were winning the AFF Suzuki Cup. This year they exited the biennial competition in Manila with 270 minutes of football producing just one goal for their small band of fans to cheer.

A reliance on parking the MRT in front of the goal in a bid to nullify the potent attacking threat of Thailand failed when the Thais scored with just moments left of the second half. And for all the experience and discipline at the back they allowed Indonesia to enter new territory by not only coming from behind but scoring a late winner.

The four time champions exited stage left with little but a whimper to return to Singapore and the wailing and whining of a fan base so quick to complain but slow to support. In their defence there has been little to cheer in domestic football for a while now. Japanese side Albirex Niigata swept all before them as they dominated the football calender leaviing Tampines Rovers with their expensively assembled squad to effectively throw in the towel halfway through the campaign by saying they had no money and would be paying much lower salaries next year.

While the SLeague and its associated competitions smoulder those charged with running the game continue to sit by and strum idly on whatever string instrument they can find, dreaming of more glamourous jobs within the AFC and promoting a competition they see as an elixir but everyone sees as the final nail in the coffin of Singapore football that has been running on empty for several years now.

Coach Sundram is a legend in local terms but without a prolific local striker he was forced to build walls that would have Donald Trump stroking his toupee in glee. The walls didn't work though. They were breached by the Thais and the Indonesians for whome pace and movement were at their heart of their offensive play. The Lions did threaten momentarily against Thailand and with a striker they could have caused an upset. But finding a local striker is like finding the proverbial needle in a haystack and even a Klopp, Guardiola or a Wenger would have struggled with the meagre gene pool Singapore has to fall back on.

Elections are due soon for the FAS but unless someone can get rid of the current incumbents it is unlikely anything will change. Singapore has talked the talk for years now with their business school speak but they are failing to produce players who can actually do their business on the field and while a nation may be expectantly waiting for Fandi Ahmad's boys to save the nation the fact remains more needs to be done at a grass roots level to ensure a conveyor belt of talent.

Sundram, despite been given a measly 12 month contract by the FAS, deserves time to instill his ideas and values on the players but as a number of observers better placed than I have pointed out the SLeague is professional in name only. The structure is rotten and there seems to be no one with the vision to get a grip.

Singapore football hasn't got much further to reach rock bottom. Let's hope people sit up and realise this sooner rather than later or they may be nothing left worth saving.



Tuesday, November 29, 2016

 

Despite The Handicaps, Indonesia Have Performed Heroically

Indonesia's qualification form the AFF Suzuki Cup group stages was remarkable on a number of levels. With the FIFA suspension only being lifted earlier in the year no one really seemed to have expected the Garuda would be competing at all, let alone finishing runners up in their group behind Thailand.

The 18 clubs participating in the Indonesia Soccer Championship, the surrogate league clipped together to give the clubs and players something to do were reluctant to help coach Alfred Riedl in his efforts to build a squad and imposed a limit of no more than two players per team which meant of course there would be a lot of disappointed players. The PSSI and or Riedl also insisted there would be  no naturalised players available for call up which nixxed the ambitoons of Cristian Gonzales et all.

Drawing closer to the event Irfan Bachdim, playing in Japan, had to withdraw because of an injury while Persipura refused to allow the pacy Fernandino Pahabol to join up leaving Riedl and his coaching team to scramble round for last minute replacements.

Indonesia arrived in Manila after Singapore and Thailand potentially leaving them short of time to acclimatise to a city that shares many of Jakarta's traits and straight away had to face group favourites Thailand, fresh off a credible 2-2 draw with Australia in the World Cup/Asian Cup qualifiers. 

That Indonesia went into the break 2-0 was hardly a shock to Indonesian football watchers. That they fought back to 2-2 before shipping two late goals was and while they attracted well deserved kudos for their spirited come back they were forced to share the headlines back home with the ISC which was carrying on regardless. 

With 4 or 500 hundred cheering on the Garuda, in Bandung there were more than 19,000 fans watching Sergio van Dijk, a noticeable absentee from the squad, scoring the only goal against Semen Padang while Persipura showed they weren't really missing Boas Solossa as they breezed past Persiba 4-1.

In the deciding game when Indonesia needed to beat Singapore to assure themselves of a place in the knock out stage just over 400 fans headed to the Rizal Memorial Stadium in the drizzle, most being Indonesian fans. Meanwhile in Malang less than 3,000 saw Arema edge PS TNI 2-1.

After days of rumour and counter rumour the PSSI have finally decided the first leg of the semi final will be played at Pakansari Stadium in Cibinong. A mere 24 hours after PS TNI host Sriwijaya at the same stadium.

Vietnam came into the competition probably as second favourites behind Thailand but they won't fancy facing the Indonesians in front of a full house packed with noisy, passionate fans. A win for Indonesia would set them up nicely for the second leg in Hanoi, to be played at the same time as more ISC games back home. 

Against that backdrop where he was working against clubs looking to get a season finished with minimal disruption, Riedl has performed wonders getting Indonesia to where they are.  Perhaps, inadvertantly, he has stumbled upon a recipe for success for the much starved national team?

Monday, November 28, 2016

 

Surprise Semi Final Brings Stadium Headache For Indonesia

What do Brexiters, Trump and the PSSI have in common? A failure to anticipate victory! After the opening 45 minutes against Thailand, 2-0 down, out fought and out thought how many people seriously gave Indonesia any hope of reaching the semi finals of the AFF Suzuki Cup?

But they did and when the final whistle blew at the Rizal Memorial Stadium in Manila and the Garuda had confounded the so called experts the travelling fans on the open terrace where belting out Indonesia Raya with full gutso and high fiving each other, making vague promises to reunite acquaintanships in Hanoi for the semi final.

That was the easy bit. Vietnam's international stadium of choice is My Dinh. And Indonesia's default national stadium is Bung Karno in Jakarta. But that 88000 plus seater bowl in the heart of the capital city is currently being renovated ahead of the Asian Games which Indonesia will hold in 2018.

As Indonesia headed for home from a drizzly Manila the new PSSI leadership found themselves with a decision to make. Where to play the first leg home tie?

The usual suspects were thrown up. Manahan Stadium in Solo. GLBA Stadium in Bandung. Jakabaring Stadium in Palembang. Some wags on Twitter even suggested Palaran Stadium, a white elephant of an arnea on the outskirts of Samarinda, far from  a nearby international airport.

Fact is, there is no plan B cor an international stadium in Indonesia that is accessible and comfotrable. Surabaya's Bung Tomo can hold a large crowd but access, like so many new arenas in the country, access is a nightmare.

It's a sad state of affairs that such a simple question should find a simple answer so elusive but while there has been a number of new stadiums constructed over the last few years they have been geared towards local events while paying lip service to international standards.  The last time Indonesia reached the semi final, the crowd was something around the 90000 mark. This time round if we see a third of that we will be doing well.

Friday, November 25, 2016

 

Myanmar Eye First Semi Final Berth Since 2004

In the niche world of ASEAN football writing the Philippines, hardly known for their prowess in the game, garner plenty of headlines from a media, including me, comfortable with the names associated with the team; Dooley; Younghusband; Hartmann. 

Myanmar on the other hand are an unknown quantity. Yes, former Singapore coach Raddy Avramovic worked there for a while, and he has been wisely bought in as a pundit by the AFF Suzuki 2016 broadcaster, but for the rest of us Myanmar is a place of mystery with an alphabet that seemingly consists of circles and semi circles and players with names like Ye Ko Oo and Aung Thu. There is one player in their current squad who plies his trade overseas, Kaung Sett Naing who plays over the border in Thailand for Samut Sakhon but the rest are homeboys playing for clubs like Magwe, Yadanarbon and, more familiarly, Yangon United.

Hosting Group B Myanmar, or the White Angels, didn't start the campaign well, losing 2-1 against group favourites Vietnam but recovered from going a goal down against Cambodia to win 3-1 with the aforementioned They are now second, level on points with Malaysia but edging them thanks to a superior goal difference and the two teams meet Saturday in the archetypal winner takes all clash at the Thuwanna Stadium in Yangon.*

Win or draw and Myanmar could be entering the semi finals for the first time since 2004 when they lost to Singapore over two legs. They had finished top of their group in Malaysia after securing the following results

08/12 Philippines v Myanmar 0-1 (S D Thien 90)
10/12 Thailand v Myanmar 1-1 (Z L Tun 89)
12/12 Malaysia v Myanmar 0-1 (Soe Myat Min 20)
16/12 Myanmar v Timor Leste 3-1 (S M Min, 4, S D Thien 43, M H Win 51)

The first leg of the semi final was played at the KLFA Stadium and the Lions took the lead through evergreen defender Daniel Bennett on 20  minutes but Myanmar levelled thanks to S M Min on 34 minutes and two minutes later were in the lead when defender M Thu scored. Singapore had scored 10 goals in their four group stage games, a much more freescoring vintage to the current crop who have yet to score in 180 minutes of play and within two minutes Agu Casmir levelled. 

The second half saw Singapore take the game to the White Angels and Noh Alam Shah gave them a 3-2 lead before Shahril Ishak made it 4-2 with nine minutes left. The White Angels weren't done however and Finance & Revenue striker S M Min scored his second of the game and his fourth of the tournament to give the Myanmar team hope in the second leg to be played at Kallang Stadium, 

Min scored again early on to level the score on aggregate and when A K Moe made it 2-0 on the night, 5-4 on aggregate the Myanmar support were celebrating what would surely be their first final appearance. Sadly for them Noh Alam Shah pulled one back 16 minutes before the end to take the game into extra time where the Lions fitness told. He went on to complete his hat trick and Agu Casmir added one more to rub salt in the wounds to end Myanmars dreams, exiting 8-5 on aggregate.

Myanmar players angry with ref. AFF Suzuki Cup 2008 v Indonesia
Min netted one last time in the Third Place Play Off to finish with six goals in the tournament but who really cared as Malaysia went on to win 2-1. For Myanmar the dream ended in front of the famous Kallang Roar but surely that team, inspired by Min, must go down in the nation's history as one of the best in the last 40 years or so, a depressing period for local fans who have not had much to get excited about.

There have been moments for Myanmar football. They won the Asian Games in 1966 and 1970 and were runners up in the far more prestigious Asian Cup in 1968, admittedly at a time when it lacked the glitz and glamour of the modern era. They also lifted the SEA Games on five successive occasions from 1965 to 1973. But it wasn't until the qualifiers for the 2010 World Cup that they ventured into football's biggest event of all, highlighting the years of isolation that cloaked the nation for so long.

Beat Malaysia and the current crop would be able to look the 2004 vintage in the eye. 20 year old striker Aung Thu may have a long way to go before he can be placed on the same lofty pedestal as Min but his two goals in the tournament have marked him down as a player to watch in the future.  A semi final berth would mean facing favourites Thailand over two legs, surely a chance at least for the White Angels to star in the shop window. And as one pundit said recently, a couple of Myanmar players in the SLeague could add a couple of thousand to the moribund attendances there.

We may be a long way from seeing Myanmar the power they were in the 1960s but the current generation will be hoping place in the AFF Suzuki Cup semi finals will be a stepping stone to bigger and better things.

* In fact Malaysia's cabinet is to discuss withdrawing the national team from the AFF Suzuki Cup in protest at the ongoing trouble against the Rohyinga people. This could be tricky for Malaysia as it may well be seen as political interference by FIFA who are currently getting their knickers in a twist over England and Scotland wearing poppies at a recent game, deeming that to be political. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

 

Plucky Indonesia Undone By Familiar Failings

Two games in and Indonesia's future in the biennial AFF Suzuki Cup rests on a knife edge as a familiar failing deprived them of a maximum return against the hosts Philippines last night at the Philippine Sports Stadium. Leading 2-1 with 10 minutes or so on the clock is that most precarious of.positions especially for an Indonesian team not reknowned for their levels of fitness. 


A Philippines free kick and it was deja vu among the travelling support who may not have placed much hope in their side's chances to progress but were seduced by a thrilling display from their heroes in the opening 75 minutes as they took the game to their hosts. 


One nil up on four minutes, Fachrudin heading home Stefano Lilpally' teasing free kick, Indonesia continued to tease their fans and torment the Azkal's defence in equal measure. With pace merchants Boas Solossa and Andik Vermansyah  always a threat Indonesia huffed and puffed but a second goal in the opening 45 minutes was elusive and there was little surprise when the Philippines levelled just before half time.from a set piece. 

Second half saw the home team turn on the pressure but Indonesia's defence and midfield worked like Trojans to protect Meiga Kurnia between the sticks. It was so reminiscent of the AFC Asian Cup in 2007 when feverish determination kept the likes of Saudi Arabia and South Korea at bay for so long. 

But like 2007 you knew a sting in the tail was possible as the fitness levels dropped. Halfway through the second half Boas scored his second of the tournament to send the travelling support who made up 25% of the announced attendance went mental but even as the fans danced and sang you knew the goal came with a caveat.

If football lasted 80 minutes Indonesia would be sharing top spot of the group with Thailand rather than being bottom with just a single point. But we had seen how, after a disappointing first 45 minutes against the Thais the Indonesians had recovered a two goal deficit only to concede two more goals in the last 10, 12 minutes, there exists a fragility within the squad as the clock winds down., That there was no wailing or chestbeating among the away fans suggested many knew it was coming. 

Come the final whistle and undoubtedly it was the Philippines who were more relieved at seeing a point rescued. Alfred Riedl knows Indonesia must beat Singapore on Friday and hope Thailand don't take it easy against the hosts to secure a spot in the semi finals. They also know it won't be easy. The Lions kept the Thais at bay with a defensive wall Donald Trump would be proud of. Singapore have discipline and stamina and Indonesia know they can't be as profligate as they were last night if they are to reach the semis. And the way Singapore asked a few questions of the Thai defence in the final moments of their game will be something Indonesia will need to guard against.

Indonesia are not out of the AFF Suzuki Cup. Not yet. But to go through they will have to enter unchartered waters and protect a good position when they find themselves in one.

1 - Thailand 2 2 0 0 5-2 6
2 - Philippines 2 0 2 2-2 2
3 - Singapore 2 0 1 1 0-1 1
4 - Indonesia 2 0 1 1 4-6 1

See more

Jakarta Casual Instagram

Sunday, November 20, 2016

 

Ossie Ardiles On Target As Persipura Thump Persiba

While most people in South East Asia will have their attention fixed on Jose Mourinho's pissy fits sorrt, the AFF Suzuki Cup being hosted in Myanmar and Philippines, in Indonesia the ISC is continuing without break with plenty of games over this weekend.

Pusamania v Persela 3-1 (Sultan Samma, Edilson Tavares, Jad Noureddine; Nur Hardianto) 4,813
Persib v Persipura 1-4 (Dirkir Kohn Glay; Ricardo Sila, Ricardo Salempessy, Osvaldo Ardiles, OG) 629
Barito Putera v Arema 0-1 (Hamka Hamzah)
Persib v Semen Padang 1-0 (Sergio van Dijk) 19,216

Persipura may have been without iconic striker Boas Solossa but they showed away to Persiba they didn't need him as they crushed the hosts 4-1 to end a winless run of two games! In Jayapura parts that counts as a crisis!

The Black Pearls are just two points behind leaders Arema with five games to play. Madura United have a game in hand, later this evening against Persija and if they win that will go joint top.

 

Jakarta Casual TV - I Join Indonesian Fans For AFF Cup Opener


I join the Indonesian fans for their opening game in the AFF Suzuki Cup 2016 last night in Manila. A great day out, just a shame about the result.

More videos and images from the day can be found at the Jakarta Casual Instagram account so check it out why don't you?!


 

AFF Championships Suffer From Lack Of Promotion

So I arrived in Manila on Thursday giving me 48 hours to acclimatize to being in a foreign country! Well, they do drive on the wrong side of the road, they have different money and local beer is absurdly cheap!

I am hardly getting out and about and exploring Manila but one thing I haven't noticed is any promotion of the AFF Championships. I mean, it is not as if the Philippines host many football events, you would think someone somewhere is pushing the boat out but no, nothing.

I hired a car and a driver from the hotel to get to the stadium and he asked, as we got lost one more time, what was going on at the stadium? He knew nothing.

In a country where football is struggling to invade on the space taken up by American sports like netball you would think the PFF would be going all out to pull in the punters or at least generate some interest but I have seen nothing in the way of promotion.

Then there is the stadium. A tidy enough all seater affair it is very difficult to get to and the PFF had taken to laying on special buses from an are to the north of Manila to ferry fans to and from the arena. The stadium is next to the motorway heaing north but bloody hell, it can take over an hour just to reach the highway from parts of the city. The traffic is hell!

A poorly located venue is hosting a poorly advertised international football event. Don't be surprised if the games are poorly attended.



Friday, November 18, 2016

 

Why I Love The AFF Suzuki Cup

I gave up on England years ago. Nay decades ago. The last time I saw the Three Lions was in Katowice in 1993 when Graham Taylor was the manager. The last home game at Wembley was in 1988 against Sweden and it was a dire game. So dire I have never bothered going to Wembley since. At least Poland away was a laugh. But Wembley? Train to Waterloo, tube to Baker Street, change for Wembley Park. Even now, more than a quarter of a century later the journey is indelibly engraved in my psyche.

I only ever enjoyed one game, against Yugoslavia in 1986. I witnessed some veritable goal feasts against the likes of Luxemburg and Turkey and even saw Brazil when Kevin Keegan was still playing for us but I never really enjoyed the experience. I went because, well, I was a football fan and it was my country and I could afford it. But years of underachievement and predictable media hype had their toll and I just decided enough.

World Cups and Euros passed me by in a blur. Seen one, you’ve seen them all as far as England are concerned. We must have a player in our squad who is deemed untouchable by the media, even when they don’t perform. Keegan was one, then Bryan Robson. Yes, they were good players but they weren’t the world beaters the media would have had us believe just like more recently the likes of Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard and Wayne Rooney aren’t the world class talents some wish they were.

It wasn’t until I saw my first ASEAN Football Federation Championships in 2008 that I felt I could enjoy international football again. For a start I wasn’t so involved as I had been with England. There was baggage with the Three Lions, the ASEAN Championship had none. It was a clean slate and through my writing I had been able to get inside the camps of some of the nations involved in a way I never could have, nor wanted to, with England.

2008 saw Indonesia play host to Singapore, Cambodia and Myanmar. From the build up and the tension ahead of the games I could tell this competition, though minor on the world stage, and that is a different argument, meant something regionally. Local pride was at stake in a way it never could be when England play Austria for example.

2010 was though the game changer. Indonesia again played host, this time to Thailand, Malaysia and Laos. Coach Alfred Riedl had introduced exciting young players like Irfan Bachdim and Okta Maniani and the nation was rivetted. Indonesia cruised the group beating Malaysia and Laos comfortably setting up a semi final with a newly resurgent Philippines.

With Manila lacking a decent venue if its own to host one leg of the semi final it was agreed both games would be played in Jakarta and more than 170,000 fans saw both games. A friend of mine told me had had gone through school experiencing the national anthem every Monday morning and had become slightly cynical about the whole nationalist ethos. 2010 changed that for him and a great many others. ‘For the first time hearing the national anthem I felt shivers down my spine,’ he related to me.

They were certainly electric nights. Celebrities of TV and film would go to the games followed by their own mini paparazzi as they declared their undying love for their national team. The games themselves were hard fought affairs, Cristian Gonzales scoring the only goal over the two legs but Indonesia was buzzing. New heroes, a new league on the horizon, surely all was good in the world of football?

Indonesia lost in the final against Malaysia over two legs and subsequent division of the game into two rival leagues showed how fragile the dream was but for those present on those nights we witnessed how football could unite.

Indonesia have failed to reach those heights since and go into the 2016 event off the back of a lengthy FIFA suspension which has limited preparations even more than usual. However a new PSSI leadership could be cause for optimism for those hose glasses are easily half full.

They will come up against Thailand, Philippines and Singapore in Manila and it is fair to suggest this is no group of death. The Thais, fresh from earning their first point in the Asian Qualifiers at home to Australia are favourites and many feel the hosts will also go through to the semi finals. Singapore bring a squad heavy on experience but low on goals and will always be a tough nut to crack. No, Indonesia face a mountain to get out of that particular group and they start on Saturday with the toughest mountain, against the Thais. A point would be nice but let’s not get carried away.

No, I’m not going to Manila in expectation of an Indonesian triumph. What I’m going to see is a full blooded competition for teams who know this is their only serious tilt at silverware. There is professional pride knowing they are in the best shop window in the region and there is patriotic pride knowing a good showing can lift spirits back at home and create new heroes for 15 minutes at least. It may not produce the most technical football but then who cares. For passion and commitment there is little than can beat the AFF Suzuki Cup.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

 

With The Aussies In Bangkok



I join up with some travelling Aussies as they hit Bangkok for the Asian Qualifier against Thailand. As usual, things didn't go completely to plan!

Thursday, November 10, 2016

 

Tampines Take A Punt On Kaya's Clark

After seeing their SLeague title challenge crumble away despite the presence of so many big name players, Tampines Rovers are facing up to a new reality. The club announced they would not be paying players more than SGD$,2,500 a month for a start. That of course effectively ended the careers of players like Billy Mehmet and Jermaine Pennant. It also meant there would be no list of players and agents beating a path to the cash strapped club offering the next big thing.

When one door closes, another opens and that surely is the case for Louis Clark. The 26 year old Englishman has spent the last two seasons playing for Kaya FC in the Philippines and making quite an impression along the way with a reported 39 goals in 54 games.

Clark is at a good age with a good few years in the tank. Do a job for the Stags can only raise his profile in the region and while he may have been prolific in Manila the UFL isn't a league that attracts much interest in the region at the moment though of course that may change should the Philippines put in a good cup run during the ASEAN Football Federation Championships later this month.

Too often Singapore clubs have been guilty of signing marquee players in a misguided bit to attract headlines. The recruitment of Clark, should it be handled cleverly, should offer Tampines and other SLeague clubs the chance to see players as assets with a resale value. I know, that sounds awful but that is the reality of Singapore football. It remains to be seen what kind of contract Clark has but a forward thinking club with an eye on the bottom line could do worse than sign him onto an extended deal.

For a club that is eschewing the traditional fruit machines as a way of raising cash, that surely is the way to go for Tampines Rovers.

 

Persija To Play Remaining Home Games Behind Closed Doors

Not for the first time this season Persija fans have been under the spotlight and for all the wrong reasons. Already banned from using the Bung Karno Stadium in Jakarta following crowd disturbances that halted a home game versus Sriwijaya the club have spent the last few months playing home games in places like Solo, Madura, Bali and Malang.

Their most recent home game came against their bitterest rivals, Persib, and although it was played in supposedly neutral Solo there were still 20,000 odd fans who made the journey and managed to recreate the febrile atmosphere we have come to associate when these two sides meet.

Perhaps the authorities felt they had done enough to minimise the risk of trouble. Persija fans were allowed to watch the game but weren't allowed to wear club colours for example. I have no idea what the logic is behind such a decision. Is no one aware of the casual movement in England that saw fans cause trouble at games without the need for replica shirts or scarves. Persib fans were advised not to go to the game at all.

 Sad but true, when Persija fans gather together in large numbers there does seem to be a risk of trouble. Disorder marred a couple of home games earlier in the season including PS TNI when one fan died outside the stadium. More than 20,000 made the short journey to Cibinong to catch the return fixture and they were made to feel less than welcome by the local residents, many of whom have Persib blue blood running through their veins.

Against this backdrop it does seem strange Persija have been pushing for their home games to be played in satellite cities like Bekasi, politically West Java and Persib land. Perhaps the club remain eternally optimistic their fans will behave.

True to form the most recent game in Solo saw disorder, flares and enough fire crackers for a 4th July party. More than 100 coaches ferried fans to and from the Central Java city and there were some violent incidents along the way. One saw a Persija die in disorder. Another dead fan. The sixth in 2016 alone? Is anyone still counting? When is enough enough?

Persija have now been told they must play their remaining home games behind closed doors. Like, woo. That will make a difference. 2017 and hopefully the Indonesia Super League will return. Persija's first issue will be finding a stadium for the home games and no doubt the club will be hopeful they can use a venue fairly close to the capital so they can get as many fans attending as possible. Memories are short in football.

But banning fans is mere sticking plaster to a greater problem. 'Dibunuh aja' is a familiar terrace chant in Indonesia and it seems to some at least they are words that are to be taken literally (they translate as ''just kill him'). The sports minister is calling for a fan conference to ease tensions among some groups but will that achieve anything? After all it wasn't that long ago a peace was brokered between Persib and Persija fans but that hasn't held and is unlikely to. 

The most recent fatality occurred hundreds of miles from the stadium where the game was played. Similarly there was a death earlier in the year when fans returning home from a game ventured into the wrong manor, it kicked off and one fan died. Without security officials accompanying each and every group of fans and having them liase with provincial police stations as they head to and from the stadium there seems to be little that can be done to halt these random acts of violence beyond banning fans from attending which of course penalises the club and the majority of well behaved fans. 

This weekend sees PSStravel to Karawang to play Persita in an ISC B Big 16 play off. Reknowned for their own massive support they have been given 3,500 tickets. Let's hope the game, and the journey to and from the stadium ,passes peacefully.

Read also

Persib and Persija - a timeline of violence
A list of supporter fatalities at Indonesian football matches
Jakarta Casual TV - On the Manahan Terraces

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

 

AFC U19 Championship Final


A look at how Japan won the AFC Under 19 Championship Final, defeating Saudi Arabia on penalties in a nailbiting climax at National Stadium in Bahrain.




 

Vietnam Come From Behind To Edge Indonesia In Hanoi Friendly

If you are that most rare species of an Indonesian football fan, a glass half full kind of guy, there are a couple of positives to be taken from the narrow 3-2 loss against Vietnam in Hanoi last night. First up, there were two goals to celebrate. The merah putih aren't renowned for the goalscoring exploits on their travels to net twice in the unfamiliar chill of My Dinh Stadium should be worth a pat on the back.

What was the other positive? Umm. They took the lead twice?

When it comes to preparing for an international tournament Indonesia don't do too well. There is usually so much other stuff going on in the background which ever coach has been tasked with bringing back a trophy always goes in knowing he doesn't just have hand tied behind his back; chances are he has his own Plan B in place.

Alfred Ried, in charge of Indonesia for his third ASEAN Football Federation Championships, knows that despite the quality of players he has at his disposal, and there are some pretty good footballers in the squad, the harsh truth is this was only the fourth time he has seen his players get a run out since the FIFA ban was lifted earlier in the year.

Victory over Malaysia, arguably in a worse state than Indonesia thanks to an undeclared civil war between one particular club and the FA that has seen a number of high profile players announce their unavailability for the national team, and draws against Vietnam and away to Myanmar are hardly the best preparation but Riedl can't have expected better.

Vietnam, one of the favourites for the competition and up against Malaysia, Myanmar and Cambodia in Yangon, have played the likes of Syria and North Korea suggesting a set up that is aware football is played beyond the restrictive borders of South East Asia.

Skipper Boas Solossa gave Indonesia the lead in the first home with a simple tap in after a fine break but the home side equalised before half time, Irfan Bachdim, the poster child of the 2010 campaign when Indonesia were beaten in the Final by Malaysia, scored his 10th international from with a penalty early in the second half but Vietnam struck back to pick up a moral boosting win.

Indonesia head to the Philippines next week knowing they will face a resolute host plus Thailand, the best side in the region. Singapore will join Indonesia in the battle for third.


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