Friday, March 23, 2007


More Australian teams to visit Indonesia???

Football Dynamics Asia is an altogether more serious website devoted to the business of football in Asia. It recently ran a story that caught my eye relating as it does to the development of the local football scene.

The Western Australian government has done a deal with East Java which will, it is hoped, lead to the frequent interchange of clubs between the two regions. East Java may lack the infrastructure of Jakarta, witness Champions Kediri having to play their ACL games at Solo, but it is a hot bed of football in Indonesia and boasts many powerhouses. Persebaya Surabaya have long been a major force in the game, Arema Malang a more recent addition but possibly the future. They were formed just 20 years ago and have become one of the glamour clubs, famous for their loyal support. I’ve already mentioned Kediri. Last season Pasaruan Division fared well in the domestic league while we can also add to the mix Lamongan, Sidoarjo Deltras and Malang. In the second tier we have Gresik United waiting for a chance to shine in the big time. Sidoarjo and Gresik also boast more modern stadiums than some of the established big boys.

Perth Glory are one of the big names of Australian football and it is to be hoped they get the chance to pit their wits against Indonesia’s finest. Last December in the Bang Yos Gold Cup we saw Bulleen Zebras and Manly United visit Jakarta and they failed miserably against the likes of Jakarta, Kediri, Semarang and Medan. Performances in the Asian Champions League to date, one win and three defeats, show that what Indonesia needs is to play against the best in the region on a regular basis. That, coupled with a major rehaul of the domestic set up, should help them become a major force in the region but that is a process that will take many years. The tie up with Australia is instructive.

Back in 1984 I went to Highbury to see Arsenal play Australia in a meaningless friendly. We won 3-2 in front of 4000 fans. A couple of years later I moved down under and seeking my football fix enquired locally. I went to the tourist office, I asked friends. No one knew squit about the local football scene. I finally found a football weekly that looked at the Australian scene. There was a national league called West End National Soccer League and to show how low a profile the game was then in a country of beer guzzlers West End was nothing but a quaint brew local to South Australia.

I started following St George. Primarily because they were closedt to where I lived, easiest to get to and because they lacked much of the ethnic baggage that most clubs carried. Sydney Croatia against Melbourne Croatia was billed as a Croatian Derby! Start names then were Frank Farina and Graham Arnold!

Many games were ruined by poor pitches; Wentworth Park which hosted APIA Leichardt a few times was a shocker. Hooliganism was a frequent occurrence and I well remember nasty scenes involving Preston Makedonia when thye came to Sydney. Preston, from Melbourne, weren’t blessed with a fanatical away support. Local Makedonians mobbed up to follow them. With Croation and Serbian backed clubs I was an expert on Balkan hatred before Milosovic introduced the world to Greater Serbia and ethnic cleansing.

I left Australia in 1991. The last Grand Final for the newly named Quit National Soccer League was played in Melbourne and saw a record crowd at a football match of some 26,000.

Things have changed greatly now. Australia have finally found a format for a domestic league that seems, at the moment, to work, In the recent ACL people were complaining that only 21,000 fans turned up! Australian players round the world don’t rate a second glance now there’s so many of them. Compare that to the excitement when Rangers took Scott Playle, a youngster from Brisbane Easts, on trial back in ’87. And of course there was the World Cup in 2006. Australia has found its place on the world football stage but it took years of determination and tinkering. They regularly play internationals at European stadiums and get far bigger crowds than those hardy few who stood and sat at Highbury way back when. Indonesia can do the same. They would though perhaps find it easier once they allow professionals to run the game and not appointees!

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