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Tuesday, July 31, 2007

 

Copa Indonesia Big 16

While the great and good of the AFC pack their toothbrushes and return home we have the Liga Indonesia kicking off again on Saturday.

The draw has also been made for the Big 16 of the Copa Indoneisa and there are a couple of crackers. Teams in italics are from the First Division.

PSAP Sigli vs Persekabpas Pasuruan
Persija Jakarta vs PSM Makassar
Perseman Manokwari vs Sriwijaya FC
Persipura Jayapura vs Persemalra Tual
Persijap Jepara vs Pelita Jaya Purwakarta
Persis Solo vs Persita Tangerang
PSMS Medan vs Gresik United
PKT Bontang vs Deltras Sidoarjo

The tie of the round is undoubtedly Persija against PSM Makassar while the old cup romantic in me likes the look of Persipura against Tual who are from somewhere in Maluku. Silgli is between Banda Aceh and Medan so they have a lengthy journey to East Java to play Pasuruan while Gresik United is a virtual suburb of Surabaya and you can bet the local police were happy they avoided playing neighbours Sidoarjo. Sriwijaya from the Sumatran city of Palembang have the longest trip when they go to Manokwari so let's hope they take plenty of Sudoku for their flight with interminable connections.

No idea when these games are scheduled for!

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Merdeka Tournament

The Merdeka Tournament kicks off 19th August in Malaysia and Indonesia have announced they will be sending their Under 23 team to compete. The squad may include Atep, Ricardo Salampessy, Eka Ramdhani and Ahmad Jufiriyanto who appeared in the Asian Cup.

Indonesia are using the tournament as preparation for the SEA Games in Thailand in December.

Also taking part in the Merdeka are Myanmar, Singapore, Bangladesh, Lesotho and Zimbabwe.

Thailand have withdrawn sayint they have a congested league schedule at the time.

Two stadiums will be used, Shah Alam in, um, Shah Alam, and MBPJ Stadium in Kelana Jaya with tickest priced at 15RM (20RM for final).

Monday, July 30, 2007

 

Pot, kettle, black and a whinging Aussie

Please remind me...who came to the Asian Cup saying there were going to win it? Who came to the Asian Cup saying they would win every game?

Ok, read on...

SYDNEY (AFP) - Australian Vince Grella has lashed the gamesmanship and chicanery of the Socceroos' rivals and the standard of refereeing at the Asian Cup, calling it disgraceful.
The Italian-based midfielder, who finished Australia's abject tournament with a red card in the quarter-final loss on penalties to Japan, said there was no respect for the Socceroos playing in their first Asian Cup.
(Sorry Grella fella, respect must be earnt)
He is still bitter over the way Japanese striker Naohiro Takahara carried on in the incident which led to his 76th-minute red card in Hanoi.
"We respected all our opponents but they had no respect for us," Grella told Sydney's Sun-Herald newspaper.
(Oh really? Who reckoned all they had to do was turn up and they'd win it?)
"There were guys rolling around all over the place every time we played and all our opponents went out of their way to goad us.
"They all had a bad attitude towards us. I've written the names of Oman, Iraq, Thailand and Japan down, so it will be payback time when we meet again.
(Nice professional attitide there)
"I don't know what they all had against Australia but it was a joke.
"When Iraq scored against us (during their shock 3-1 victory) they were jumping around like kangaroos (I believe they call it celebrating?) and when Oman scored a goal they went and celebrated in front of our supporters ... that's taking the p**s.
(Why???)
"Japan called us a bunch of wrestlers before the game.
"They were winding us up. (No shit) As an honourable nation their people should be ashamed of the conduct of their team. It was totally unacceptable and disgraceful.
"They drove me insane with their remarks - I (wanted to) kill them before the game even started. The way they acted wasn't in the spirit of football.
(Of course when the Aussies do this shit at cricket they call it sledging and it's ok)
"We have players in the best leagues in the world and I don't even know the names of half their team. But I wouldn't have come out and said they were a bunch of nobodies."
Grella believes he was a victim of bad acting by Takahara and ham-fisted refereeing.
"I barely touched him yet he went down screeching as if he'd broken his leg," Grella said. "It was ridiculous. It was a challenge I've made 1000 times and I was surprised, to say the least, it got me a straight red card.
"Of course I feel responsible, because that left nothing else other than (for Australia) to play for penalties.
"But I also feel Takahara intimidated the referee." (All that rolling around must be pretty scary)
Grella said the referees were inconsistent (welcome to football) and appeared to turn a blind eye to gamesmanship, including diving.
"We all wore the fair play badge on the arms of our shirts but there wasn't much of that going around on the pitch," he said. "We were frustrated with the inconsistencies of the decision making.
"The referees let it all go. We need to remember these things and give these teams a hiding when they come to Australia in the future, but we're too nice. That's our mentality.
"The Asians saw us as arrogant. But our organisation is humble and just wants to follow the rules of the sport." (This is an April Fools joke right???)


While Grella can whinge and moan all he likes the facts are these. The Aussies came into this tournament understimating the opposition. They were found out and now the man is just spitting his dummy out the pram. Yes his red card was unfair but at every level of football there are inconsistencies. When your team of all stars had a full quota how many times did you ceonceivably look like scoring?

I swear when it comes to whinging there ain't no one can do it as well as an Aussie.

 

That's that then

That’s that then

With Iraq celebrating their first ever Asian Cup success the eyes of the football world will move away from Asia and back to more familiar topics like Beckham and Fergie. Left behind will be questions, problems and hope.

The AFC President Mohamed Bin Hammam confessed little had been in done in terms of promotion which is fair enough. Much time was spent redeveloping the stadiums though in the case of Bung Karno they overlooked the PA system which was abysmal. Of course it begs the question what was the marketing team doing then if not promoting the event? I said jokingly before it all kicked off that a couple of spanduk round Bung Karno isn’t the best advertising in the world. Having local players going round schools and giving presentations may have provided better value and reached the second most important demographic. Kids. The most important group should have been targeted where they play; in the malls. Indonesian games aside many attendances were poor and with Qatar hosting the next tournament in 2011 will things be any better then? Will Japanese and Koreans travel in large numbers or will organizers rely on locals filling the stadia?

While there may not have been a whole heap of awareness before the tournament started it’s fair to say once it got under way things improved. Local papers gave it pretty good coverage as did ESPN/Star and down under Fox Sports. Proof, if it was needed, that there is a market for Asian football. TV ratings have apparently been good and fans now in the region are familiar with the likes of al Qahtani, Mahmoud and Endo which is important if the game is to seriously take hold and compete with their European counterparts.

With regard to security Jakarta was at time slack. To gain access to the stadium concourse you had to negotiate a series of fences which had narrow gates only slightly ajar. People pushed to force their way through this narrow space and we are lucky there were no serious injuries. I find it hard to believe after so many experiences a footballing body could allow this type of thing to happen. Within the stadium people freely moved from sector to sector irrespective of their seat number and again there was little to hinder movement.

As at most games last night saw plenty of touts in the approaches to the stadium. So much for ticket sales being tightly controlled. I also understand last night tickets were offered for sale in some quarters at a hefty discount. Certainly in the Saudi v Uzbekistan quarter final tickets that I paid 10 USD in advance were sold at the gate for something like 2.50. Yes, encourage people to come but penalize those fans who paid early?

Despite the odd gripe though the winner has been Asian football. Australia may have learnt to keep their gobs shut in future. Korea may learn that scoring goals is a useful way to win games. Malaysia may even consider a major overhaul of their game domestically and running it on a more professional footing. Players from Iraq to Japan via Vietnam and Uzbekistan have been in the shop window and some of them may get the opportunity to shine in leagues overseas. And for me? Next Saturday the Liga Indonesia starts again…

 

Iraqi fans
















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Sunday, July 29, 2007

 

Iraq v Saudi Arabia 1-0

A happy ending.

Iraq outthought and outfought Saudi to deservedly win their first ever Asian Cup in front of an appreciative Jakartan crowd.

All the talk of Saudi Arabia bussing in thousands may or may not have happened. Certainly in the stadium the vast majority of the crowd was backing Iraq as were the bevvying bods in BuGils before the game. The header 15 minutes from the end was cheered by Iraqi and Indon alike as the Saudis were harried all the way through the game and ne'er given a chance to settle.

Great stuff and a big improvement on the new Wembley's first cup final.

I'll add more tomorrow along with some pictures.

 

So to the final

So Japan now have to qualify for the Asian Cup 2011 but the one thing that struck me about yesterdays 3/4th place play off was the penalties. The first 10 were pretty well struck as smoothly and sweetly as you could expect and it isn't often you get 10 pens hitting the mark like that. Which of course begs the question. Why the hell weren't the players so damned accurate during the 120 minutes of open play this sparing us from the lottery of a spot kick finish?

Iraq go into today's final as the punter's choice if not the bookies. There was an interview with the Iraqi goalkeeper just after their semi final victory over South Korea and you could see the emotion shaking his whole body, this tournamnet means so much for him and the players. For once Iraq dominates headlines in a positive manner. It would be nice if this had a positive effect back home but I fear the last thing some of the puppet masters in their homeland want is a peaceful, united Iraq.

Some have of course pointed out that a Saudi v Iraq final is evidence of West Asia's superiority, especially in light of the best of North East Asia falling at the final hurdle and I don't doubt the corridors of power in the East will be scratching their heads over what happened and why. Japan and South Korea have strong domestic leagues and a legion of players doing their thing overseas yet it is insular Saudi and nomadic Iraq who have triumphed.

Perhaps the real winners have been the South East Asian hosts with the exception of sorry Malaysia. Thailand played well in their group games up until the last 10 minutes of their game with Australia when Tim Cahill tore them apart. Vietnam impressed against Iraq and Indonesia of course have been frequently praised here. The ASEAN nations maybe a generation away from competing on equal terms with the more traditional Asian powerhouses but they showed the potential.

Politics aside, who would you rather babysit your child? A politician or a football hooligan? A hooligan obviously. They have a loyalty to their mates, their club. A politician has a loyalty only to himself...but politics aside let's just hope today's final is as mad as the recent Saudi Arabia games and that both teams put on the kind of show that has been missing from recent high profile finals.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

 

Perseman on tour

Perseman Manokwari have been in a training camp in the suburbs of Jakarta for the last couple ofweeks. In that time they have played friendlies against Persikabo Bogor District, Persikota Tangerang City and Pelita Jaya and lost all three,

This afternoon they face Persija Jakarta at Lebuk Bulus which makes a neat hat trick of matches for me. After this game I get back in time for the 3/4th place play off in the Asian Cup and later tomight we have the Emirates Cup with Arsenal playing PSG.

The only time I have for beer is now....

 

Asian Cup Final Ticket Sales

Amid concerns over a low turnout at tomorrow's final orgainsers and sponsors have been pulling out the stops to boost the attendance. Indonesian Idol finalists will be crooning before the game starts which will ensure better takings for the pub nearby. Judging by the responses on a local phone in show yesterday people weren't too interested.

WSG are reported to have snapped up 10,000 lower priced tickets for sponsors while the Saudis have ordered 15,000 to be distributed among 'football fans and pesantran.'

As of yesterday between 25,000 and 30,000 tickets had been sold.

In Palembang cheap tickets for the 3/4th place play off have been offered at a sharp discount to supporters of local club Sriwijaya while fans of Japan and South Korea get to pay 100,000 rupiah. Korean factories in the Palembang area have bought tickets for their employees and family to attend the game.

Friday, July 27, 2007

 

Asian Forum on Sports Innovation 2007

Asian Forum on Sports Innovation 2007
30 July 2007 – The Sultan Hotel – Jakarta, Indonesia
International seminar on Sponsorship and Corporate Social Responsibility
support for Professional and Grassroots Sports and Development in Asia

ENDORSED BY THE INDONESIAN MARKETING ASSOCIATION


MEDIA ANNOUNCEMENT
(official text attached)


www.asianfosi.com


Coinciding with the final of the AFC Asian Cup football tournament in Jakarta, the first edition of the Asian Forum on Sports Innovation explores the role of government and private sectors in supporting sports activities at the grass-roots play and amateur-levels and the growing demands for Asian professional, elite competitions.

The President of FIFA, Joseph S Blatter who famously said “the future is Asia” has personally wished the Asian Forum in Sports Innovation the "best of success.”

Presented on Monday, 30 July 2007 at The Sultan Hotel Jakarta, the program has attracted some of the most outstanding international speakers on sports, development, marketing and sponsorship and Corporate Social Responsibility. these include:

Johann Olav Koss, multiple-gold medallist Olympian and CEO of
Right To Play, the international NGO leading the use of sports and play programs to teach life skills, peace building and health education to children affected by war, poverty and disease. Many companies are looking for a new way to implement Corporate Social Responsibility programs and Sport for Development is an innovative concept motivated by the idea that children can learn by having fun. The English Premier League’s Chelsea, the first football club in the world to have its own CSR program, has selected Right To Playas its first ever international charity of choice;

Dr Adolf Olgi's Office of the Special Advisor on
Sport and Development and Peace to the United Nations Secretary-General whose mandate recognises sports contribution to employment generation, and economic and social development including health and persona; growth in people of all ages, particularly young people, brings together "the world of sport, sports industries and governments" and UN bodies such as UNICEF, WHO, ILO and UNDP;

Clare Kenny Tipton, the DGM and Director of Marketing of the
Asian Football Confederation, the continental football body introducing its Vision Asia program to lift amateur and professional football organisational skills and competitions. The AFC is building a football platform for every standard, age group, gender and geographical region supported by partnerships with host sponsors and broadcasters;

Dez Corkhill, a television Producer and New Editor, is Director of Content for
ESPN STAR Sports multilingual, online sports platform and the sometimes controversial The Top Corner commentator on Asian domestic football;

Giovanni di Cola, coordinator of the Universitas program of the
International Labor Organisation, Geneva, and editor of Beyond the Scoreboard - Youth employment and professional athletic skills development is a specialist in labour insertion and skills development for sports professionals to enable them to be trained/retrained to extend their professional life in the sports world.; and

Geoffrey Gold, football analyst and publisher of the
Asian Football Business Review, focussing on success of the English Premier League in Asia and how it can be emulated..


INDONESIA AND SPORT AND DEVELOPMENT
AND CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY

The seminar is also fortunate to have presentations on Indonesia, the worlds fourth most populace country and a fascinatingly diverse, resource-rich archipelago nation of 17,000 islands and over 300 ethnic groups. Its House of Representatives has recently passed a corporations' bill into law, making Corporate Social Responsibility mandatory for almost all companies. CSR funding can be considered as part of a company's annual operating costs, which means that it can be set off against tax. State oil and gas company PT Pertamina, for instance, has allocated Rp150 billion (approximately US$1.6 million) to its Corporate Social Responsibility scheme this year.

Frizt E Simandjuntak, a marketing professional and sports professions, Vice President of the Indonesian Marketing Association and Head of External relations of the Rajawali Group focuses on the sports opportunities available for sponsorship and Corporate Social Responsibility funding.

Said Fuzen Baabud, Livelihoods Program Officer for the United Nations Development Program in Aceh describes how sports and youth empowerment was utilised in disaster rehabilitation work in Indonesia’s tsunami-stricken provinces, with particular reference to the MercyCorp and Nike sports equipment initiative; and

Anton Inbenai, Dept of Sport and Youth in Jayapura City, Papua province and Henk Rumbewais, KONI Papua, Indonesian national Sports Committee, on the Perspura Football Club's HIV/SAIDS Ambassador role in 'safe sex' education in Indonesia’s Papua province.

The conference's two streams - Professional Sports Dynamics: and Sports and Development - cover sports issues of critical importance to decision makers of private sector sponsors, advertisers and Corporate Social Responsibility funders of athletes, clubs and sports competitions; government policy makers at national and regional levels; and all stakeholders in sports administration, athlete management and revenue raising.

Further Information:

Geoffrey Gold
Co-Convenor, Asian Forum on Sports Innovation

www.asianfosi.com

 

2 weeks

There are still a couple of weeks till the English season kicks off but already the hype is building nicely. Media interest has been intense as Chelsea visited the US and took part in David Beckham’s opening night performance in the shadow of Hollywood. Barcelona have been in Scotland and Ronaldinho says he would like to have Frank Lampard in his team which is nice. I’d like to be a full time writer on football and get paid for doing this but I can’t see that quote making headlines!

Meanwhile the Manchester United roadshow has become the 21st Century Radio 1 roadshow. Instead of screaming fans and Dave Lee Travis at wet English beaches singing Agadoo we have screaming fans and Christiano Ronaldo in tropical Asian cities singing Glory glory blah balh. Sir Alex hit back at critics of these tours by saying that Manchester United are giving something back to Asia. By setting up Manchester United Soccer Schools which no doubt are charitable organizations aimed at helping promising kids from less well off backgrounds showcase their skills. The veteran manager also mentioned how after a 14 hour flight United players were off visiting kids in hospitals which is indeed nice. It reminds me of the time I flew 12 hours from Bangkok to London, waited 12 hours to see Arsenal play Oldham in the League Cup then had a 6 hour overnight coach trip, eventually arriving home 24 hours after I’d landed. Which is also nice. And for me expensive. And for the person sitting near me on the coach smelly.

Meanwhile up in Hong Kong yet more English clubs are chasing the Asian dream with Liverpool, Portsmouth and Fulham competing alongside South China. Spoil sport Rafa says it’s serious and has banned his players from enjoying the legendary Hong Kong nightlife which rather detracts from the purpose of going there. Telling footballers not to go on the sauce is like taking a kid on a long journey and not letting him take his toys. Perhaps the players can all play golf instead? Maybe not, Peter Crouch in a baseball cap would like the pin on the second.

While half the premiership lap up the airmiles Arsenal have hit Austria, possibly on a Saga bus trip. Arsenal sells so in the absence of any stories the media have been engaging in creative accounting. Adding two and two together we have been written off for this coming season and indeed Spurs will usurp us in the Big 4. Cesc is a year older, Diaby is back from injury, van Persie, Walcott are fit again, Adebayor shows good touch for a big man (!) plus we have Eduardo and sorry for sounding negative but I see no cause for gloom. The one addition I would like Arsene Wenger to add is the killer touch. Maybe that is what he seeks as he strolls the alpine meadows.

This weekend sees a slew of games being shown locally. Aside from the Asian Cup Final, Manchester United, Chelsea, Newcastle and Arsenal friendlies are being shown live. From being a chance for players to stretch their legs friendlies have become serious revenue earners for clubs. Big crowds, worldwide TV revenues, it’s all a far cry from when I planned my summer hols round our pre season jaunts round Holland, Germany and Ireland. And Windsor. And Yeovil. Aldershot. Southend.

Which raises an interesting point. So the big clubs have graciously handed 100 million sterling to clubs in the lower leagues, which works out at just over a million each if it is shared equally, wouldn’t it be good to see our leading teams play pre season matches in places like Hartlepool, Crewe and Rotherham? Sir Alex talked about giving back. What about giving back on your own doorstep? They might even sell a few shirts!

 

Indonesia's report card (well, in my opinion...)

It’s been a couple of weeks since the Indonesian national team last kicked a ball in anger but the goodwill their fighting performances engendered remains. For the moment. Today’s good news tomorrow will be wrapping someone’s nasi goring. The Asian Cup circus leaves town on Monday and with it the headlines. The local football scene will move from the front pages to single paragraphs at the back as people find their attention distracted elsewhere. It is important for the Indonesian FA to build upon the momentum and interest generated by the Cup and to do so quickly before it becomes nowt but a memory rehashed by sad old gits like me.

On the horizon are the Merdeka Games in Malaysia at the end of August and the South East Asia Games in Thailand in December but as far as I’m aware no friendlies have been penciled in for Jakarta or elsewhere in Indonesia. The FA needs to get pro active in promoting the game more. A new breed of fan was attracted by the recent Asian Cup and to maintain their interest more needs to be done to attract teams to visit these shores. Hong Kong and a bunch of Liberians just aren’t good enough. Either as a challenge for the players or as an attraction at the turnstiles and playing overseas friendlies like the one in KL is a drain on the meager resources available. Why the hell do Indonesia go and play in the Malaysian Merdeka Games? Why isn’t there an Indonesian version? Featuring Australia among others? What interest would a game against the Socceroos generate locally? What message would it send to the football world at large that a high profile team such as Australia is prepared to visit? Win win…

Don’t get too excited. Indonesia are a long way from the finished article. While people locally have been pleasantly surprised by their showing fundamental flaws exist that need addressing to help the team progress. In the last ASEAN Football Championship Indonesia didn’t lose a game but it wasn’t that which saw Peter Withe out of a job. It was the lack of goals. The ability to kill a team off. Falling behind to Laos? Winning 3-1 against them was unacceptable especially when placed alongside Singapore’s 11-0 tonking of them.

Indonesia’s weaknesses were evident then and they are still evident now. A few days after they were knocked out of the Asian Cup Bambang Pamungkas lined up for his club side Persija Jakarta and scored after 6 minutes. At club level the game is geared towards providing him with the ball where he can do the damage in the box and as his 8 goals so far testify it works pretty well. BP is never going to track back and help create, he needs to be at the finisher of a move, not the instigator. At the national level Indonesia lack someone who can unlock the defence. The midfield snaps like a mob of terriers but aren’t able to switch from destructive to creative mode. The same thing happened in the Under 23’s pre Olympic Qualifiers, the same thing against Hong Kong in a friendly. 3-0 flattered the Garudas. Two goals came from set plays and beyond that they looked unlikely to create anything for Bambang to pounce on.

As in the friendlies, so in the Cup. The three man strike force showed a reluctance to go wide with the result play was condensed down the centre of the pitch where time and time again a 6 man defence had no problems absorbing the thrusts. Occasionally Indonesia went wide but the pull back was invariably poor, either behind or in front of the often lone forward. With the midfield on defensive duties it was little surprise to see the lack of support in the danger but frustrating none the less.

At the other end of the pitch the report is better. Indonesia are blessed with quality keepers with Persipura’s Pitoy and PSMS’ Horison both impressing. Syamsul in midfield was immense. Adding guile and forward movement could see him become an Indonesian Steven Gerrard. Ironically, given the lack of midfielders’ pushing on, days after he was dropped from the final squad Hamka Hamza showed exactly these qualities in a Copa Indonesia tie between Persija and PSIS Semarang that had a couple of us scratching our heads. For the most part Indonesia defended well but against South Korea they fell asleep once and were punished. The way the Korean forward was able to dance across the edge of the penalty area brushing off four half hearted challenges before releasing the scorer would have had coach Kolev tearing his hair out.

The question is can this team get any better or did they peak in those 70 minutes against Saudi Arabia? Is there someone out there who can provide the creative spark in midfield that is the difference between a good ASEAN team and a good Asian team? That is Ivan Kolev’s challenge as he considers the SEA Games and, next year, the World Cup Qualifiers.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

 

Seling the Asian Cup Final

Take the goal of the tournament. The match of the tournament. Throw in the most exciting moment or indeed the most heartbreaking moment of the tournament, add the gooey inside story of the tournament and stir. What you end up is Saudi Arabia v Iraq. Looking at the names on the respective teamsheets and you're looking at a mouth watering clash between a couple of teams who play in one direction. Forward. The game should be a sell out?

Not a hope. I've been talking to people at work and they're not interested. Some might have gone had South Korea, the goal machine from the Korean peninsula, reached the final. More would have gone had Takahara been more lethal in the box against the Saudis. But Saudi and Iraq? Thanks, but no thanks.

I see where people are coming from. Remember here people support something because it's famous. Fame is associated with success and they want to be linked with success as if some of that success shines on them by association. The subtleties of the game are overlooked as people seek the glamour they see in the media. South Korea, Japan, they are successful. They are sexy. They are known. The J League is shown live here, I don't know what kind of figures it gets, and there is fleeting coverage in the local media but for most the spotlight shines on the players who grace foreign leagues. Park playing for Manchester United creates a minor awareness of Korean football.

Saudi and Iraq are not sexy. There is no glamour in teams where people don't recognise names, or brands. Forget the fact that Malek's second goal against Japan was as good as anything you're gonna see this year. He plays for Al Alhi but no one out of Saudi or the Gulf area has a scooby who they are. Al Qahtani's finish for their first was a classic poacher's finish but who cares? He plays for Al Hilal which is pretty much an anagram of Malek's club and who supports anagrams?

Local football fans go week in week out to support their local team be it Persita Tangerang or Persiter Ternate. Mostly from lower income backgrounds they identify with their team. Their country. The wealthier middle class look down on local football, they seek the status of following a team on a distant shore that has frequent success. They aren't in the habit of attending football matches unless they head off to England or Italy. The local stuff is beneath them. Nowhere is there a culture of people going to watch a football match from the neutral standpoint. The middle class perceive the local game to be full of riots and disorder so they have no opportunity to get into the habit of watching football. Their knowledge comes from what they read and see about their favourite foreign club. They assume because Chelsea have won a couple of trophies they are famous. They assume because they have never heard of Al Alhi they are a waste of time. Even when they see with their own eyes end to end football with plenty of goal mouth action, great saves and wonderful goals it doesn't matter. They'd rather stay home and watch a rerun of the 2007 FA Cup Final yawn fest because it's familiar to them and the teams are famous.

This surely has to be the challenge for the AFC and the National FA's across the region. How to entice the armchair fan away from the comfort of their living room and onto the terraces and enjoy the spectacle of football as it should be. Live, in the flesh. Before the tournament started surely people knew sme games would be poorly attended. God, I highlighted it here more than once, surely the organisers must have known. Saudi and Bahrain had 500 people in Palembang! 500 people at a crucial international football match?! Why wasn't this type of scenario foreseen? I appreciate the FA's make what profit they can from gate receipts but surely something could have been done about those empty seats? They make the stadium an eyesore and the lack of atmosphere detracts from the game as a spectacle. Football needs fans, it needs to create a culture where going to a match is as normal as going to a local warung for a feed and to get people in the habit of going to football we need to start them young. Children. How many schools are there in and around the Palembang stadium? Approach the schools, lay on transport and fill some seats. Get kids used to the stadium and the game as a live experience. Enthused kids grow old and start blogs (!) and encourage others to get down the stadium. Sunday's final I'm going with half a dozen people who never set foot inside a stadium. Start with the kids and maybe one day we'll have a generation of football fans who will, like me, be looking forward to a gung ho match between two sides packed with quality players who play the game in the right spirit (mostly! we'll forget about the Saudi keeper and his breakdancing fish impression) and will be excited by previously unknown players showing their wares on the global stage.

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Out for 6

Persib Bandung's striker Zaenal Arief has been suspended for 6 months after breaking a curfew imposed on the national team by coach Ivan Kolev during the Asian Cup. Arief crawled back to the team hotel late a couple of nights before one of Indonesia's group games.

Persib Bandung currently lead the Western Division of the Liga Indonesia which starts up again in the first weekend of August after a 3 month hiatus.

 

Good news for Palembang

It may not be the final everyone wanted, including the Indonesian FA whose sole chance of profit from co hosting the Asian Cup comes from ticket sales but at least a Saudi Arabia v Iraq final should be a lot of fun. I've seen the Saudis three times now, against Indonesia, Uzbekistan and last night's semi against Japan and each have been wonderful advertisments for Asian football. Saudi attack with power and speed and possess players with good technique. Their first goal last night was one Ian Rush or Robbie Fowler would have been proud of. Quick reactions in a crowded box and a sweet finish. And as for Malek's second...if that had been Ronaldinho we would never hear the end of it.

Hopefully some of the Japanese and Koreans might venture over to Palembang for the third/fourth place play off and create some atmosphere there. The last game which featured Saudi and Bahrain had the proverbial one man and his dog watching.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

 

Saudi Arabia v Uzbekistan 2-1

This was a bloody good game of football. Saudi started the livelier and were one up in 2 minutes but then Uzbekistan clawed their way back and for much of the first half were probably the better team creating numerous chances. The Saudis remained a threat though, their pace and strength causing problems for the Uzbek defence.

Second half was more of the same as the Uzbeks pressed for the equalizer. I lost count of how often they were thwarted by the man of the match, the Saudi woodwork. It was the Saudis who scored again with 15 minutes on the clock and an Uzbek goal with 8 minutes left was scant consolation for their role in this sumptuous game.

It wasn’t just end to end football with both teams looking to win it within 90 minutes. There was little in the way of rolling round in agony, little gamesmanship. The players weren’t slapping opponents on the back but it was played in a tremendously positive spirit that lacked the overt cynicism that often blights the game at higher levels..once the Saudis went 2 up you would forgive them for settling back and indulging in some time wasting but it doesn’t seem to be their way. At 2-1 in possibly the last minute of injury time they broke at speed. Instead of working the ball down to the corner flag they made space and forced a corner.

As expected the crowd was disappointing. The Saudis had a few there plus the support of local Indonesians who seemed to have been bussed in for the occasion and given a green t shirt. A smattering of Uzbek fans sat behind the goal and were rarely heard but the vast majority of neutrals/Indonesians in the crowd were cheering them on.

Like I said, a bloody good game of football

Monday, July 23, 2007

 

Persija sign Argentinian

Pah!

Real Madrid can keep their Robiniho. And as for that Ronaldihno? Don't need him thanks very much.

Persija Jakarta have their very own -inho. Robertinho has arrived...

Meanwhile Persija tomorrow play a friendly against Persabaya Surabaya at Lebuk Bulus with money from ticket sales going to help the family of former national player H Santo who died recently

I'll go to work tomorrow and ask if anyone fancies going to see the game and they'll tell me oh no, too many hooligans...

 

Asian Cup Semi Finals

Having called three of the four semi finalists and five out of eight quarter finalists correctly the pressure is really on to get a better than 50% success rate on Wednesday. My one balls up came when I went for beer over luck so I guess I need to be more focussed.

Iraq v South Korea, Bukit Jalil
Japan v Saudi Arabia, My Dinh

Two of the teams come from Indonesia's Group D which makes their performance all the more commendable. There's also a neat divide between West and North East Asia.

For babe factor a Japan v South Korea final has obvious merits; it would also be the more neutral friendly affair featuring players many people are aware of and a lively, colourful atmosphere.

Iraq going through would be a heart warming story given the problems they've had that have been well documented elsewhere.

Saudi may not be universally liked but they are a fast athletic team with no small amount of skill and a useful keeper. A Saudi v Korea final would do wonders for Indonesian football when one considers how both teams had to fight to get past the hosts.

Now for a more in-depth analysis. My wife works for a Korean company and she really wants to rub her employers nose in it so out of blind loyalty I'm going to have to forsake the perve factor of Korean girls and go for Iraq. They too have a couple of players who have shone, notably Younis and the other one.

I just hope the Japan semi is played like the Saudi 1/4 final and not their own against Australia. Saudi have performed well this tournament but I think they rode their luck last night against the Uzbeks who hit the bar more than I do most weekends.

So my final tip - Japan v Iraq...

 

Bloody day job

I wrote a monster piece about last nights quarter final between Saudi and Uzbekistan. Nice and positive and upbeat. Problem is I did it in the desk top at work then forgot to upload it.

doh!

 

Arsenal 3rd kit


Arsenal have announced a new kit to be used when their red/white and white shirts clash.
Of course in most lines of business you would ensure your second kit, in Arsenal's case the white one, would not clash with anyone else but we're talking football here and no matter how awful the shirt may look people out there will still open their wallet.
The white one I can accept. It has a pedigree and looks quite nice. This one is just bloody awful

 

National Stadium, Vientiane





Saturday, July 21, 2007

 
Endo's penalty has to be the coolest thing you're ever gonna see.

Nerves, what do you mean nerve???

Takahara, have a word fella...

Nakawaza wins it for Japan.

4-3 on pens

 
More action in injury time of extra than the previous 45 minutes or so but why didn't the Japanese go for it before?

Now we have penalties.


 

Boring

Nothing on the first half of extra time.

Penalties anyone??

1-1

 

Red card

Grella leads with the arm and gets a red.

A bit harsh but the Aussies have their excuse if they lose. Kewell and Carney booked for diving.

They've not played well since that opening spell.

1-1

 

Well

Japan fail to clear from a corner and Aloisi gives Australia the lead. Cahill comes on and I'm just about to write game over but ...

...Takahara equalizes with a tidy finish in the box

 

Lord love ya Jamie

I'm watching the Japan v Australia game on Star Sports and they have Jamie Reeves as a pundit. He's brilliant. He's so dispassionate in manner but rarely wastes a word and avoids cliches like the plague.

And what other pundit can say 'beautifully behaved' when talking about football fans?! You can imagine him sitting in a bar wearing slippers, smoking a pipe, drinking bitter and wearing a Ronnie Corbett type diamond pullover. He's so damned reasonable...

0-0 so far. Australia started brightly and Viduka worked the keeper early but in the last 10 minutes or so Japan are seeing a lot more of the ball but the final ball is usually poor.

You do feel that Japan want to have this finished as soon as possible. A look at the Aussie bench shows Cahill and Kewell and we know what they did to Thailand the other day.

I just hope we don't go to penalties...

Plenty of empty seats.

 

Quarter Final Weekend

Japan v Australia - Hanoi

Many people's dream final, Japan have looked the team of the tournament so far while Australia struggled to get started. Their 4-0 win over Thailand flattered them but can they beat the Japanese?

Iraq v Vietnam - Bangkok

Every tournamnet needs a feel good story and this Asian Cup has these two. Vietnam have surprised most people by getting past the group stage and being the only ASEAN team to do so. It may be less a surprise that Iraq has got this far but by working as a team maybe they are showing their political leaders a thing or two about working together...

Iran v South Korea - KL

Two more teams that were strongly tipped for the semis, Korea squeezed into the last 8 only after downing a hard working Indonesia. Should be a great game of football.

Saudi Arabia v Uzbekistan - Jakarta

Possibly the least attractive fixture for neutrals, hence the ticket prices being reduced. I just hope we get a result in the 90 minutes 'cos it's a late kick off and I have to be up early the next day. Tough one to call so I'll fall back on good old fashioned prejudice! The Saudis don't sell beer plus I've been to Tashkent. Well, the airport anyway in Soviet times...

My tips are in red but don't waste your money!

 

The intelligence of a footballer

This type of story happens every bloody year. No wonder they need agents or they would never know their right foot from their left one.

JOHN PANTSIL missed West Ham’s pre-season tour of Austria this week — after destroying his passport in the wash!
The Ghana World Cup defender has been trying to get back in boss Alan Curbishley’s good books after only making five appearances last season.
But his latest gaffe has left him worrying for his future. A pal said: "John is very embarrassed.
"He left his passport in his trousers and put them in the washing machine. It was completely destroyed."


Taken from The Sun so it must be true...

 

Sympathy for Malaysia

It's not easy the being laughing stock, not just of ASEAN but now Asia but I can't help but feel sympathy for the fan of Malaysian football and I choose my words carefully. The average Malaysian football fan supports Manchester United or Liverpool and wouldn't know his way to Bukit Jalil if you stood him outside the main entrance. Let's put those glory hunters aside.

Malaysian preparations for a tournament they hosted were nothing short of an embarrasment. In the run up to this prestigious cup their focus was less on China and Iran coming to town and more on a proposed visit by English Champions Manchester United. With the football authorities supported by the government they fought tooth and nail for a symbolic friendly that meant nothing but glamour and photo opportunities and overlooked the importance of the Asian Cup for football in their own backyard.

What message this sent to the Malaysian team and coaches as they prepared doesn't need rocket science to imagine.

While the FAM, AFC, MU et all engaged in this unseemly dispute the players themselves were sent off to some boonies in Australia to 'prepare' against second tier club sides. As the players worked and trained in a down under winter for the cup officials nauseously expounded the benefits of a United visit to Malaysian football keenly overlooking the fact that perhaps a good Asian Cup run could have knock on benefits domestically.

Officials intent on being photographed with bored looking United players are not solely responsible for Malaysia's disasterous showing. Problems lie much deeper. But at a time when football there needed leadership and passion it got apathy and empty seats.

 

Reduced ticket prices

In an attempt to boost the attendance at tomorrow's Asian Cup quarter final between Saudi Arabia I understand ticket prices are being slashed!

My 100,000 rupiah ticket which we booked and paid for in advance, and collected in advance at very great inconvenience is now being made available for 25,000 on a general sale.

Do I get a refund I wonder???

Thursday, July 19, 2007

 

Can anyone break into the big 4?

I was 14 in 1978. The best selling album in the USA was Saturday Night Fever starring John Travolta. Leo Sayer with When I Need You was the best selling single. Closer to home Selangor met Singapore in the Malaysia Cup final, a regular event in them days. In Wimbledon Bjorn Borg won his 3rd consecutive Men’s title beating Jimmy Connors in the final.

Argentina hosted the World Cup that year and in a stadium drenched in ticker tape Daniel Passarella lifted the Cup for the hosts and the English speaking world first got to hear of Ossie Ardiles.

On the world stage Vietnam invaded Cambodia, deposing despot Pol Pot and Pope John Paul II became the first ever Pope from Eastern Europe. Israel invaded Lebanon, Ethiopia and neighbours Eritrea weren’t the best of buddies. Ricardo Carvalho, Chelsea’s Portuguese born defender who recently visited Jakarta was born as was Taiwanese singer Vanessa Wu, NBA star Kobe Bryant, Aussie striker Harry Kewell, Singaporean singer Vanessa Mae, Iranian striker Ali Karimi and of course a Puerto Rican porno actress called Shy Love.

Who cares you might ask. Well, 1978 was also the last year not one of the Big 4 won a trophy domestically. Nottingham Forest won the Championship and the League Cup while Ipswich Town beat Arsenal in the FA Cup Final 1-0 with a goal scored by never seen again carrot cruncher Roger Osborne. The way things are going it may be another 29 years before it happens again!

Many eyes will be on Tottenham this season after consecutive 5th place finishes and high profile signings Darren Bent and Gareth Bale (or Garage Sale as he is known in some quarters). However while they do have impressive quality in the likes of Berbatov, King and Lennon I for one am not convinced by their defence or midfield. This could be an import season for the likes of Zakora and Huddlestone to prove that they are not just Premiership quality but that they have that bit extra that wins trophies.

Everton are another team that get mentioned. More as a cup team where there dogged determination allows them to battle for 95 minutes but I feel they too lack that certain quality. Tim Cahill is an iconic figure for them while Mikel Arteta adds some guile. Up front Andy Johnson and James Beattie form an unusually all English strike force but it is striking (doh!) the lack of people pushing them for national duty. The signing of Phil Jagielka seems a typical Everton one. Competent but not eye catching.

Aston Villa have been looking to spend big with Martin O’Neill taking charge and having a few bob in the bank. Gareth Barry is one of the most under rated players in the country, probably because he is at one of the lower profile clubs. But if I were a Villa fan I would be concerned. Do Ashley Young, Marlon Harewood and Nigel Reo-Coker have the desire to fight and win? Can they bring the consistency that is needed to mount a challenge for the European places?

What about Blackburn Rovers? They have at least won a couple of trophies in the last 12 years. The words dogged, determined were devised to describe Mark Hughes’ side, adjectives which could of course have described him as a player. It’s time for ex Arsenal player David Bentley to show his quality but I’m not convinced he should be out wide. I always fancied him as a Bergkamp playing just behind the forward where he can be a lot more involved and use his intelligence to release wide players. Like Everton though there are just too many average players in the squad. While the likes of Nelson provide grit and McCarthy some real quality there isn’t enough of it throughout the pitch.

I don’t see anyone else getting up there. Newcastle may have the best chance but it will be interesting to see who Sam Allardyce selects out of Owen, Martins and Viduka. Duff will be looking forward to a full season while Joey Barton will be keen to impress but I wonder how he will get on with Dyer?. David Rozehnal will have the Toon Army feeling more confident about their defence while Steven Taylor is continuing to impress with mature performances. If they can gel and gel quickly then the rabid support in the North East can look forward to an exciting season.

West Ham are spending money like never before. Teaming Bellamy and Bowyer together could see fireworks at Upton Park on a regular basis and shows what masochists football managers are. Green, Upson, Parker and Ashton provide a decent enough looking spine on paper but not many games are played on paper these days and the tackles will be flying thick and fast as the last three players have recently returned from long term injury. There is also of course the Tevez factor!

For the rest it will be a race for mid table oblivion. It would be great to see a club break into the Big 4 but it just ain't about spending money. It's about developing a team spirit and making full use of that desire that is already part of the winner's make up.


 

For the Croatians out there








 

John Filan - ex St George, Cambridge United, Wigan etc


This was taken at the end of St George's last ever NSL game in 1991 when the Saints won 3-0 at Edensor Park against Sydney Croatia

 

Sriwedari Stadium, Solo ('91)








 

One for Singapore fans




Where is this stadium?

 

Some random thoughts

Many people round me last night were incensed by the referee’s performance. Normally I am loathe to criticize an official because they do have one hell of a job. But while we expect them to miss challenges and offsides surely time wasting is as blatant as they come? The Koreans were using this tactic throughout the second half yet the ref only once brandished a card. Once or twice he mumbled at players to get a move on but usually he let them go. Subbed players walked off the long way round. The keeper took ages to clear the ball. I never knew the Koreans were so adept at rolling around on the grass clutching their ankles. They would of course get more adept the longer the ref went without admonishing them. Reacting to timewasting of course is the reaction of the vanquished. A leading team almost has a duty to wind down the clock but I do wish the powers that be would do something about this part of football. Be it Arsenal or the White Hart Old Bastards it has no place in a game seen by millions. Officials need to clamp down on it.

The other aspect of the officials I’ve noticed this tournament was foul throws. There’s been loads of them. The normal cliché of the pundit is to decry it as Sunday League stuff but that is to dishonour those fine drunks who crank up round the country religiously with blazing hangovers and runny noises. At this level the linesman is some odd shaped guy who can’t get a game regularly so is given a flag so he feels part of the team. He may not be FIFA accredited but he does often know a foul throw. It maybe all he knows and delights in raising his flag in certainty for once. Some of the throw ins I’ve seen at Bung Karno have seen players almost bent double, ball landing almost inches in front. The Sunday League lino would pick up on these through the mist, why the hell can’t the pros? One classic last night had the lino waving this way and that like he was guiding a taxiing jumbo jet till he knew which way the ref wanted it.

Overall the football has been pretty good though I imagine the AFC will be disappointed with the crowds. For example the Rajamangala had some 46,000 for Thailand v Australia in a game which both teams had a chance of going through but that’s only about 75% capacity. I’m sure Arsenal had more there way back then. As for Malaysia! Rumours the Jakarta International Football League have asked them to join the league next season remain just rumours but one drunk in BuGils last night did express the hope they would join. ‘We might win a game’ he opined before staggering off to the toilet.

Indonesians have been pleasantly surprised by the football they have seen, especially by their own team. Despite my own odd rant, hey I’m an odd person, things have gone pretty smoothly match day but then it’s not me going to Senayen every other day to collect tickets. I can understand the AFC were wary of ticket touts and on line applications. Indonesian games have of course been well attended but still there are many people I talk to who are unaware of what the Asian Cup is. One chap this morning had no idea the final was held in Jakarta! More I feel could have been done to promote it here by road shows in shopping malls, that type of thing. Go where the money is! It would also be the sponsors target demographic. Having a tent at the stadium where most fans are in the lower income brackets isn’t getting value for money for a high end camera producer. Talking sponsors. A Japanese beer company is involved but I haven’t seen any of their fine product yet in the stadium. Gentleman, I am most desirous of sampling your fine product but where the bloody hell do I find it?

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

 

Bi the way

Just had a few beers but would like to point out for the most part Indonesian fans were most sporting tonight, humourous even at times. There were no black outs and no riots.

Mind you the Koreans bottled it. They had thousands the other night. Tonight was more like dozens!

Indonesia can hold their heads high. Before the tournament they were considered easy beats but Bahrain and Saudi might have other ideas now. Indonesia were never gonna win tonight, as ever the lack of creativity let down their hard work and effort, but at the same time they made Korea work hard ofr their victory.

The challenge is for Indonesia to go onto the SEA Games and make a serious impression: to build on what they have achieved here. OK they never qualified and never looked like beating the stronger teams but there is promise and that promise needs to be developed against stronger nations. But given the comedians who run the game here I can't see any quality opposition being lined up before December. Sorry, Malaysia and Myanamar in the Merdeka don't count. Indonesia need to aim higher.

Perhaps the biggest winner has been the perception of football in the eyes of the Indonesian public. Football here is like punk rock. Polite society talks about it in awed tones. They fear it but they don't understand it and the underlying feeling is it is shite. There have been some great individual performances and some great support. I wonder if any of it gets transfered to the Liga Indonesia?

Ayo ayo ayo Indonesia!

 

Indonesia v South Korea 0-1

Report and comments on the morrow

 

Indonesia v South Korea 0-1

Thoughts and comments on the morrow...

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

 

A sign of things to come?

Indonesian fans queueing for tickets for tomorrows final group game went on the rampage when they were told all tickets had already been sold. Police were called to quell the disturbances according to radio reports. This follows on from other controversial incidents regarding ticket sales in Indonesia.

At home I've just recovered from a 3 hour blackout which covered swathes of West Jakarta.

Violence and power cuts. A normal news day here but the eyes of Asia are especially focussed on Jakarta at the moment and while everyone recognises the fanaticism of the fans sad to say the bad news grabs headlines.

 

Indonesia v South Korea


The maths are simple. Indonesia must beat South Korea to guarantee passage through to the knock out stage of the Asian Cup. Do that and they will have exceeded the nation's hopes. Fail and hey, they have done a lot better than anyone seriously predicted. They go into the game boosted by the return of key players Ponaryo Astaman and defender Mahyadi Panggabean. It will also be the first chance for the Indonesian public to see their heroes, if half of them know the names I'll be surprised, wear the new change kit of white shirts and green shorts.
image http://www.pssi-football.com/id/info2.php

What is not so simple are the logistics, for me at least, of getting to the stadium in time for the 5.20 kick off. What dumb numpty fixed on an early evening kick off in the middle of the week in the middle of Jakarta? Any normal evening and the area is snarled up with communters going home from their offices that surround the Bung Karno complex. Wednesday will see traffic flood into the area as another 80,ooo +++ try to get to see the game on time. Weekend games, when traffic is lighter, have been later kick offs. Tomorrow central Jakarta is going to be an absolute mess and with the game finishing about 7.30, when the work traffic is still going home then god knows what time I'm going to get home.

Monday, July 16, 2007

 

Asian Cup Update

The way it stands at the moment Australia will play Japan in Hanoi in the quarter final while Iraq play Vietnam in Bangkok

3 out of 4 ain't bad!!!

 
Cahill splits the defence and Kewell nets with a sweet finish

Now of course the Aussie media will be telling the world that they're gonna win the Asian Cup, the World Cup and the Melbourne Cup and that Graham Arnold is a hero.

How fickle folk can be...

4-0.

Scwarzer saves well from a Datsakorn free kick

Australia rejoice for we are young and free
Waltzing matilda, two little boys, tie me kangeroo down sport
Neighbours every body needs good neighbours
g'day mate

 
The Thais have all but disappeared now. They have played spendidly, especially second half, but Cahill and Viduka have proved the difference. Cahill with his passing, Viduka scoring. The Thais have been let down by poor finishing.

 
3-0. Viduka with a great header.

Both goals from Cahill assists

 
Viduka uses his strength and sees his shot deflected into the net

2-0 to Australia with with 10 minutes left

0-0 at the other game, Oman v Iraq

 
Thailand are still pressing but they're too narrow and the Aussies are coping

 
Kewell just over...

still 1-0 Australia

 
Phipat threw but shoots too near the keeper

 
It's all one way traffic, the Thais are pushing down their right flank and the Aussies are just hanging on

 
better second half. Thais have gone close on a couple of times while the Aussies have worked Kosin for the first time in a while

If I was an Aussie defender I'd be worried. Schwarzer looks nervy.

Suttee has gone off...

 
half time

1-0 to 'stralia but not convincing. The Thais are knocking it about well and continue to lok threatening

 
Suttee just wide with a free kick in injury time with Schwarzer lost

 
quiet old game really considerin whats at stake. The Thais have threatened at times but mostly scrappy.

The Aussies won't care if it stays the same...

 
Aloisi gets a yellow

 
Thais have gone close twice but now Australia have a corner but cleared easily.


 

a goal

A free kick from Wilshire and Beauchamp is first to meet the ball

1-0 to the Aussies

 

First shot

Viduka works Kosin in the early moments.

Thailand are one point and 90 minutes from the next round but the crowd doesn't look too large at the moment

 

Another late goal

UAE beat Qatar 2-1 which means Vietnam go through to the quarter final in Bangkok where they will play the winner of Group A

 

Japan win 4-1


 

Maki again

4-1 to Japan

 

Nakamura

3-1

 

And now

Japan 2-1 up.

Endo free kick

 

Makie

equalise

1-1

 

Vietnam

take the lead!!!

 

Bloody tickets

I think I have mentioned before how some people here in Indonesia work in the private sector. It's difficult to keep on being absent from the office and spend half the working day going to and from the centre of Jakarta to collect tickets because some dope somewhere couldn't think of a more efficient method of distribution.

When you call the Indonesian FA and ask what time you can collect the tickets you kind of expect the time they give, in this case 10 am, to be accurate, give or take 10 minutes. But when 10 am becomes 11.30 am and the staff give no excuse or reason as to why they decided to let people stand around outside doing nothing then that is bloody ignorant.

Ivan Kolev and his team have been immense so far this tournament. The fans have provided wonderful support at the games and come in their thousands despite the obstacles thrown up. But while the AFC officials cruise round town in their comfy cars and get driven from hotel to courtesy seat it would be noce if they knew how inconvenienced the rest of us are.

 

Crunch time for Australia

The final group matches are staged tonight in Thailand and Vietnam and Australia risk checking out of their hotel in the morning if they fail to overcome the Thais in what should be a sell out crowd at Rajamangala. I say should be but who knows? Apart from Indonesia attencances have been a disappointment this tournament. It's also worth remembering both Oman and Iraq can qualify to the next round if results go their way.

Likewise in Vietnam. The UAE are already out but they play a Qatar team who will be looking to rattle in the goals against their Gulf neighbours to ensure they go through. Hosts Vietnam play Japan and a draw could see both teams go through if Qatar fail to win by a comprehensive margin.

Exciting stuff and as ever you can keep up with the games here!

 

Indonesia Raya

This is the crowd against Saudi singing the national anthem.

Dunno why I can't embed it...
Indonesia Raya

 

Bahrain v South Korea 2-1

Backed by a couple of thousand vociferous fans South Korea surprisingly fell to a quick Bahrain side who fell behind in the opening minutes only to net a late winner.

While the Koreans had plenty of possession they created few scoring chances, with the exception of a rapid fire sequence which saw two efforts cleared off the line, while Bahrain harried in the midfield and broke quickly.

This result really opens up the group with all 4 countries in with a chance of qualifying.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

 

Indo mania

Following on from Indonesia's successful start to their Asian Cup campaign repica shirts have been flying off the shelves in Jakarta as fans flock to show their support even at a cost of 599,000 rupiah (about 65 USD). Nike didn't produce that many originally but now production has increased as Jakarta outlets bring shirts in from Bandung and Surabaya. One outlet reported sales were higher than for the Brazil shirt during the last World Cup.

The knock on effect of a successful national team was evident yesterday as I wandered round a mall. Many people were wearing official shirts and, this being Indonesia, many more were wearing unofficial ones. Even after the game when I went to the pub there were 15-20 bules necking cold beer, wearing Indonesia shirts.

Football unites people in a way no other activity can, hence of course politicians getting involved with club sides here, and it is obvious just what a sustained success would do for the Indonesia psyche. The feel good factor would flow to travel outlets, retail etc as people try to be identified with that success. Indonesia may or may not qualify for the knock out stage but a good performance against South Korea would have people seeing the game here in a different light.

 

Indonesia v Saudi Arabia - in pictures












 

Security, crowd control and an act of kindness

To get inside the stadium we first had to squeeze through a narrow steel gate that was only slightly ajar. Not just us but hundreds of others, optimistically waving our tickets in the air. Inside this cordon some bags were briefly searched. As we passed various vendors and ticket touts we had to go through yet another ticket check. Now we we within touching distance of the stadium.

We queued at our appointed gate. One man at the front was kicking up a fuss because while he had a ticket his son didn't but he still wanted to get him in for free. Which of course happened. One more bag check and we were in. We found our seat numbers and drank in the atmosphere. As the game started people started climbing the fence into the next, less full, paddock while the watching security personnel sat playing with their mobile phones. Towards the end of the first half more people arrived who most obviously didn't have tickets for this area. They also passed between paddocks freely. Which of course makes a whole mockery of the earlier elaborate precautions doesn't it. Touts, free seating, free movement within the stadium.

As we walked round the stadium I saw a well off Indonesian supporter approach a road sweeper and give him a ticket. Nonplussed the sweeper stood paralysed, looking from the ticket to the donor who soon disappeared into the crowd. I have no idea if the worker kept the ticket or sold it.

After the game the Saudi fans next to us were treated to a barrage of missiles but judging by the way they floated slowly to earth they weren't to heavy. Indonesian police put on their riot helmets and bravely stood in the face of this attack while the fans made for cover.

 

Indonesia v Saudi Arabia 1-2

Ivan Kolev celebrated his 50th birthday yesterday and his players did him proud. They battled for every ball and ran their hearts out on the expansive Bung Karno pitch but ultmately it was to no avail. 22 legs grew heavy, sapped by the effort they had shown, and as they tired so the Arabs controlled the game more. A winner was as inevitable as it was heartbreaking and as the Indonesian players sunk to the ground it was a sign that they had given their all and they had nothing left in the tank. It was a wonderfully hard working display by the hosts who fought ferociously for every 50/50 ball and more. They wouldn't allow the technically superior Saudis time on the ball as the challenges flew in thick and fast.

The stats though will tell a different story. Indonesia lost. Time and time again Indonesia's wide men found themselves in good positions only to waste the final ball or find not enough support for them in the box.

Much had been made of the passionate Indonesian support and this was evident more than an hour before kick off. After Saudi took the lead things went quiet for a while and you could almost hear the small visiting contingent but Elie Aiboy soon equalised and the roar round the ground pretty much continued to that final heartbeaking header in injury time.

Kolev and his players can feel pride in their performance. At the same time fitness levels need to be looked at. A match at this level lasts 90 minutes plus injury time and the way the Indonesians faded in the last quarter must be a cause for concern. But with South Korea coming up on Wednesday the hosts showed they are nobody's pushover. What they need is more top class friendlies, not against the likes of Hong Kong and some Liberian fantasy XI, but the cream of Asian football.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

 

Official attendances

Is there any reason why I can't find any attendances for the Asian Cup?

Are they a state secret? Are they nobody's business?

Or is nobody counting?

 

SLeague Stadiums























 

Agu Casmir




Warming up for Gombak United. He never quite made it to Persija...

 

Working for the Sin dollar

For a country built on the entreprenarial spirit it seems odd that Singapore football doesn't do more to market itself to the fans. In the 3 games I went to, only Geylang had a stall selling merchandise. Young Lions had a registration desk while at Tampines I saw nothing. Obviously there is merchandise available, at each game there were fans wearing club stuff, but for the casual fan it's difficult to track down. Having 2000 + fans paying 5 dollars every few days doesn't seem the strongest of business models.

 

Tampines Rovers v Baleister Khalsa 1-2

After a good performance last time out at Geylang United Tampines went into this fixture confidant knowing that they had a game in hand on leaders Home United and they were on an unbeaten run.

1-0 up at half time they may have thought another 3 points were in the bag. There were however danger signs. Overelaborate approach play is something I'm used to from Arsenal and, like Arsenal last season, it was of the Hleb variety, not the Bergkamp vintage. After you football if you like.

Second half Baleister started brightly especially down the left where Giscard looked lively.

On 53 minutes Udo equalised and it was no more than the visitors deserved. It wasn't quite one way traffic but you felt that the longer the game went on it was Khalsa who looked the more comfortable.

Rovers responded with some neat interplay but the resulting shot probably ended up by the airport.

The inspirational Riduan was involved in a collision that needed attention off the field and while he was gone Giscard took advantage of the extra space to bring a finger tip save from the keeper.

On 79 minutes Khalsa came down the left but the cross shot just eveaded two onrushing forwards. It was all Baleister and the local fans had gone quiet.

Tampines still pressed. Riduan hit the post and the Khalsa keeper saved easily from a free header.

On 87 minutes Giscard chased a long, high ball. He failed to bring it down, instead he wa brought down and the visitors got themselves a penalty. Udo scored, 2-1 Baleister.

It may have only been the S League. It may have only been a small crowd but when you're having a yo yo season you don't expect much from visiting one of the best teams in the country. When you go 1-0 down you think here we go again. Even an equaliser isn't really a cause for joy. You've seen them thrown away far too often. But when you get a penalty in the dying moments. When you're one nil down, two one up, it doesn't matter if you're English Premier League or the SLeague. It just feels soooo good.

As the few visiting fans sang and danced in the main stand and beat their drums I walked back to the station. I've been there before. It's a great feeling and one they'll savour for days to come.

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