Thursday, March 25, 2010


Time to change the model

The way Persipura were contempously played with yesterday by Kashima Antlers during their ACL game in Japan will have disheartened followers of Indonesian football. It was so one sided it made a nonsense of Fair Play for All. It was like pitting my old pub team against Brentford. It's not a gap, it's a bloody chasm that makes the Grand Canyon look like a bloody scratch.

The commentators doing the game did say that Persipura's performance was a big improvement on what had gone before. Maybe it was but the gap hasn't narrowed none.

Persipura went there on damage limitation. Leading scorer Alberto Goncalves was left on the bench as was the aging but still inspirational skipper Eduard Ivakdalam.

Yes, they kept there shape for long periods of time and yes some of the goals they conceded were lucky. But Kashima had so much possession all they had to do was keep a-knocking. There was no way the Indonesians were going to hold out indefinitly. They're just not set up that way.

The Black Pearls are all about pace and power. They dominate domestically but as they are finding out the ISL is no preparation for anything the Japanese, Koreans or even the Chinese can put up against them.

Watching the game yesterday you could see Persipura's coach Jacksen F Tiago had taken on board the previous thumpings. The only foreign coach to have won the Indonesian title twice had done his homework and had gotten his defenders disciplined. No mean achievement in a lague where containment and sitting deep just aren't done.

As a coach Tiago is probably wondering what more he can do, operating on a budget perhaps 10% of his north east Asian rivals.

It's fair to say that Indonesian football has yet to really grasp Asian club football. It's just more fixtures on an already confusing schedule. No club is built to take on Asia but no club is built for anything beyond one season at a time.

Persik Kediri perhaps had the best go. They won two and drew one of their three home games in the 2007 group stages. But that team was soon broken up at the end of the season when clubs scramble for funding, coaches and players.

Indonesia won't make an impact on the Champions League all the while this short termism, married with pitiful budgets, is the way the football is run in the country.

It looks like Arema could well be Indonesia's representative in 2011. But will their coach Robert Alberts still be there? Will players like Noh Alam Shah, Pierre Njanka and Markus Horison stick around waiting for the club to come up with some cash for a contract. It's nonsense that Arema, with crowds approaching 30,000 every home game, can't even find a major sponsor willing to plough serious money into the club.

Sriwijaya meanwhile are showing what a bit of continuity and experience can do. Finishing bottom of their group last season in the Champions League they are now in the AFC Cup and have as good as already qualified for the knock out stages. The next step on their learning curve will come against the teams from West Asia, and their poodle refs, but for now they can bask in the glory of qualification.

There's another thing about Sriwijaya. They have played continental opposition recently. OK so it was teams from Malaysia but it's a step up on frequent friendlies against your cousin's team down the road.

But until they get serious injections of cash, until they can fill their team with top quality players in every position then the AFC Cup group stages will be about their limit.

I won't menion Persiwa. They shouldn't even be in the AFC Cup, their second place in last season's ISL was based pure and simply on their home form up in the mountains.

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