Wednesday, April 10, 2013
Persibo Bojonegoro and Indonesian football would have been better served had they rejected the opportunity to compete in the 2013 AFC Cup. They are playing in Asia’s second tier club competition by dint of winning the Indonesia Cup last season but they do have the feel of a professional football club this season.
They lost their first game in the AFC Cup 3-0 away to Yangon United. OK fair enough, away games are always tough but more so in this part of the world where a two or three hour flight can take you to a completely different culture and players here are not the most widely travelled people.
Next up was New Radiant at Solo’s Manahan Stadium. They couldn’t play the game in Bojonegoro because their own ground isn’t up to AFC standards. New Radiant come from the Maldives, an island nation, like Indonesia, that boasts a population less than the district of the home team but that amounted to zilch as they returned home with a 7-0 win!
Another home game saw Persibo take on Hong Kong side Sunray Cave and despite leading at one stage had to make do with a 3-3 draw giving them their first point.
Then to Hong Kong. The media there were reporting the Indonesian team as missing as they had not turned up for a training session at the appointed time amid rumours they had no money and wanted to withdraw.
They eventually turned up. On the day of the match. After flying from Surabaya to Hong Kong, no doubt on the cheapest airline possible.
They handed in their team sheet, which boasted a single substitute, and were set to play.
Everything of course went swimmingly for the home team and with the Indonesian players dropping like flies after their less than perfect preparation and were 8-0 up after 65 minutes when the ref cancelled the game as Persibo had less than the required number of players to continue the game.
In a damning judgment of Indonesian football delivered after the game Sunray coach Chiu Chung Man said "We didn't expect this situation from Persibo; they don't have any sporting spirit. We have heard many times about the lack of sportsmanship of Indonesian teams but did not expect it to happen with us."
It would have been cheaper, and easier on their goal difference and bank balance, had they stayed at home and taken an automatic 3-0 loss. As it is they now face the threat of disciplinary action from the Asian Football Confederation.
Things are no better in the Indonesia Premier League where the glory days of lifting the Cup last season are already tinged with sepia.
Their first game of the season against Persepar Palangkarya was postponed. They did manage to overcome PSM Makassar 2-0 in their ‘next’ game at home but any hopes of building momentum were dashed four days later when current IPL leaders Perseman Manokwari won 1-0.
The IPL then hibernated for three weeks before Persibo were next scheduled to play neighbours Persebaya Surabaya but that game was postponed with the Surabayan hosts having difficulties arranging security clearance for their home games.
A game away to Bontang, never the easiest place to get to, was next and this time Persibo never bothered travelling seeing the game awarded to Bontang 3-0. Little surprise then they sit 13th in the 16 team league that is surrounded by confusion with some teams contemplating withdrawing and doubts the season will be completed.
Under those circumstances the last thing Persibo need is the distraction of intercontinental football. They have enough problems in their own backyard without the added complication of trying to find places like Maldives and Myanmar on a map and booking flights to those exotic destinations.
So why are Persibo still in the AFC Cup? Rumours in the Hong Kong media suggest the Indonesia Football Association (known as PSSI) were keen for them to continue and the club themselves would rather not bother. To paraphrase the twisted Khmer Rouge who held sway in Cambodia during the 1970s there is no benefit if Persibo stay in the AFC Cup and there is no loss if they withdraw.
The threat of sanction from FIFA may have receded following the peace talks that recently united the rival Football Associations but the same basic incompetence remains and there is no sign that will come to an end anytime soon.