Persipura Jayapura is by far the best team in Indonesia this season. It has won the most games (15), lost the least (none), scored the most goals (45) and conceded the least (8). It also boasts the best goal difference and Indonesia Super League’s top scorer, Boaz Solossa.
Last time out, it hosted current reigning champions Sriwijaya and defeated it quite comfortably 3-0 in front of another packed Mandala Stadium. That win put Persipura nine points clear of both Arema and Sriwijaya and with its next game away to bottom-placed PSPS, coach Jacksen F Tiago can look forward to a comfortable lead before he takes on his second job, coaching Indonesia in its high-profile friendly against Netherlands early next month.
There is as ever a relentless efficiency about the team known as the Black Pearls. Both Arema and Sriwijaya have lost five games this season. Persipura has beaten Sriwijaya Palembang home and away, while taking four points from its two games with Arema Malang.
Every good team needs a strong spine and Persipura certainly boasts one of them. In goal is South Korean Yoo Jae Hoon who was brought in to replace the long-serving Jendri Pitoy and his commanding presence at the back has made the switch over seem almost seamless.
The Cameroonian defender Bio Paulin seems to have been in Jayapura forever. A classic man mountain of a defender, Bio has seen his partner of several seasons Victor Igbonefo move on, but he has carried on regardless, an intimidating figure for opposing strikers with his growling countenance and distinctive twin pony tails.
Zah Rahan Karangar, the mercurial Liberian playmaker, is another foreign player who has made Indonesia home. After a successful spell with Sriwijaya he too has been effortlessly absorbed into the Persipura ethos by Tiago and his intelligent build-up play has been at the heart of much that has been good this season, while keeping an eye for goal.
Up front is the consistent Boaz Solossa. Top scorer in the Indonesia Super League, Boaz seems to have put the injury doubts of the last couple of seasons behind him and is blossoming into a top-quality player. With the departures of players like
Igbonefo and Alberto Goncalves, Boaz has also become one of the senior players at the club which he appears to be reveling in.
The onus is not just on Boaz for goals. Patrich Wanggai, who impressed at the 2012 SEA Games when Indonesia lost on penalties in the final to Malaysia, has proved a useful foil while Tiago can also choose players like Ian Louis Kabes and Lukas Mandowen to chip in with some goals.
With 13 games left, many are asking if Persipura can go through the season unbeaten. It will be a tough ask. PSPS Pekanbaru is in dreadful form at the moment with a large clear-out during the transfer window leaving a youthful and inexperienced side, but it will still be fighting against the drop.
After PSPS, there is a game against Persija at a venue yet to be decided, as Persija has had issues getting permission to play its home games in Jakarta this season.
Practically every away game for Persipura involves some time spent in the air. There are currently three other Papuan teams in the ISL — Persiwa Wamena, Persiram Raja Ampat and Persidafon Dafonso — but only playing the latter affords the leader the opportunity to keep its feet on the ground.
Given that context, it will be looking forward to a relatively stress-free run of games with five games in Papua and two in Kalimantan.
The first game in Kalimantan is against Persiba Balikpapan, who is no longer the power it once was. Next is perhaps a tougher game away to Barito Putra in Banjarmasin. Newly promoted, it boasts a lively forward partnership with Djibril Coulibaly and Yongki Aribowo having a devastating first season together and it could be here where Persipura comes unstuck for the first time.
Its final long-distance games of the season sees it travel to East Java to play Persela Lamongan and Persepam Madura United before ending its campaign at home to Persib Bandung and Persita Tangerang.
There are still many miles to be traveled and many minutes to be played, but if Tiago is able to juggle his two jobs satisfactorily, there is no reason why Persipura cannot go through the season unbeaten.