Sunday, February 02, 2014


ISL Preview (Western Conference)

If it seems like an age since the Indonesia Super League ended then that’s because it was. Last September in fact was when the final round of games was decided, more than four months ago. And that was an anti climax, champions Persipura Jayapura having long since had the title done and dusted, ending the campaign 16 points clear of second placed Arema.

Persipura were so dominant they lost just two of their 34 league games, away to Persela Lamongan and Barito Putera Banjarmasin while winning 15 of their 17 games at home.

The big question is how well will the Black Pearls go about defending their third ISL title in five years? 

Has coach Jacksen F Tiago managed to strengthen his squad sufficiently to keep that title on Papuan soil or have the other teams done enough to wretch the trophy from Persipura’s trophy cabinet?

For the 2014 season there has been a change to the format of the league. The one division 18 team league of the last few seasons has gone, to be replaced by an American style two conference top flight. Each conference features 11 teams who will play each other home and away before the top four in each conference go to the next stage.

Favourites in the Western Conference are bound to be Arema (from the east Java city of Malang). Sriwijaya Palembang and Persib Bandung.

Arema will be bidding to bring the trophy back to Malang after they were champions in 2009/2010. The Crazy Lions had something of a busy pre season, winning the Menpora Cup, Trofeo Persija as well as the East Java Governor’s Cup as well as playing high profile friendlies against MLS team DC United and Hamburg SV from the Bundesliga.

Coached by Suharno, the Crazy Lions released the veteran Keith Kayamba Gumbs, replacing him with Samsul Arif to provide back up for the experienced Cristian Gonzales and Alberto Gonalves.

Arema’s midfield is similarly packed with know how. Indonesian internationals Ahmad Bustomi and Arif Suryono will be ably supported by Juan Revi and Gustavo Lopes while the likes of Hendro Siswanto and Irsyad Maulana show the depth of the squad assembled by Suharno this season.

Persib’s plans for the season have been stymied by strikers. The West Java club pride themselves on getting their pre season work done early but Sergio van Dijk’s decision to move to Iran and an injury to striker Djibril Coulibaly, their signing from Barito Putera, has derailed those plans somewhat.

Attempts to bring in Fortune Udo, who enjoyed great success in Indonesia with Persiba Bantul and Persikab Bandung came to nothing. With just hours to their first game of the season against Sriwijaya at Si Jalak Harupat Stadium, Soreang, the club was being linked with Liberian striker Roberto Kwateh.

With one of the finest midfields in the country, boasting Firman Utina, Atep, M Ridwan and Hariono as well as new signing Konate Makan, Persib will be a formidable opponent but everyone connected with the club knows that for all its potential, they are one of the few Indonesian teams to embrace private sponsorship deals, they are serial underachievers and coach Djadjang Nurdjaman knows full well the pressure is on him to bring in a striker who can deliver the goals to kick start a serious title bid.

Sriwijaya may no longer be the force they were when they last won the title in 2012 and last season’s bid never really got going but there remains an aura around the club. Experienced former internationals Erol Iba and Maman Abdurrahman will add experience and guile to the back while the likes of Siswanto, Lancine Kone and Syakir Sulaiman provide plenty of midfield threat.

However, they lack the potency up front of some of their rivals. Alan Martha and Syamsir Alam are getting to the stage where they need to prove they have taken on board the lessons they have learnt overseas, both are graduates of the PSSI’s Uruguayan project, while coach Subangkit will be hoping new signing, Cameroonian Oliver Ongfiang, can find his groove quickly.

The 28 year old certainly has pedigree; he made his Serie A debut for Veniza just shy of his 17th birthday.

One team that could cause a surprise or two is Barito Putera. They were the first team to defeat Persipura last season and boasted an impressive home record. They may have lost two of the impact players from the last campaign, Coulibily and Makan both moving on, but they have recruited wisely, brining in Herman Abanda, James Koko Lomell and Shaka Bangurua to create a strong spine.

It’s difficult to see Persija Jakarta maintaining a title bid. Coached by Benny Dollo, they look to be lightweight up front with Ivan Bosjnak, formerly of Hajduk Split, Dinamo Zagreb and DPMM Brunei, brought in late to add some potency.

With Nepalese international Rohit Chand retained and Egi Melgiansyah added to the squad there is certainly plenty of flair in the midfield but the Jakmania may fret about where the goals will actually come from.

One other team worth looking out for is Semen Padang. This will be their first time in the ISL having spent the last three seasons in the now deceased Indonesia Premier League. They dominated that much weaker competition but showed they had something about them with some fine performances in the AFC Cup last season, reaching the quarter final before losing to East Bengal.

They have lost prolific Liberian striker Edward Wilson Junior, who swapped the ISL for Felda United in Malaysia’s second tier, but moved quickly to bring in Ezequiel Gonzales from Persiba Bantul. 

Another interesting signing is Eka Ramdani in the middle of the park. The former Persib and Persisam is one of those players in most countries you could build a team around but he seems to have lost his way somewhat since leaving Persib.

Who knows, perhaps playing alongside Semen Padang’s tigerish Yu Hyun Koo could help him rediscover the kind of form that had him playing in the national team.

SOURCE - This piece appeared in the Jakarta Globe on Saturday but hasn't appeared on the web yet...

Pelita could be the dark horse... they have landed a great coach that did miracles last season when taking over Pro Duta, they seem to be more solid in the defense and of course they brought BePe back that is a huge "unknown" factor. The only problem is that they have no support at all... maybe not BePe but JuPe should play next to Castano in the offense for the team to have fans on the stands!!!
thanks for your comments abt the live screening situation...i have indovision, we will see.

i hope to get down to see PBR later this week...if i can get hold of some wheels!
thanks for your comments abt the live screening situation...i have indovision, we will see.

i hope to get down to see PBR later this week...if i can get hold of some wheels!
I finally found some streaming that actually work but of course for me that's ok only with the free channels.
Thanks for updating stuff about Indo football... it's almost impossible to find things here written in English and when using a translator it's quite confusing coming up with "Arsenal London" (for Persib Bandung) "Newcastle Aberdeen" for (Persiba Balikpapan) and other funny terms.
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