Wednesday, October 08, 2014


Under 19s Looking Ahead To Myanmar

It's been a long journey but finally Indonesia's Under 19s are ready for the AFC Championships in Myanmar which begin today. How long a journey? Well, it began in Sidoarjo, was moved to Jakarta and since then has taken in all points of the compass in Indonesia, Oman, United Arab Emirates, Brunei, Spain and Vietnam.

Since qualification was earned in Jakarta back in October 2013 at the expense of South Korea, Laos and the Philippines, the Young Garuda as they are known have played some 40 games with mixed results.

When it comes to playing their peers on the road they have struggled. At the Hassan Bolkiah Trophy in Brunei they lost to the hosts, Vietnam and Cambodia while drawing with Malaysia and defeating Singapore in a dead rubber final fixture.

In Vietnam they were comfortably defeated by Thailand and Myanmar.

They did fare better in the Middle East, beating UAE twice, as well as winning and losing against Oman in a double header in Muscat. Needless to say they were well beaten on their trips to Spain when Luis Suarez, who I believes played for Liverpool, scored for Barcelona in their 6-0 win.

They haven't fared much better at home against international opponents, recording a single victory in five games against Myanmar, Lebanon and Yemen.

But for a team with aspirations of international glory, their home form against local club sides and select teams, while seeing lots of victories, has been less than stellar. They lost just once on their so called Nusantara(s) Tour, 1-0 against Villa 2000 in their final game, but scraped many another victory along the way and were often held by sides that had little preparation; for example 1-1 against West Java National Games Selection. Or what about a narrow 2-1 victory over amateur side Persiter?

Like I said, hopes are high and some people have even taken time out to book flights to Myanmar to catch the team when they come up against Uzbekistan, Australia and UAE.

But do they have a realistic opportunity of getting out of their group? Coach Indra Sjafri has had an unprecedented build up for an international competition with the team given lots of opportunities to gel both home and abroad and many in the country are expecting success. Forget that these age level events are not really about lifting trophies but more about nurturing the next generation and early hype does not always translate into sustained success later on down the line. We only have to look at the Sampdoria experiment back in the 1990s which spawned the likes of Bima Sakti, Kurnia Sandy and Dwi Ilham Jayakusuma and see what happened to them.

Or we have the generation of Bambang Pamungkas, Firman Utina, Budi Sudarsono, Ponaryo Astaman and their ilk, given numerous opportunities to thrive at national level only to fall short.

Indonesia's football future does not rest on the shoulders of those teenagers who have built an impressive number of airmiles over the last 12 months. We know there are some talented players within their squad. No, what will determine them fulfilling their potential in years to come is the people who run the game and my concern, ahead of Indonesia's first game against Uzbekistan on Friday is these kids have already been run into the ground in a haphazard schedule that has been high on travel and low on developing skills and understanding on the field.

I do hope I am wrong.

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