Tuesday, November 11, 2014


Football & North Sulawesi

Back in 2006, Persimin Minhasa won the eastern conference of the Liga Indonesia while Persma Manado reached the quarter finals of the Indonesian Cup and the play offs of the second tier Divisi Utama.

Today, neither they nor Persibom Kotamabagu are anywhere to be found with the Indonesian football pyramid! They haven’t even got updated wiki entries, that is how far off the radar they have fallen. So what I hear you cry. Well, they all come from the province of North Sulawesi.

And apart from half a season in the short lived Indonesia Premier League by Manado United, that is pretty much the sum total of top level football from that province in the last eight years. And, for people who know the region and have played there, that is a crying shame for their fans are among the most passionate in a country known for its passionate supporters.

 But Manado is far from anywhere; flights to Jakarta take just shy of four hours, about the same as Jakarta to Bangkok and, um, it seems no one seems to miss them too much. Indeed, when I asked on Twitter what had happened to the clubs from that province, in one short hour, I received absolutely no response.

Not even an RT. Persmin Minahasa are based in the North Sulawesi town of Tondano, some 35 kilometres from the provincial capital of Manado and take their name from the Minahasa kingdom of days gone by. As for Persmin, they won all 10 of their home games, scoring 19 goals and conceding three. On the road, of course, things weren’t so simple.

Their travels took them to Deltras, PSS, Bontang, Persiba Balikpapan, Persela, Persik, PSM, Persibom, Persipura and Persiwa; with the exception of their local derby with Persibom, each away game required airport time while Bontang would have required a flight, or maybe even two, followed by a road trip of several hours! So how did they fair on their travels? They won at Persibom and Persiter, a relatively short hop from Manado and also thumped Persigi 4-2.

The Bali side were pretty crappy it must be said, winning just five games all season.credible draws came at Persiba and Bontang while they lost the remaining eight away games. Persmin did emerge with some credit from their trip to Jayapura, losing 3-2 against Persipura after being 3-0 down at half time. However, they won’t have looked back on their game away to Persik, losing 5-1 with Cristian Gonzales netting the whole bloody lot!

 They were rewarded for finishing top with a ticket into the play offs, or what they call here the Big 8, where the top from both the western and eastern conferences got all mixed up. In one group (based in Solo) there were Persik, PSIS, Arema and Persiba while Persmin were drawn alongside Persekabpas, Persija and PSM in Gresik.

In their opening game, Persmin came from behind to draw 2-2 with PSM, Eugene Gray and Jorge Toldeo scoring in the last seven minutes to keep their hopes alive. The second game of the day saw Persija take the lead against Persekabpas only to lose 3-1 in a game you just knew the East Java side were going to win!

 Next up, Persmin played Persekabpas and this time they raced into an early lead, goals from Gray and Daniel Campos putting them 2-0 up inside 20 minutes. But again, the gods seemed to be favouring Persekabpas as they scored twice in injury time to save their blushes and keep them in prime position with four points from their two games.

Persmin had just two points as did PSM after they held Persija to a 0-0. On the final day, Persmin drew 0-0 with Persija to ensure they finished second in the group and they were drawn against Persik in the semi final. Persekabpas had thrashed PSM 5-1 and their reward was a semi against PSIS with both games to be held in Solo. Persmin were beaten 3-1 by Persik who went on to defeat PSIS in the final and lift the trophy.

The Copa Indonesia was less kind to Persmin. Both they and their opponents Mitra Kukar were disqualified for playing too many foreigners in their first round tie! Persma Manado though had a much better time of it in the cup. Ok, so their first leg against nearby Persigo was awarded to their neighbours but they more than made up for it in the second leg, winning 5-1 with Ruben Cecco hitting a hat trick.

The second round was even kinder. Persma were drawn against Persmin in what would have been a tasty local derby but was not to be! So, with just 90 minutes football under their belt, Persma found themselves in the last 16 and this time they actually had to play some football.

They were drawn against Persiku in Central Java and won the first leg in Kudus 2-1 to give themselves a cushion for the return game on home turf towards the end of August. They won that comfortably 4-2 to set up a quarter final tie against PSMS who back then had the makings of a powerful side. Too powerful for Persma, the men from Medan won the first leg in Manado 3-0 and the second 4-1.

It was also a pretty good league season for Persma as they finished second in Group 4 of the second tier Divisi Utama, one point behind the leaders, Perseman. On 24 May, Persma travelled to Persipare in Para Pare, South Sulawesi and were trailing 1-0 with just over 20 minutes to go when Cecco equalised.

That seemed to have been the trigger for some pretty serious crowd disorder and the game was abandoned. Subsequently Persipare were relegated to Division Two for the 2007 season and half a dozen players were suspended for 12 months for attacking the referee. The team manager got a 10 year ban and the game was awarded 3-0 to Persma. For some reason, the final 21 minutes were played on July 5 and Persma apparently ran out 6-1 winners! You want explanations?!

Persma’s reward for finishing second was to go through to the play offs where they were drawn alongside Persebaya, PSSB and Pelita Jaya Purwakarta to be held in Surabaya. The play offs started well as they beat PSSB 4-1 but a draw with Pelita Jaya meant they needed to defeat Persebaya in front of their passionate support to go through to the final but of course that never happened.

The game was shifted to Delta Stadium in nearby Sidoarjo and Sujana even gave Persma the lead before the half hour mark but two goals in the second half from Anang Ma’aruf and Mursyid Effendi ensured it was Persebaya who were to play Persis in the final.

As happens so often in Indonesia, it all seemed so academic as the powers that be decided in their infinite wisdom all eight teams would be promoted as they expanded the top flight to 40 teams! So, 2007 saw all three teams playing in the Liga Indonesia, the last season in that format before the Indonesia Super League was to be introduced the following year.

Neither Persibom nor Persma made the cut and while Persmin did finish 8th they did not take part in the ISL’s debut season. As far as the rest of the country was concerned, it was almost as of football in North Sulawesi ceased to exist.

Oh yes, headlines were made in 2008 during a game between Persibom and PSIR when the referee was attacked. That made a few headlines for a few days.

And then, in 2011, the province, or more specifically the city of Manado, was back with a new team called Manado United 9. Nine? Yep, apparently it was a nod to the ‘rebel’ Indonesia Premier League’s intention to have clubs relate to their community’s history and traditions. Apparently there were nine tribes that united to form Minhasa back in the day while the club crest of a naval wheel referred back to the region’s strong maritime heritage.

Manado United joined the other 18 clubs in that inaugral season and while they could draw on great support at their home games, they struggled to make an impact and by the time the season folded at the halfway point in May 2011, they were 16th with 15 points from their 18 games. The fans got to celebrate just three wins; 3-0 at home to Cendrawasih Papua, 2-1 over Persibo and a narrow 1-0 over Bogor Raya.

While they boasted a good home record, those three wins were joined by three draws, on their travels they bordered on abject with a nadir coming in a 7-3 thumping at Solo. They picked up just three points on their travels. In 2012 when the rebel IPL became the official league, Manado United were nowhere to be seen.

A few clubs merged with more established clubs but others just seemed to fall by the wayside as people decided maybe football wasn’t for them. There was some talk of Manado United 9 merging with a team on the island of Java, no suitor was mentioned, inferring perhaps the talk was just one sided. Today there is nothing. Even with the national Under 19 travelling round the country as part of their preparations ahead of the AFC Championships in Myanmar, no one has seen fit to include North Sulawesi on the itinary. It is almost as if the province has ceased to be in football terms.

Being an Aussie who is making the obligatory trip to Bali next year, I've been trying to read up on Balinese football.

For as bad as it sounds North Sulawesi football is right now, Balinese football sure sounds a lot worse.

It sounds like a similar story though. A club becomes successful (possibly with some financial backing from someone), things get too hard and that club disappears into obscurity, before merging with half a dozen other clubs to give it another crack.
Yep, football in Bali seems in a worse state. There used to be Persigi playing in the old Liga Indonesia and then there was Bali Dewata and that's about it.

There are a few amatuer teams but finding out about them is time consuming
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