Friday, November 28, 2014


Rahmad's Return

With bitter foes Persib lifting their first ever Indonesia Super League title, you can imagine Persija would be pulling out all the stops to ensure they do not remain in the blue shadow for too long.

With Benny Dollo stepping down after failing to take the Kemayoran Tigers through to the play offs, the pressure was on for Persija to bring in a top coach to break their title drought. Names like Dejan Antonic (Pelita Bandung Raya) and Bojan Hodak (Johor Darul Tazim) were reportedly linked with the vacancy but instead Persija have gone for Rahmad Darmawan.

This will be RD's third spell with Persija and while he is perhaps the most successful local coach in the country having won the title with Persipura and Sriwijaya the last few seasons have seen his sides fall short; last season early favourites Persebaya (aka Persikubar!) disappointed at the play offs and failed to reach the semi finals despite boasting a side filled with experience, flair and goals.

Whether he can make it third time lucky with Persija remains to be seen and it is telling he reportedly asked the club about their financial situation. The club are notorious for struggling to pay salaries and despite boasting one of the largest fan bases in the country, their 66,000 attendance against Persib was the largest in the ISL last season, they have struggled to find alternative cash flow, an area ironically Persib excel.

For RD to succeed there will need to be a change in the culture at the club where things are traditionally left to the last minute, including squad building.

Emmanuel Kenmogne had a successful 2013 with the club but as they dithered over offering new contracts for the following season in stepped Persebaya and he headed east. This left Benny Dollo scrambling to find a replacement and when they finally secured Zelmir Terkes it didn't work out and he was later released from his contract.

They do have a handful of quality young players, Andritany Ardhiyasa in goal and Ramdani Lestaluhu spring to mind, but there does seem to be a preference for the tried and trusted in other positions, Ismed Sofyan and Ponaryo Astaman (both aged 35) spring to mind and reports linking them with ex striker Bambang Pamungkas suggest that policy isn't likely to be put to bed yet.

The Bambang move is an interesting window into the soul of Persija. Despite having been away from the club for a couple of seasons, in 2013 he took a year off and this last season has seen him play for Pelita Bandung Raya, such is the esteem with which the player is held among the fans, his presence alone would deemed sufficient to allow the team a certain amount of leeway.

Certainly in the eyes of the support Bambang can do no wrong and over the years he has proved his attachment to Persija but would bringing him back be a smart footballing move or would it be a case of heart ruling head? And is that always a bad thing in such an emotionally charged sport as football?

Ultimately, Persija want to win the ISL. Seeing Persib win the league will have grated with the support and perhaps the new season will see the expectations of the support increased a notch or two.

It remains to be seen whether a trip down memory lane will be enough to bring the success the fans crave.

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