Friday, December 12, 2014


Home Comforts

In England, a football club's home ground is as much a part of the club's heritage as the shirts and the great names who have worn them in years gone by. Fans grew supporting their team and making a pilgrimage to their home ground and that home ground rarely moved.

The first team to move in my lifetime was, I think, Scunthorpe United which didn't concern. Many have moved since including of course my own team and not every fan has enjoyed the experience.

Of course in South East Asia there is little of that attachment to a home ground. For the simple reason clubs don't have the wherewithal (or savvy) to build their own stadium; notable exceptions include Buriram United and Muang Thong United.

Many others move willy nilly and there is sod all anyone can do about it. And given the shortage of adequate stadiums, especially in Indonesia, the moves border on nonsensical.

Persiram Raja Ampat, for example, are from Papua but last season they played their home games in Sleman on Java, thousands of kilometres and two time zones to the west!

News in Malaysia recently that Kuala Lumpur FA are looking at playing their home games next season at the historic Merdeka Stadium (left). Their fans have had a torrid time in recent seasons what with a slide down the leagues, a match fixing scandal and more homes than itinerant buskers. The move to Merdeka Stadium could well be a popular choice; certainly for me; with budget airlines and a convenient kick off time I could get there for a game and be home for a late dinner!

One of the beauties of the Merdeka Stadium is how central it is. Well served by public transport and close to plenty of dining opportunities. Many new grounds in Indonesia lack any of that. And Persib are looking to postpone their move to their new stadium, Lautan Api Stadium, because of poor access facilities. They will make their first foray into the Asian Champions League, or the AFC Cup, using Si Jalak Harupat Stadium which is hardly blessed with good access...a narrow lane it can best be described as.

The promotion of Pusamania Borneo to the Indonesia Super League has put Putra Samarinda in a bit of a spot. Last season they were using the cavernous Palaran Stadium for their games in front of a few hundred but Pusamania's rise suggests they may move on. Which is ironic because Pusamania were formed by fans of Pusam upset with the new owners.

Anyways, Pusam have been linked with moves to Sleman and most recently Bali. Perhaps they could move to Madura?!

PSM celebrate their centenary next season and to commemorate...they have done nothing. Last season they played their home games in Surabaya, another island another time zone, but things are less clear for the 2015 campaign with their own stadium in Makassar still considered unfit for use.

I could write a book on the ground changes in Indonesian football in recent years and there are no dount plenty of posts concerning this topic with the likes of Pelita Jaya and Persitara cropping up frequently but it's not just Indonesia that has these problems though they do have more than most and the sprawling nature of the country, 17,000 islands, three time zones etc, makes their issues much more fun. Tiny Singapore is struggling.

Next year it hosts the SEA Games and has already begun selling merchandise...which will no doubt be available after the event at knock down prices so just wait lah.

The games have caused the authorities to juggle their meagre resources with the skill of a geographically challenged card shark. Tampines Rovers come from Tampines in the east of the island. Their stadium was demolished to make way for some new kind of integrated, leveraged hub with inter connectivity and key nodal points that provide an aspirational lifestyle for the eternally deluded etc.

The Stags have been forced to play home games in Clementi, in the west of the island, in recent years and next season could be forced to play in Jurong which is even further west.

It does seem to be all change in the west as champions Warriors have been told they will not be able to use Choa Chu Kang Stadium and have been moved to Woodlands in the north. Of course, Woodlands won't need their stadium any more after they merge with Hougang United.

Oh, and Home United, who were forced to do without their Bishan Stadium a few years back, will also be on the move to accommodate the SEA Games.

Yearbooks with complete info on the season ahead and facts about the teams and the players and the stadiums have never caught on in this part of the world. While Kicker Sonderheft and Rothmans Football Yearbook are considered reverently by connoisseurs of the game, here anything you write today is usually redundant a few hours later!

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