Friday, April 24, 2015


ISL Returns...Or Maybe Not

After a two week break brought in by the conflict between the football association and the youth and sports ministry, football is slated to return this weekend with four games scheduled in East Java and one in Papua.

What is less clear is if the games will go ahead and who will be running the league! The youth and sports ministry have said they no longer recognise the PSSI and have instructed the Indonesian Olympic Committee (KONI) to take over the league while the PSSI are saying they will continue to do their job and not accept any input from outside bodies.

On the pitch, surprise leaders Gresik United have the chance to make it four wins out of four when they host PSM Makassar on Sunday at Tri Dharma Stadium. Victories over Barito Putra, Mitra Kukar and newly promoted Pusamania Borneo have left Gresik United sitting pretty but coach Liestadi will be aware the early days of the season have been kind to his team and PSM will be a tough nut to crack.

The team from Makassar have returned to their home town for this season after spending the last campaign in Surabaya and roared on by their faithful home support have been scoring goals for fun. They thumped Persiba Balikpapan in their first game 4-0 and followed that up with a 3-3 draw against Sriwjaya Palembang.

However former national team coach Alfred Riedl has stepped down as coach citing health reasons and he has been replaced by Austrian Hans Peter Schaller who had previously been his assistant and the Eastern Roosters will be hoping the relative continuity in the dug out will have little impact on the team’s start to the season.

The two teams at the heart of the recent controversies, Arema and Persebaya Surabaya both have home games this weekend. The Professional Sports Council decreed neither club could continue in the league until ownership disputes were sorted out but little headway has been made and they are both preparing for the games ahead.

Arema host Persipasi Bekasi Raya. PBR started the season as Pelita Bandung Raya but a deal was announced during the latest break that would see Persipasi Bekasi take over the Bandung PBR and rebrand the club in their own image and host their home games at Bekasi’s new Patriot Stadium.

Champions in 2009/2010, Arema were among the favourites for the current season with a team filled with experienced internationals. They were involved in a ding dong affair with Persija Jakarta in their opening game, eventually needing an injury time goal from new signing Fabiano Beltrame to share a point in a eight goal thriller while Beltrame repeated the medicine in a narrow win over Barito Putra.

PBR coach Dejan Antonic has received many plaudits for the way he has handled himself and his team while the club struggled with a lack of funds. Forced to release striker Ilija Spasojevic he has turned to a PBR old boy, Gaston Castano to provide the goals up front but the Argentine has struggled in recent years with injuries and it remains to be seen how effective he can be on a consistent basis.

Following the shenanigans of last weekend when Surabaya played host to the PSSI elections which saw thousands of angry fans protest at the game’s governing body, the city will be hoping normal service will return this weekend when the local side host Persiba Balikpapan. Certainly the local security officials won’t expect to be so busy. It is estimated more fans turned up to protest against the PSSI than attended both of Persebaya’s opening home games!

It is hard not to feel a degree of sympathy for Persiba. While other clubs squeezed in two or three games before the enforced break, the Honey Bears managed just the one and that was the 4-0 mauling in Makassar. Coach Eddy Simon Badawi recognises Persebaya will be tough opponents and is looking to two of his foreign legion, Roman Golian and Ansu Toure to step up to the plate.

While most Indonesia Super League sides have been forced into hibernation at least Persipura Jayapura have had the luxury of competitive football, their 0-0 draw against Maizya guaranteeing their spot in the knock out stage of the AFC Cup.

This weekend sees them hosting Persija Jakarta and it has been a less than stellar start to the campaign for the Kemayoran Tigers. Their 4-4 draw away to Arema was followed by a disappointing 1-0 loss to Persela Lamongan and again it was a late goal that cost them dearly. The financial troubles that have consumed the club since the start of the year have shown no sign of fading and with no salaries forthcoming the players stopped training. It remains to be seen what kind of squad Persija send out east to face a strong Persipura side unbeaten after two games and buoyed by AFC Cup progress.

The other game sees Persela taking on Semen Padang at Surajaya Stadium but of course in Indonesian football much can happen between the writing of a column and match day!

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