Wednesday, September 09, 2015
Persija's President Cup Flop
Persija Jakarta exited the President Cup in Bali with barely a whimper as they drew their final game 0-0
with Mitra Kukar. A win would have secured a spot in the next round for the Kemayoran Tigers but that
was never on the cards after another dismal showing in the holiday island.
Despite being followed by the passionate Jakmania in large numbers yet again the players failed to turn
up where it mattered; on the pitch. After losing their opening game 3-0 against hosts Bali United Pusam,
Persija spluttered to a 1-1 draw with Persita Tangerang, a game once tinged with the aroma of a local
derby but these days just another run of the mill affair played far from home.
At least Persija scored in that game, defender Gunawan Dwi Cahayo equalising two minutes after
Persita had taken a five minute lead.
One goal in 270 minutes of football with a strike force boasting Bambang Pamungkas and James Koko
Lommel is a poor return for Rahmad Darmawan’s men and no doubt will lead to more questions about
what is going wrong at one of Indonesia’s biggest clubs but now in danger of becoming a Liverpool,
a club living on its past, banking on its huge support but little in the way of hope in the near future.
Persija have long been a case study of how not to run a football club, struggling to find sponsors despite
their huge fan base and high profile across the nation. According to figures from Liga Indonesia, the
body that oversees the Super League, in 2013/14 their wages to turnover ratio was an unsustainable
118% and they lost Rp 20 billion.
Compare that with champions Persib Bandung whose ratio was 44% and turned a Rp 2 billion profit
and you can see the opening of a chasm that could continue to haunt Persija for years to come. Even
Persela Lamongan, from a small city on the north east coast of Java, had figures that can only add to
the unease among fans of Persija. They finished higher than Persija, paid a mere 30% of their turnover
in salaries and managed a tidy profit of around Rp 1 billion.
The mismanagement off the field has left its impression on it. The club ended the 2014 season poorly
with one win and three draws in their final four games not enough to secure a place in the play offs and
things didn’t improve at the start of the aborted 2015 season when the news from Persija was more
about players refusing to train in protest at the non payment of salaries. They started the 2015 season
with two tricky away games in East Java, drawing 4-4 against Arema in an absolute humdinger of a
match before losing 1-0 at the aforementioned Persela. The season of course then ended with the spat
between the government and the PSSI resulting in the ultimate sanction from FIFA.
The Jakmania faithful have been rewarded with a single victory in their last nine games and that came
just over a year ago. Coach Rahmad, in his third spell with the club, has enjoyed success elsewhere with
Persipura Jayapura and Sriwijaya Palembang but even he seems unable to turn around the fortunes of
the club from the capital city even though he is often working under difficult circumstances.
What must really grate though with the supporters is while Persija bounce around like a bottle adrift on
the ocean, their bitterest rival, Persib, are going from strength to strength. Success on the field has been
matched by success off it as sponsors queue up to match their brand with the team from Bandung.
While they do their best to secure the best players of the day, and players like striker Ilija Spasojevic,
Hariono and Zulham Zamrun fall in to that category, Persija applaud themselves for bringing back icon
and legend Bambang Pamungkas.
Whenever competitive football returns, and hopes the ISL will restart in October seem to be fading, it
looks like the future of Persija will remain bleak without a serious overhaul of the football club and
some serious investment. Unfortunately for the Jakmania neither seems likely at the moment.