Tuesday, November 29, 2016
Despite The Handicaps, Indonesia Have Performed Heroically
Indonesia's qualification form the AFF Suzuki Cup group stages was remarkable on a number of levels. With the FIFA suspension only being lifted earlier in the year no one really seemed to have expected the Garuda would be competing at all, let alone finishing runners up in their group behind Thailand.
The 18 clubs participating in the Indonesia Soccer Championship, the surrogate league clipped together to give the clubs and players something to do were reluctant to help coach Alfred Riedl in his efforts to build a squad and imposed a limit of no more than two players per team which meant of course there would be a lot of disappointed players. The PSSI and or Riedl also insisted there would be no naturalised players available for call up which nixxed the ambitoons of Cristian Gonzales et all.
Drawing closer to the event Irfan Bachdim, playing in Japan, had to withdraw because of an injury while Persipura refused to allow the pacy Fernandino Pahabol to join up leaving Riedl and his coaching team to scramble round for last minute replacements.
Indonesia arrived in Manila after Singapore and Thailand potentially leaving them short of time to acclimatise to a city that shares many of Jakarta's traits and straight away had to face group favourites Thailand, fresh off a credible 2-2 draw with Australia in the World Cup/Asian Cup qualifiers.
That Indonesia went into the break 2-0 was hardly a shock to Indonesian football watchers. That they fought back to 2-2 before shipping two late goals was and while they attracted well deserved kudos for their spirited come back they were forced to share the headlines back home with the ISC which was carrying on regardless.
With 4 or 500 hundred cheering on the Garuda, in Bandung there were more than 19,000 fans watching Sergio van Dijk, a noticeable absentee from the squad, scoring the only goal against Semen Padang while Persipura showed they weren't really missing Boas Solossa as they breezed past Persiba 4-1.
In the deciding game when Indonesia needed to beat Singapore to assure themselves of a place in the knock out stage just over 400 fans headed to the Rizal Memorial Stadium in the drizzle, most being Indonesian fans. Meanwhile in Malang less than 3,000 saw Arema edge PS TNI 2-1.
After days of rumour and counter rumour the PSSI have finally decided the first leg of the semi final will be played at Pakansari Stadium in Cibinong. A mere 24 hours after PS TNI host Sriwijaya at the same stadium.
Vietnam came into the competition probably as second favourites behind Thailand but they won't fancy facing the Indonesians in front of a full house packed with noisy, passionate fans. A win for Indonesia would set them up nicely for the second leg in Hanoi, to be played at the same time as more ISC games back home.
Against that backdrop where he was working against clubs looking to get a season finished with minimal disruption, Riedl has performed wonders getting Indonesia to where they are. Perhaps, inadvertantly, he has stumbled upon a recipe for success for the much starved national team?