Friday, December 30, 2016


Arema's 'Arek Malang' Aroma

After missing out on the Indonesia Soccer Championship Arema are hoping an off and on the field shake up will help them better prepare for the Indonesia Super League 2017. 

For starters they have dropped the name of their sponsors but as I have never used that it is no big deal. 

More pertinent is the changes they have made to their backroom staff with coach Milomir Seslija leaving despite guiding the club to second place.

In has come Aji Santoso, a former Indonesia international who had two spells with Arema from 1987 - 1995 and 2002 - 2004. He was born in the city and has surrounded himself with a coaching team steeped in the psyche of the city and the football club.

He has brought in three assistants. Joko Susilo also had two spells with the Crazy Lions while Singgih Pitono was twice top scorer for the club in the days before the Liga Indonesia. Joining them is Kuncoro, a former Arema right back. Completing the coaching set up is goalie specialist Yanuar Hermasyah. He too was born in Malang and played for the club from 1996-1997.

Aji Santoso born Malang played 87-95 & 02-04
Joko Susilo played 92-95 & 98-03
Singgih Pitono played 92-94
Kuncoro born Malang played 91-96 & 01
Yanuar Hermansyah born Malang played 96-97

At least there wont be any problems with the coaching staff needing time to adapt!

In more news Arema keeper Ahmad Kurniwan is in hospital in a coma. Get well soon AK.

Thursday, December 29, 2016


Book Update

I was really chuffed to get my hands on a sample copy of my first book yesterday. I met up with the publisher and translater in a bar in South Jakarta and giddy at having my words in a printed form I must admit I did chuck a few down my neck.

We are looking to publish early in the new year...I will announce a date when I have one. Pre orders can be directed to PilihBuku,com

This is the Indonesian language version only at the moment. An English language version, covering Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore as well as Indonesia, is still looking for an outlet. 

So, keep an eye on my instagram and twitter accounts for the latest on the book and its launch date and many thanks for your is really appreciated.

Thursday, December 22, 2016


Persib's Foreign Legion Fret Over Futures

When it comes to pre season planning few clubs are as on the ball as Persib. They have already snapped up Indonesian international Dedi Kusnander from Malaysian side Sabah and T Team striiker Patrick dos Santos Cruz. With chances high iconic defender Vladimir Vujovic will be retained after another impressive season and firm interest in former midfielder Makan Konateh, Diogo Ferreira, Robertinho and Marcos Flores will face a nervous few days while the club decides their fates.

Aussie defender Ferreira arrived for the second half of the season and he feels he has done enough to merit a new contract. 'From the 11 games I played with Persib partnering Vladimir in the heart of the defence we kept seven clean sheets.' However as he headed for Australia he admitted his future was most definitely uncertain. 'I've not talked to anyone about extending my contract with Persib. It's up to the manager and the coach. However I would be really happy if I can continue to play for this football club.

31 year old midfielder Flores arrived around the same time as Ferreira , managing just one goal and one assistant since first donning the Persib blue. The Argentine says he is happy with Persib and is open to extending his stay but is also realistic. 'If they don't need me any more I will move to another club.'

While Diogo and Marcos have had only a short spell in Indonesia Robertino has been around almost a decade. In that time he has played for Persija, Persiba, PSM and Persipura. The 33 year old midfielder is a known quantity and should Persib decide he is surplus to requirements he would have no shortage of suitors.

Meanshile coach Djadjang is heading to Thailand in January to complete his A licence. Indonesia Super League, and Indonesia Soccer Championship, regulations state coaches must have an A licence coach and PS TNI as well as Persija were forced to find new coaches mid season for breaching t his regulation. For some reason Persib weren't required to replace Djadjang


Bayu Pradana's Sate Dream

Mitra Kukar's Bayu Pradana impressed many at the recent AFF Suzuki Cup with his commanding performances at the heart of the Indonesian midfield. That the national team was able to show a new defensive fortitude was in part down to the partnership Bayu forged with Stefano Lilypaly just in front of the back four.

After impressing a regional audience we would imagine Bayu, much like Thailand's Chanathip Songkrasin, to have his eyes on building his career in more challenging leagues. Chanathip of course has signed an 18 month loan deal with Japanese side Consadole Sapporo.

Bayu's ambitions are more humble though. After returning from Thailand Bayu has been helping out at his parent's sate stall in Central Java and the 26 year old has made no secret of wanting to follow in his parent's footsteps.

'Next month I will fulfill my dream of opening my own sate stall,' he said in a recent interview. When he was asked if he felt it was a bit of a come down from the AFF final, that he felt a bit embarrassed he replied by saying 'why should I feel embarrassed? ...I really enjoy it.'

Now I don't for a minute want to suggest Bayu and Chanathip are on the same level as players. What is instructive is we have a Thai player who is willing to try somewhere new, something the likes of his national team coach Zico did 20 odd years ago, while an Indonesian is more content to stay close to his family.

Not judging, it's just the way it is for so many players. 

Tuesday, December 20, 2016


Indonesia Soccer Championship In Numbers

1 - Persipura 34 20 8 6 53-27 68
2 - Arema     34 18 10 6 46-22 64
3 - Madura United 34 18 7 9 56-40 61
4 - Sriwijaya 34 15 11 8 62-39 56

25 - Alberto Goncales (Sriwijaya)
21 - Marcel Sacremento (Semen Padang)
17 - Luis Carlos Junior (Barito Putera)
16 - Marlon Silva (Mitra Kukar)

Most wins - Persipura (20)
Most draws - Persija (11)
Most losses - PS TNI (22)
Most goals scored - Sriwjaya, Pusamania (62)
Least goals scored - Persija (25)
Most goals conceded - PS TNI (75)
Least goals conceded - Arema (22)
Unbeaten at home - Persib, Perseru
Winless away - Semen Padang, Barito Putera, PS TNI
Most home goals scored - Pusamania (45)
Most home goals conceded - PS TNI (31)
Least home goals scored - Persija (15)
Least home goals conceded - Perseru (5)
Most away goals scored Sriwijaya (26)
Least away goals scored Persija, Semen Padang (10)
Most away goals conceded - Perseru (46)
Least away goals conceded - Persipura (14)
Largest crowd - Persija v Semen Padang 50,117
Smallest crowd - Persija 0 v several teams

Monday, December 19, 2016


Persipura Lift Indonesia Soccer Championship

There is something relentless about Persipura when they hit their stride. Their 4-2 victory over PSM yesterday at a rain sodden Mandala Stadium ensured they lifted the first, and perhaps only, Indonesia Soccer Champions, a trophy that had long seemed destined for Arema or Madura United.

Six straight wins at the business end of the season. Eight wins out of their last 10 games. It is a cliche but when the goings gets tough the tough get going. Lifting the trophy means the Black Pearls have finished first or second in every campaign since the Indonesia Super League was introduced in 2008/2009. And that they should have been crowned champions without the services of iconic striker Boas Solossa says much about the strength on depth accumulated out east.

Under new coach Jafri Sastra the season hadn't started especially brightly by the clubs own high standards, drawing their first two home games of the season against Bali United and Persija before losing 2-0 away to Semen Padang. Two points from nine games is not championship form but Persipura were struggling for their trademark consistency, perhaps caused by their absence from so many of the pre ISC tournaments.

A corner was turned when they narrowly edged strugglers Persela 1-0 heralding a run of four straight wins but their were concerns within the football club the imports weren't performing, especially experienced Liberian strikers James Koko Lomell and Eddy Boakay Foday who had provided just two goals in the opening 11 games.

Persipura responded ruthlessly with Jafri returning to Mitra Kukar, Alfred Angel Vera coming in and the foreign legion changed with Edward Wilson Junior among others being added to the squad in the mid season break. The rest, as they say, is history.

Boas ended the season with 11 goals, Wilson and Ferinindo Pahabol with seven each.

Switching horses mid stream is always a gamble in football. Get it right and you are a hero. Get it wrong and you face being villified. For sure Persipura benefitted from an Arema side who led for much of the campaign but did so without looking convincing while the exciting Madura United  paid the price for poor form on the road, losing six of their last seven on their travels.

But there is an element of an ustoppable machine about Persipura when they get going. Even without Boas yesterday they were too much for a PSM who had done much to feel pleased about themselves in the second half of the campaign under Robert Alberts. But first half goals from Pahabol (two), Wilson and Osvaldo Ardiles meant they could take the foot off the gas second half. The title was theirs.

Sunday, December 18, 2016


No Post Mortem But Planning For The Future Must Start Now

So at the end it was just a game to far. Indonesia's journey to the final of the AFF Suzuki Cup 2016 was an achievement in itself. Finally, when that final push was needed, they were unable to come from behind for a third time against the best team in ASEAN and had to make do with a runners up place; for the fifth time. Heartbreak? Perhaps but with honour intact.

The national team fly home to Jakarta and while a heroes welcome may not be awaiting them at Soerkano Hatta Airport the players and the coaching staff deserve a moment or two to bask in the moment of what they did achieve against the odds. This time there may be no post mortem but there certainly needs to be an inquest of sorts in to what the future holds for the national team.

We have been here before. Alfred Riedl's side in 2010 thrilled many in their opening games against Laos and Malaysia before going on to reach the final against Malaysia, ultimately being undone in the 1st leg in Kuala Lumpur. But the arrival of players like Cristian Gonzales, Irfan Bachdim and yes even Okta Maniani, had fans buzzing and rushing to snap up replica shirts. Indonesian football was cool, what could go wrong?

Plenty of course. Within months there were two leagues and a new PSSI claimed they couldn't find Riedl's contract. The years of plenty saw the Garuda slide down the rankings with the ultimate farce coming in 2012 with two national teams preparing for the AFF Suzuki Cup!

Are we likely to see a repetition of t hose years? Who knows. The future is unwritten! However that there will be no Indonesian sides competing in the AFC Cup next year suggests not a whole lot will change when it comes to forward planning.

But it is forward planning that is needed to build on the momentum brought about by those stirring performances against the Thais and Vietnamese especially. Some leadership is needed to work with the Indonesia Super League to make sure FIFA dates are kept free and some quality opponents can be lined up to test this thrilling young squad. And I don't mean games against Malaysia ad infinutum. A decision will also need to be made over the future of Alfred Riedl, either by the man himself or the PSSI. 

Stopping the ISL so the country's young players can take part in the SEA Games is not a good idea. The SEA Games is an age group competition. Fine, stop the Under 21 competition buut there is no reason why the national league should grind to a lengthy halt.

Next year the Thais are playing Japan, Saudi Arabia, UAE and Australia in Asian Qualifiers with a view to get to the AFC Asian Cup and or the World Cup. That is where their lofty ambitions lie. Indonesia, without any such dreams, need to look around for quality opposition among the nations who do think big. They could also do with appointing a coach and letting him get on with his job.

One untold story of Indonesia's success at the AFF Suzuki Cup lies in the young players who spent time playing in Uruguay as part of the SAD project initiated by a previous PSSI head Nurdin Halid. The likes of Abduh Lestaluhu (red carded towards the end of the final in Bangkok), Hansamu Yama, Rudolf Basna, third choice keeper Teja Paku Alam and Manahati Lestusen all had stints in the side that competed in the Uruguayan pyramid and interestingly enough they are all, apart from Teja, defenders!

With the players from SAD and the youngsters who did so well at Under 19 level in recent years there does for once seem to be a nucleus of talent coming through. Of course the PSSI needs to make sure this generation doesn't go the same way as the 1994 lot (including Bima Sakti) who went to Sampdoria. Steps need to be put in place to ensure similar projects are planned and funded. Many may have mocked the Uruguay project but surely the biggest compliment came from Thai coach Zico when he had his players get at the experienced Beny Wahyudi at right back rather than exploit the relative youth and inexperience of Lestalahu on the left.

The future may be bright but the hard work begins now to ensure losing to Thailand isn't the pinnacle of the players' journey but just the first step.

Saturday, December 17, 2016


Security Or Spectacle - Indonesia's Dilemma

The Indonesia Soccer Championship B Final between PSS Sleman and PSCS Cilacap has been put back a few days. It was due to be played today at Manahan Stadium in Solo as part of a double header but while the 3rd/4th place game between Perssu and Martapura goes ahead some confusion surrounds the title decider.

Earlier in the week some Persis fans, supporters of the host city's team, expressed misgiving about the presence of one group of PSS fans. There is some bad blood between fans of PSS and Persis and their proximity, about an hour or so by train, only intensifies that rivalry.

Throw into the mix a bit of history between PSS and PSCS fans and you have all the ingredients for an incendiary atmosphere at the Manahan Stadium.

Thursday there was a meeting between rival fan groups, security officials and organisers and it was decided the game would be put back from 17 December to 22 December to allow more time for a security plan to be put in place while at the same time conceding fans would also want to see Indonesia play Thailand in the final of the AFF Suzuki Cup in Bangkok.

Some Persis fans have called for the game to be played at an alternate venue or without fans from either side present. They are right to be concerned given the number of incidences of violence at football matches this year in which supporters have lost their lives.

Here in lies one of the dilemmas of Indonesian football. The terrace culture is what makes the game here so special. But for all the beauty of the spectacle on the terraces there lies in the underbelly a threat of violence that can kick off at any moment.

PSS v PSCS should be a thrilling day out. A showcase of the best of Indonesian football from its second tier...a spectacle no other nation in South East Asia can reproduce. It deserves a fitting arena and a full house. But what if elements of that full house can be prone to getting involved in largescale disorder? Nobody wants to see that.

Manahan Stadium is the favoured venue for many events. The national team have played there, it has become second home to Persija and in recent days the Liga Nusantara, ISC Under 21 and Piala Soeratin finals have gone off without a hitch. 

But this game is different. PSS fans will travel in large numbers for sure. So will fans from Cilacap. There is potential for disorder on the roads and rails to Solo as well as within the city itself. 

To move the game to Jakabaring Stadium in Palembang for example would be to almost guarantee security because the game would be played out on front of a small crowd as few fans of either team would be expected to travel so far. Is that the price we must pay and keep paying to ensure events pass off without incident?

UPDATE - the game will go ahead but the venue has been switched. Now the ISC B final will be played at Bumi Kartini Stadium in Jepara.

Friday, December 16, 2016


Against The Odds - Indonesian Football 2016

As 2016 draws to a close it has clearly been an interesting year for followers of Indonesian football. A year that began with a campur of ad hoc competitions and a FIFA ban ends on time with the national team surprising everyone by reaching the Final of the AFF Suzuki Cup.

We do like a moan once in a while but for once this is going to be an unashamed look back at just what has been achieved this year. This is not to belittle the ongoing problems that surround the game, one of which will be highlighted in this post, but I have touched often enough on them including this post. With the national team 90 minutes away from lifting their first ever international trophy let us for a few paragraphs at least, look back on a year that has exceeded everyone's expectations.

Following FIFA's suspension of Indonesian football early 2015 the game was put on hold as people figured what to do next. Persib and Persipura were told they had to withdraw from the AFC Cup and the national team's ambitions in the joint Asian Cup/World Cup were squashed when they were kicked out.

Eventually football got its act together and a bunch of competitions were organised towards the end of 2015 which, somewhat surprisingly when you consider the circumstances, were not just well attended but well promoted and well advertised as well as receiving good TV coverage.

The year began with the General Sudirman Cup 2015 reaching its final stages. Mitra Kukar defeated Semen Padang in the final at Bung Karno Stadium 2-1 thanks to Yogi Rahadian's late winner. The crowd for two non Java sides was an impressive 55,000!

After the military backed competition it was the turn of the police to get involved when the Bhayangkara Cup kicked off in March centred on Bali and Soreang. The final was played in April at Bung Karno in front of 60,000 with Arema defeating Persib 2-0. 

There were a number of lessons we could take from these competitions, including the President's Cup 2015. First, Indonesian football was capable of organising a competition, building a timetable and sticking to the timetable. Second, Persib could play in Jakarta with their fans in attendance. And the increasing role of uniforms saw the police take over Surabaya United to become Bhayangkara and the military take over Persiram to become PS TNI. Both teams played in the next competition though not without some controversy.

Another feature of these competitions was how players would club hop. It was not unusual to see players line up for different clubs for each competition as they were in effect free agents. It is also interesting that despite the lack of an official league there was no real clamour among players, both local and foreign, to head overseas.

Buoyed by  the success of the competition authorities came up with the idea of a national competition featuring 18 teams. Called the Indonesia Soccer Championship they came up with a fixture list, a website and even an app as well as a number of sponsors. Big deal you may cry but if you had spent the last 10 years trying to cover local football you too would be turning imaginary cartwheels at this sudden embrace of the internet.

I guess in a bid to avoid upsetting FIFA/AFC sensitivities the organisers went to great lengths to explain the ISC would not be a league. There was to be no relegation and should FIFA decide to lift their ban on the PSSI the winners would not be eligible for the AFC Champions League or AFC Cup. Interesting when Kuwait were suspended they just carried on regarless with their Kuwait Premier League. As an aside, hands if you left Indonesia when the FIFA suspension was imposed to move to Kuwait in the hope of regular football only to see them follow suit!

The ISC kicked off at the end of April. With the FIFA ban still in place there was little room for manoever in the schedule and very little was done to accommodate the national team; there wasn't one! This decision is one of the reasons why Alfred Riedl was limited to a maximum of two players from each team when it came to call ups for the AFF Suzuki Cup.

With nearly every game shown live on TV and many available by streaming this unofficial competition was receiving unrivalled coverage. On the pitch it may have been business as usual as coaches and managers queued up to berate match officials but off it the season had a schedule and stuck to it in the most part.

While the ISC was going on people were busy sorting out the other leagues that make up the football pyramid. The Indonesia Soccer Championship B, the second division if you like, kicked off with more than 50 teams split into eight regionally based groups. Yes, there were teething problems and perhaps communications between some clubs were not as smooth as they could have been, think about the Laga v Persik game, but again a schedule was devised and in the main stuck to. Again a pretty remarkable achievement when you consider the scope of the league, the different time zones, the travel time some clubs endured and so on.

The final between PSS and PSCS has been put back a few days as organisers have to put in extra security for the game as the rival sets of supporters don't have the best of relationships.

If you think the ISC B was a nightmare to organise spare a thought for the desk jockeys who had to keep an eye on Liga Nusantara, the third tier of the pyramid. Honestly, I don't think there is a central resource for this, so mammoth an undertaking it is. Essentially this competition is even more regional than the ISC B and features towns and villages many would struggle to place on a map. Outside of local papers information was hard to find and it was a great relief when we reached the final eight. The final was played at Manahan Stadium in Solo and saw Perseden from Bali defeat PSN Ngada who come from somewhere out east.

Then there is the Soeratin Cup. This is for Under 17s and with the final held in Solo Persab Brebes defeated Askot Balikpapan in the final. The quivilent of the FA Youth Cup in England this competition receives a similar level of coverage as the Liga Nusantara.

There was also the ISC Under 21 league! PS TNI won this defeating Bali United 6-1 in the final.

This weekend sees the ISC itself come to an end with Persipura and Arema going toe to toe for the title. The Black Pearls host PSM at Mandala Stadium on Sunday and they know a victory will secure the title for them to cap off a remarkable final run in which has seen them win eight out of their last 10 games. Arema are two points behind in second place and have been less consistent in recent weeks, winning just five of their last 10 games. While Persipura have had to do without Boas Solossa who has been on international duty Arema will be missing defender Beny Wahyudi and keeper Meiga Kurnia as they host Persib. 

FIFA suspension, No naturalised players. Two players maximum from each team. Irfan Bachdim injured before the event begins. Persipura's Pahabol refused permission to join the squad. Young defenders from PS TNI and Barito Putera. I still can't get my nut around the fact Indonesia even got out of their group in the AFF Suzuki Cup let alone reach the semi finals, defeat second favourites Vietnam and go to Bangkok with a 2-1 lead after coming from behind against Thailand at Pakansari. Set against the backdrop of Indonesian football, consider where we stood at the start of the year it has been a fairy tale and Alfred Riedl deserves the freedom of the nation after what he has helped these players achieve no matter the result on Saturday at Rajamangala Stadium.

All this and a PSSI election that sees a new head!

There is no one out there who will say Indonesian football is perfect. There are too many deaths, too many controversies and too much violence be it supporters or players. The long drawn out saga of Persebaya needs to be resolved. But after 2016 perhaps there are the shoots of a recovery. After defeating the Thais Riedl said Indonesia were two years from catching up with the best team in South East Asia. A tad optimistic perhaps but I think from what we have seen this year everyone has the right, for the first time in a long time, to feel optimistic about the local game.

See also - The Road To The Raj. Get up close and personal to the colour and the passion of Indonesian fans at the AFF Suzuki Cup.


The Road To The Raj

Check out my latest vlog where I join the Indonesian fans for their AFF Suzuki Cup 2016 for ties in Manila and Cibinong. Capture the passion and colour as Indonesia surprise everyone by not just qualifying from their group but defeating Vietnam in the semi final and travelling to Bangkok for the second leg with a narrow 2-1 margin.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016


Indonesia v Thailand Preview

Check out my preview of today's AFF Suzuki Cup Final 1st Leg in today's Today On Line in Singapore

Tuesday, December 13, 2016


PSS Fans Hoping For Solo Party

While the eyes of the nation no doubt will be focused on Pakansari Stadium, Cibinong for the AFF Suzuki Final 1st leg between Indonesia and Thailand Central Java will be hosting its own big game that is sure to attract a healthy interest from fans.

The Indonesia Soccer Championship B semi finals take place at Bumi Kartini Stadium (pictured left) in Jepara with four teams remaining from the 58 which had started the campaign several months ago.

The first game sees Maduran side Perssu take on PSS and this is likely to be the crowd puller. More than 15,000 fans saw PSS overcome Perserang in the quarter finals with the large majority of that number having headed north from Yogyakarta.

The second game has PSCS play Martapura from Kalimantan. 

At stake is a place in the ISC B final which takes place at Manahan Stadium, Solo this Saturday.

While it is unlikely any of the four teams involved will be promoted to the top flight in 2017 when the Indonesia Super League returns local pride is at stake and for the large numbers of PSS fans who will be present at Jepara and Solo come what may this is their chance to show the nation they are among the loudest and brightest fans in the country despite their team's lowly status.

However they face a tough ask against Perssu. Football in Madura has been on the rise over the last 18 months or so, Madura United are flying high in the ISC while Persepam reached the last 16 in the ISC B. A new stadium in Pamekasan adds to the feeling the island is becoming a hotbed of football.

Martapura is a small town south east of the provincial capital of South Kalimantan while PSCS come from the town of Cilicap on the south coast of Java.

Monday, December 12, 2016


AFC Cup 2017. Who Needs ASEAN Super League?

It doesn't seem all that long ago that I was watching the AFC Cup Final between Bengaluru and Air Force Club in Qatar yet here we are on the verge of the 2017 edition starting,

In what surely must be a kick in the teeth for the nonsense dreams of an ASEAN Super League the revamped Asia wide competition will have one zone devoted purely to South East Asian sides meaning 12 sides from the region competing alongside each other with progress in the competition the carrot. Surely something more meaningful than the vision of an ambitious couple of suits who have offered little concrete in how their ASL would look.

No Indonesian sides despite FIFA lifting their suspension/ The PSSI didn't get round to entering any teams despite the invite sitting in some in tray for days on end.

Also with Thailand having AFC Champions League ambitions their clubs will also be absent from the competition.

Malaysia, Philippines, Vietnam, Singapore and Myanmar will also have clubs in the mix for a place in the ACL!

The following teams will play off first for a place in the ACL. If they fail they can then enter the AFC Cup

Johor Darul Ta'zim, Ha Noi T&T, Yadanarbon, Global, Tampines Rovers.

The following teams enter the AFC Cup group stage

Than Quang Ninh, Felda United, Magwe, Ceres, Lanexang United

The following teams enter the qualifying play offs

Home United, Lao Toyota, Phnom Penh Crown, Boeung Ket Angkor

The following teams are on stand by

SHB Da Nang, Yangon United, Kedah, Loyola Meralco Sparks, Geylang International

The journey has started for some teams from places like Bhutan but as far as we are concerned the action begins at the end of January.

30/01 Phnom Penh Crown v Home United
31/01 Boeung Ket Angkor v Lao Toyota

The second legs will be played 7/02. I do like the idea of catching two games in two days in Phnom Penh!

The groups will be announced tomorrow and I will hopefully update then,,,


Three Headlines That Sum Up Singapore Football Malaise

ASEAN Super League On Track
Singapore Coach Blocked From Training Course
Back To The Drawing Board For Singapore Football

I think many people are losing interest in Singapore football and I think these three headlines from a local paper sum up well the frustrations so many who love the game feel about its current lack of direction.

Rome is burning but officials keep on harping on about this mythical wonderland where milk and honey will be overflowing and the region's best will be pitting their wits against each other and sod the local product.

In global terms Singapore football is a village. Leave that village, or try and leave that village, and it looks like the head honchos take it personally that careers could be improved out there in the big wide world far from their hubs and leverages and strategic plans

And after a year when domestic trophies were won by a foreign side, 11 games have produced four goals by the national team perhaps the drawing board needs to start with the absolute basics. And those sitting in on the lessons should not be just the players but those charged with developing Singapore's football potential. But no doubt they will be hanging up the bunting after Singapore rose 9 places in the FIFA rankings...see. stats don't tell the whole story.


Can We Play You Every Week?

Yes football needs goals to keep fans, armchair viewers and pundits purring about the beautiful game but does there come a time when there are too many goals? We are approaching the business end of the season in Indonesia and traditionally this is a time when scores take on an alternate reality. I'm sure a few recall the sudden goal glut that came over PSAP in the Divisi Utama 2010/2011 when, following three goals in four games, they hit 19 in two home games which of course did wonders for their goal difference.

The current Indonesia Soccer Championship is seeing a few goals fly in as we approach the finale and leading the way, if not for the best reasons, are Perseru. 

That Perseru are comfortably mid table is thanks to their fine home form; no team has won there all season and only five have managed to earn a draw. But on their travels Perseru are woeful with a capital W and that woefulness has been borne out in their last three away games. 

Perseru are only following a pattern all too familiar in Indonesian football. That of a side from a remote location boasting an unbelievable home record but can't even win the toss on their travels. Papuan neighbours Persiwa had a similar record at their height for example. And of course PSAP were another side loathe to lose at home. 

27/11 Pusamania 1-6
30/11 Persib 2-6
10/12 Madura United 1-7

Hapless Perseru have picked up just one away win all season defeating Persiba 2-1 back in August. Their mauling away to Madura made it six straight losses on their travels but while their last three games resembled tennis scores their three previous defeats were more mundane affairs; 0-1, 0-2, 1-2.

Ironically one of those losses came against ISC whipping boys PS TNI. With a squad assembled from all local lads, PS TNI's backline makes Perseru's seem almost Tony Adamsesque. The Papuan side have conceded 51 goals while the military backed side have let in a whopping 67 goals including 6-1 away to Pusamania recently.

Still, at least Perseru get to see out their campaign with their final game of the season at home to Bhayangkara. Surely they can go through the campaign unbeaten there at least?

Did You Know: Osas Marvellous was part of the PSAP team that went goal crazy. He is now part of the Perseru side!

Friday, December 09, 2016


ISC B Quarter Final Draw

09/12 PSPS v Perssu, PSS v Perserang
10/12 PSCS v Persita, Martapura v Persekap

Games are being played at Bumi Kartini Stadium in Jepara. These games are being played over one leg and the winners will go through to the semi finals


Despite ISC Title Bid Arema Fans Stay Away

Arema's narrow 3-2 win over Sriwijaya last night was enough to see the Crazy Lions move level on top of the Indonesia Soccer Championship with Persipura on goal difference with two games remaining but surely of great concern to the club management will be the poor attendance of 8,376.

A game between two of the heavyweights of the domestic should have drawn a far healthier crowd but the poor turn out is merely the continuation of the trend we have seen where despite their team's fine form the fans have in large part stayed away.

Prior to the Sriwijaya game last night these were the latest crowd figures for Arema home games giving an average home attendance of 10,646, a poor return for a club so large. With Persib still to visit Malang in the final game of the season there is a chance for that final number to rise but the fact remains the numbers are poor.

PS TNI 2,851
Persela 16,751
PSM 10,607 (played at Gajayana Stadium)
Mitra Kukar 21,653 (Played at Gajayana Stdium)
Madura United 9,168
Pusamania 6,766
Bali United 10,701
Barito Putera 4,959
Perseru 4,338
Semen Padang 5,021
Persipura 10,146
Persija 23,764
Gresik United 4,877
Bhayangkara 29,650
Persiba 17,464

The question is why? There was talk of the club doing some kind of evaluation but I am not sure of anything came of that. As can be seen above there was a move to the more centrally located Gajayana Stadium and while there was an upturn against Mitra Kukar, not the most glamourous name despite being a well run club, it hasn't been sustained.

There has been some suggestion the return of a second Arema side has drawn some of the support. Meanwhile, perhaps in a bid to reclaim the position of the number one Crazy Lions in Malang this particular Arema, the ISC version, are looking at changing their name for next season, asking fans to vote for which they prefer...Arema FC or Arema Malang.

From what I can make out the returning Arema, called Arema Indonesia, can claim the legacy of the club's founder while Arema Cronus, to give them their full name, have links to a political dynasty long involved in football. Unfortunately the tale of two Aremas, with their origins in the era of two leagues in 2011, seems to be dividing the city of Malang. And with Persema making a come back does Malang need three teams?


Perth Glory Owner Hints At Asian Teams In ALeague

Hand on heart, how many Indonesians, Singaporeans, Malaysians, Thais have heard of Perth Glory? Central Coast Mariners? Melbourne City? Not too many I'd wager. Sorry to say this to my fair dinkum Aussie pals, one of whom was supporting Thailand last night at the Rajamangala Stadium as they defeated Myanmar 4-0 in the AFF Suzuki Cup semi final second leg, but my guess is there is little recognition of football down under in the region. 

Two Australian sides, Manly United and Bulleen Zebras
 competing in a pre season event
in Jakarta
The likes of Liverpool, Manchester United and even them upstarts from South West London may attract large crowds when they deign to visit the region but there is an awareness of English, and Italian, Spanish, German, football that goes back a generation or two. Names like Steven Gerrard, John Terry and Wayne Rooney are familiar to millions. Fans are used to shelling out big bucks on replica shirts so they can identify with their heroes from afar.

Without googling, is anyone familiar with Maximillian Beister, Milos Ninkovic or Nick Montgomery? Can we imagine these ALeague players encouraging fans to get down to the National Stadium in Singapore on large numbers?

If Perth Glory owner Tony Sage has his way it could happen in the future. It is all part of the ongoing debate as to whether the 10 team ALeague should expand. Sage thinks an expansion into South East Asia would be a win win suggesting a team in Singapore, KL or Jakarta could attract 50,000 fans plus of course a large TV audience. 

The timing for his suggestion is of course predicted by the expansion talks in Australia. However if the wise Sage was up to date over football in his backyard he would know there is ongoing debate over an ASEAN Super League which is attracting lukewarm support outside of Singapore. Given the apathy of an inter regional competition why would anyone be interested in a team playing in a league no one knows anything about?

The ALeague only started in 2004 with a bunch of franchises seeking to distance themselves from the ethnic roots of football that sustained clubs during the National Soccer League, when I lived in Australia, and before. I don't follow it but reports I see do suggest decent crowds against a backdrop of institutional paranoia over the round ball game by the more traditional Aussie sports that feature puffed out chests, tight shorts and odd shaped balls. That it needs to expand, the ALeague not the shorts, is for me indisputable. 

But parachuting themselves into South East Asia to attract more eyeballs on TV? Is that the right way to do things? Malaysians may be unhappy with the state of their football but would they get behind a Woy Woy Wanderers based in KL? Singapore fans don't even bother with their own slowly dying league. Would a Darwin Dynamoes raise any eyebrows? Would a LionsXII playing in the ALeague be a magnet for TV audiences? Or a team based in Jakarta or Bali?

Perhaps the wise one is only thinking aloud but there is a tinge of arrogance in the suggestion. Build a club and the fans will come, sod the local league? We will soon find out as Perth Glory are hoping to play a 'home' game in either Singapore or Malaysia as soon as next season.

The arguments against the notion are the arguments against the proposed ASEAN Super League. FAs have a duty to develop their own leagues within their own borders. For all its chaos Indonesian football doesn't need the ALeague and neither does Malaysia. An interesting talking point yes but ultimately if the ALeague wants to expand it needs to look closer to home.

Wednesday, December 07, 2016


Petaling Jaya Rangers Break Corporate Mould In Malaysia

I've been meaning for some time to knock out a piece about the involvement of big business in Malaysian football and the amazing success those clubs have enjoyed, or not, in attracting a fan base from those supporters who do get excited about following a highway or a plantation company. However I am loathe to just write negative pieces about Malaysian football...easy though it is and recent events suggest at least one individual has taken on board the errors of the many in his own plans.

The 2016 Malaysia Premier League boasted two such clubs; Sime Darby, a plantation firm, and DRB HICOM, a firm with its hands in many pies like the automotive industry. The latter, by the way took over the license from Pos Malaysia, or the Post Office, who decided for a while they needed a football club to supplement their main job of delivering letters,

Sime Darby, no relation to experienced coach Steve Darby, were relegated and DRB HICOM have decided to knock football on the head after their short flirtation. There was actually one thing the Mighty Bees had going for them; playing their home games in Tanjung Malim. Surely here was an opportunity for a new club to tap into an area lacking its own big name team? Surely a Tanjung Malim FC to appeal? But nope, never happened.

Despite the best efforts of ex Persib coach Drago Matic the club ended last season with just two wins and now seem to be looking forward to a campaign in the FAM League.

The season before we had the wonderfully named PBAPP finishing last in the Premier League. This was the football team from the Penang Water Supply Corporation and as you can imagine they hardly pulled the punters. A conveniently round number of 100 people saw their local derby against Perlis but against island rivals Penang an impressive 8,000 turned out...I don't imagine there were many fans to cheer on the lads who kept their taps flowing!

Proton is another corporate backed club that flirted with the dizzy heights of Malaysia's second tier. This after they won the FAM League at their first attempt back in 2007. However they stalled higher up the pyramid and lasted a couple of seasons before deciding perhaps football was not for them after all and they'd better stick to making cars.

Going up a level and who can forget the mighty PLUS FC? These guys were part of the company that runs the toll road that runs along the spine of Malaysia and despite boasting such luminaries as Bobby Gonzales and Adrian Trinidad among their alumni they suffered from mid to lower table congestion during their football flirtation with the exception of 2008 when they managed to earn promotion to the top flight. Unlike their roads, especially in and around KL, their terraces remained empty as for some reason no one could entice a football loving public to get behind a toll road operator.

I could go on but life's too short Suffice to say not just companies but civil servants and universities have been seduced by the glamour of football enough to try their hand with varying degrees of failure. Kuala Muda NAZA, My Team, SPA, PPUSM etc etc All have one thing in common. An inability to make a lasting mark on football in a football daft country. And last season in the FAM League we saw Air Asia. No prizes for guessing who they are associated with.

But they have only gone and rebranded themselves ahead of the 2017 campaign as they seek perhaps to build on the branding they share with the club they sponsor in England, Queens Park Rangers. For a start they have changed their name to Petaling Jaya Rangers, a nod to their locale and a fan base they hope to tap into?

Targetting the Premier League in 2018, PJR (!) have appointed Mat Zan Mat Aris, deemed surplus to requirements by Melaka United after back to back promotions, who has brought with him a number of experienced old pros including Tuah Iskander and half a dozen players from Melaka. PJR will be working closely with QPR to develop an academy to source and develop new players.

It will be interesting to see how PJR develop themselves. Naming themselves after their manor is a smart move, they want to use the MBPJ Stadium (pictured left), basically a venue for hire by any nomadic club but home to no-one, and it would be nice to see them get out and about in their community to build up a fan base. And it would be nice if they were in it for the long haul.

Air Asia chief Tony Fernandes has shown a midas touch with his airline. Can he repeat that success with his football club? 


Disappointment For Persib, Persipura As Admin Error Threatens AFC Cup

Happier days for Persipura when PSSI had a better filing system
Next week sees the draw for the AFC Cup and there could well be no representatives from Indonesia if a local story is to be believed.

Apparently the AFC sent out invites to member associations and Indonesia were planning on sending t he top two sides from the Indonesia Super League 2014 campaign. However it seems the official invite was left unanswered and we have now passed the deadline for applications.

We have been here before with Indonesia of course. Back in 2006 a similar 'administrative' error saw the office types forget to send in the PSSI nomination for the AFC Champions League.

The invite went out on 30 October but was overlooked as football's governing body was preparing for its congress that would elect a new leadership. 

A PSSI official says the organisation has just received an informal letter from the AFC saying Indonesian sides would not be represented at the AFC Cup this year as the deadline for registration has passed. 

The PSSI are hoping they get a chance to explain what happened to AFC in the vain hope they receive a sympathetic hearing. 

A Persipura official seemed less than pleased, being quoted as saying the lessons from the past haven't been learned while a Persib official says 'the chance to join the AFC Cup is ... a way to improve Indonesian football the eyes of the world. This is important for people and the nation.

Both Persib and Persipura have a right to feel bitter. Their 2015 AFC Cup campaigns came to an abrupt end when the PSSI was suspended by FIFA over government interference. Now they look to be blocked from competing because some desk jockey wasn't doing his job.

Monday, December 05, 2016


Advantage Persipura As Arema, Madura Drop Vital Points

Madura United missed out on returning to the top of the Indonesia Soccer Championship as they fell to a 2-1 defeat away to Persela last night. They went into the game one point behind joint leaders Persipura and Arema and enjoyed the luxury of an early lead when Aussie Dane Milanovanic netted on three minutes but they were unable to build on that league against a dogged home side unbeaten in their last eight home outings.

Steven Imbiri levelled on 24 minutes and Brazilian Hedipo Gustavo hit the winner three minutes before half time to continue Persela's fine form over the last few months under coach Aji Santoso.

In yesterday's other game Bali United drew 2-2 with Arema with the visitors needing inspirational skipper Hamka Hamzah to rescue the point in the final minute. Bali took the lead on 28 minutes through Alsan Sanda and a second half penalty by Fadil Sausu seemed to have made the points safe for the home side.

With eight minutes remaining Esteban Vizcarra pulled one back setting the stage for Hamka's late show.

Wednesday sees Persipura travel to Mitra Kukar hoping to cash in on their rivals' slip ups while Thursday has Arema host Sriwijaya.

Other remaining fixtures:

10/12 Madura United v Perseru
11/12 Pusamania v Arema, Gresik United v Persipura

17/12 Arema v Persib
18/12 Persipura v PSM, Barito Putera v Madura United

1 - Persipura 31 17 8 6 44-24 59
2 - Arema     31 17 8 6 41-18 59
3 - Madura   31 17 7 8 49-38 58

Sunday, December 04, 2016


Meiga's Brilliance Sets Up Hanoi Test For Irrepressible Indonesia

Enjoying the ride? Seriously, how many people not only thought Indonesia would reach the AFF Suzuki Cup semi finals, they would also defeat the highly fancied Vietnam 2-1 at Pakansari Stadium, a result that flatters the visitors. 

Under Alfred Riedl it seems Indonesia have added something to their game. Something that has been missing for many a year. We all know typically Indonesian football is played at 100 mph. The ball pings around so quickly it too must be crying out for breath. Time is an ethereal essence that has no meaning on the football field, everything is in the now or sooner. 

Unfortunately it isn’t always possible for professional footballers to always keep that intensity. Booting it long for the latest speed merchant may have wooed fans back in 2010 when Okta Maniani was the latest out of the traps but it is not a tactic that is going to overly concern more savvy sides who have better discipline and stamina and understand the concept of a 90 minute football match. 

We saw this against Thailand in the opening group stage. Two nil down at half time Indonesia clawed themselves back to 2-2 only to ship two late goals. The Philippines was something similar. Indonesia deserved to lead 2-1, they deserved more but all the time they couldn’t add to their lead there was a danger they would leave themselves open at the back and that is what happened as the hosts equalised late on. 

Watching the Singapore game in the drizzle at Rizal Memorial Stadium I sensed a sea change.Yes, there was the ever present threat from the likes of Andik Vermansyah, Rizky Pora and Boas Solossa. But there was more discipline behind them from the likes of Dutch born Stafano Lilypaly. 

Against Singapore, the experienced, disciplined yet oh so dour Lions, Indonesia were getting at them down the flanks, turning the Singapore defence inside out and creating spaces for the midfielders to get forward at every opportunity. 

While that was thrilling to watch what caught my eye was more mundane. There were times when Indonesia slowed the tempo. It may not sound much, it may not sound thrilling, but they were dictating the pace of the game and they were playing the game with their heads, not just their hearts. This game management has been missing so long from the game in Indonesia where everything is played at a harem scarem speed and a more thoughtful player would be deemed surplus to requirements. 

Ok so it wasn't quite the 'keep the ball' so beloved by the crowd at Arsenal who can be roused from their slumbers and toss the odd 'ole' into the still North London air as the players stroke the ball around 15, 20, 30 times with the hapless opponents chasing shadows. No, this was Indonesian players just slamming on the brakes for even two or three passes before looking to press the button. It's almost as if the game has become 90 minutes and patient possession has suddenly been deemed a good thing.

Watching Indonesia come from behind and defeat Singapore was as thrilling as the manner of the performance but while the fans on the terraces talked about Hanoi I don't think many believed the side could repeat that performance against the AFF Suzuki Cup's second favourite even on home turf. Repeat it? How about better it?

There were times at Pakansari when Vietnam were reeling. They got lucky big time with the award of their penalty and the somewhat odd decision by the ref to keep their player on the field after a challenge that was less tackle and more assault. The biggest danger as Indonesia kept pressing was even with their new found discipline they would leave themselves open at the back but defensively they were giants. And when Arema's Meiga Kurnia made that save towards the end...Wow. If this was English Premier League they would be creaming themselves over that for years to come. 

Indonesia's failure to finish off Vietnam could well come back to haunt them in Hanoi next week but that they are able to carry even the narrowest of leads north is down to Meiga at a time when Riedl was coming in for some criticism for keeping with the 26 year old keeper in the gace of more youthful challenges from the likes of Andritany.

With Boas, Ferdinand Sinaga and Lerby always looking lively this Indonesia have goals in them. Eight in four games so far. But after a shaky start when they shipped four against the Thais and two against the Philippines they have conceded just two in the last two games, and one of them came from a dodgy penalty. 

Alfred Riedl's men may or may not triumph in the cold of north Vietnam but they have united the nation around the national team in a way we haven't seen in 2010. Quite simply Indonesia are fun to watch, they have almost become the neutral's team of choice and an early goal at My Dinh Stadium could see them facing a nervy Vietnam side struggling in front of their own noisy fans.

I have been negative all tournament about Indonesia's chances and have been proved wrong on every count so far, I see no reason to change. An early Vietnamese goal in Hanoi and they have enough about them to hang on in there to reach the final. But Indonesian have shown in their last three games there is more to them than many thought and an upset is on the cards. Let's hope I'm wrong again!


Barito Putera, Jacksen F Tiago & AFF Suzuki Cup

When Barito Putera host Persib this evening there will be a fluffy glow going through the veins of this unfancied football club from South Kalimantan. It hasn’t been the best of campaigns for them, they currently sit 16th in the Indonesia Soccer Championship with three games remaining and only three teams have conceded more goals. At the other end they h ave been fairly decent with 37 from their 31, the best in the lower half of the table.

With so little to cheer why the warm glow? Last week it was announced Jacksen F Tiago would be coaching the team from next season, the experienced Brazilian coach penning a three year deal. Why would JFT, a title winner with Persebaya and Persipura, hit on such an unfancied side when he surely had the pick of the Indonesian sides as well no doubt as offers from overseas?

Perhaps the clues to what makes Barito Putera so attractive lie several hundreds of miles away. In Cibinong to be exact where we can find the Pakansari Stadium. In the AFF Suzuki Cup semi final 1st leg Indonesia continued to overcome the odds when they defeated highly fancied Vietnam 2-1. And at the heart of that triumph were the performances of two players.

Let’s be honest. In an ideal scenario coach Alfred Riedl is not going to throw an untested central defender from a team with one of the worst defences in the ISC into the pressure cooker situation of a semi final. He would obviously much prefer to call on one of the more experienced practitioner of the art, one with a degree perhaps in the darker arts.

But Riedl was hamstrung by the clubs when they refused to allow more than two players from each club to be called up. Using skills more attuned to diplomacy than a football pitch Riedl called up Hansamu Yama Pranata, a 21 year old defender from Barito Putera with zero caps to his name and a role in a leaky defence.

No stranger to international football however, Hansamu cut his teeth playing in Uruguay as part of the Sociedad Anonima Deportivo Indonesia project which saw promising teenagers plucked from their kampungs and flown halfway round the world to play in the nether reaches of the Uruguayan leagues. He would go on to be part of the successful Under 19 team under Indra Sjafri later making his debut for the Under 23s, scoring against Timor Leste at Bung Karno Stadium.

Doubtless Riedl had done his homework and knew he wasn’t calling up some spotty youth to make up the numbers. Hansamu is the proverbial old head on young shoulders and when he gave Indonesia the lead last night against the strongly fancied Vietnam, anyone surprised would have been doing the lad an injustice.

Rizky Pora was less of an unknown quantity. Signing for Barito Putera in 2013 from Persita, the flying winger is the type of player Indonesia excels in producing. He made his debut for Indonesia in 2014 and has become a permanent fixture since FIFA listed their suspension on the PSSI earlier this year.

However it hasn’t been until the AFF Suzuki Cup that he has been showing some consistency and without doubt has been one of Indonesia’s star performers, first in Manila and last night in Cibinong. One flick last night was remiscient of Dennis Bergkamp’s flick and turn that bamboozled Newcastle at St James’ Park all those years back.

Ok, so the end result wasn’t the same but the impudence of the move, and that fact it came off, can only boost the27 year old’s confidence even more. JFT must be purring as he sees the Hansamu and Rizky shining at the highest level. And there is more with 21 year old midfielder Paulo Sittangang and 22 year old Adam Alis, who had a stint in Bahrain with East Riffa in 2015, looking to impress the new gaffer!

Interesting times lie ahead in South Kalimantan, don't say we haven't been warned!

Thursday, December 01, 2016


Fans Upset At Semi Final Ticket Process

Tickets for the first leg of Indonesia's semi final against Vietnam in the AFF Suzuki Cup at Pakansari Stadium in Cibinong went on sale yesterday through a website and as you may imagine things did not flow fluently. There were frequent reports of the site crashing and people being left to hold on for ages as it seems no one had anticipated demand.

The system, should it work, is complicated enough. Fans are expected to pay on line, print a receipt, present the receipt at Bung Karno Stadium then head to the game in Cibinong over a period of four days. Do the people who dream up these nonsensical schemes have any conception of the logistical nightmares involved here?

First getting on the website. Then setting aside the time and effort to make the journey into central Jakarta, not everyone lives in Kuningan or Senayan, before they can actually hold said ticket in their hands and feel assured they can actually see the game. Oh and Friday Jakarta could be the scene of a demo that organisers have said will attract hundreds of thousands of people. Take time off work to risk a journey into the centre of a city with some of the worst traffic jams in the world to queue for a ticket?

A PSSI official reportedly said his organisation is not unaware of the difficulties but added if people were to queue on matchday at the stadium they could be standing around for two hours. 'But if access on the internet...two minutes is a disaster.'

The official likened the process to buying a plane ticket. Ticket is bought on line, you go to check in at Bung Karno and you board your plane at Cibinong. Except the journey from check in to boarding your flight is about 50 kilometres. For fans hoping to fly in just for the game that makes for a long, tiring day out and not everyone has their own transport.

Now I get that the PSSI are trying to simplify the whole ticket purchasing experience for fans following years of controversy and disturbances at major events. But this method has too many unnecessary layers and while it may have worked at the Philippine Sports Stadium, and it was bonkers there with a queue to pay for your receipt and another queue to collect your ticket 10 yards away, there were smaller numbers to deal with.

Ultimately Indonesia will have to move towards a smart card system where supporters pay for a card, get a member number, and when they pay on line their card will be updated. Admission will be by automated turnstiles and fans will have dedicated seat numbers. I know, what works at Arsenal, may not work here but it is probably the only surefire way we can host these major events and be left to talk about the football rather than listen to disgruntled fans wailing against the system. Or even worse.

With some 3,000 tickets sold on the opening day according to reports there are now suggestions some tickets may be made available off line though no details have yet been made.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?