Sunday, October 29, 2017
Balikpapan Hosting Arsenal, Liverpool Masters
It's very difficult for event organisers to host events outside of Jakarta and Bali. All too often the facilities don't exist that can attract world class events. We're talking venues for example, hotels. Even basics like international flight connections. With the best will in the world asking the internationally famous to visit anywhere which is a two hour drive from an airport that is a two hour flight from a major hub is always going to be a hard ask.
That's why the city of Balikpapan in East Kalimantan at least deserves credit for trying to enter the market. It has a gleaming, modern new airport with a handful of international connections. It has decent hotels. And now of course it has Batakan Stadium, a decent, international class stadium to offer as a venue.
The stadium has quickly become a source of pride to the good people of Balikpapan. The local team, Persiba, have struggled in the bottom three all season and their supporters have been used to seeing their heroes in the pokey Persiba Stadium where around 3 or 4,000 would turn up on a regular basis. Since moving to the Batakan the fans have turned out in large numbers averaging around 14,000 per game even as the drop was confirmed.
With Persiba's season all but over a huge, expensive stadium still needs to pay for itself so kudos to organisers for arranging a high profile event next month featuring former players from Indonesia, Arsenal and Liverpool. Now typically I'm not a fan of these type of events but for now I'm looking at it as an opportunity to provide people who live far from Jakarta and Bali to see the famous names up close and personal. Interestingly Persiba have a game on the same day, away to Persela.
No line ups have been confirmed yet as I understand it but Robert Pires, Freddie Ljungberg. Mikael Silvestre (!), Jan Arne Riise and David James are among some of the names being linked with the event.
The games take place next Sunday and the marketing is in overdrive as the organisers try to get the bums on seats, and their overheads covered, to make the promotion pay. Unfortunately for them the local health and safety people have decided only the lower tier of the 40,000 capacity stadium can be used meaning a capacity now of 20,000, much as it has been for Persiba's home games. Quite why nothing has been done to make the top tier ready for the domestic games let alone a prestigious event like this isn't clear. What it means of course for the supporters is cheap tickets are now at a premium.
VIP West - 84 GBP
East Stand - 42 GBP
North Stand - 18 GBP
South Stand - 18 GBP
It remains to be seen how many tickets will be sold at these prices.
As well as the games themselves a couple of other events are being lined up to allow supporters, or just the wealthy, the chance to get up close and personal with the retired pros. A welcome dinner with 32 players from both Liverpool and Arsenal is on the cards, no mention of the Indonesian players who may be available for Indomie at a local warung or not, I don't know. Anyway for a sit down nose bag with the players from the English giants, people are being asked to pay around 560 GBP which includes two VIP tickets for the two hour experience.
Where would we be without a coaching clinic? One will be held at the Batakan Stadium the day after the event, on Monday 6th November, and is limited to 200 kids. The three hour session will set parents back a cool 168 GBP which includes two East Stand tickets, a polo shirt and a tumbler.
I do genuinely wish the organisers well with this. Indonesia is a big country and has an expanding middle class and Balikpapan as a city is booming. Many will see this as a good chance to see famous names and of course make an impact on social media. I have my doubts whether it is the right product. Yes, put Balikpapan on the map but why not host Malaysia or Brunei in a full international? Or organise a trofeo with teams like DPMM, Sabah, Sarawak, Persiba and nearby Samarinda?