Friday, January 19, 2018
Madura's Naturalised Vets Hit Ground Running
The President Cup, staged in five cities around Indonesia, is kicking off this week as clubs get earnest about their preparations for the new season and it seems one particular club have hit the ground running.
The 2017 Liga 1 season was Madura United's first as a professional club having bought the licence of Pelita Jaya in 2016 and they did admirably finishing the season in fifth place, earning themselves a place in this year's AFC Cup thanks in large part to the goals of ex West Bromwich Albion striker Peter Odemwingie.
The Nigerian marksman has since moved on Madura coach Gomes de Olivera has been kept busy looking to replace his goals but rather than look overseas for an experienced player lacking in the Indonesian experience he has looked closer to home and opted for experience over youthful promise.
Without doubt the highest profile inbound signing has been veteran Cristian Gonzales. Despite being on fire during last season's President Cup with Arema, scoring 11 goals as the Crazy Lions went on to lift the trophy, he struggled to make an impression in a poor side during the Liga 1 season as the team finished ninth.
The 41 year old Uruguayan goal getter came to Indonesia in 2003 when he signed for PSM and has been here ever since, playing for Persik, Persib and Persisam before signing for Arema in 2013. Any chance of El Loco slowing down in Malang didn't last long, despite last season's poor showing he still averaged a goal every two games.
His goals aren't the only asset Gonzales brings to the Madura table. He was naturalised in 2010, becoming the first foreign born player to go on and wear the red and white of Indonesia in an international and has since gone on to make 28 appearances for his adopted country.
Another naturalised player Gomes will be looking to for goals is attacking midfielder Raphael Maitimo. Unlike Gonzales the Dutch born Maitimo has an family connection with Indonesia. The 33 year old fine tuned his skills with Dutch giants Feyenoord before moving to Indonesia in 2011 to play in the short lived IPL. He has played for a good few clubs since then, last season being the top scorer with Persib.
As you might imagine given his Dutch roots Maitimo is an extremely talented player, comfortable with the ball played to feet and boasting an exquisite array of passing and a lethal shot. In the harem scarem world of Indonesian football, Maitimo is that rare player who can take a moment or two before moving the ball on.
The third player completing Gomes' collection of naturalised veterans is Greg Nwokolo. Born in Nigeria in 1986, Nwokolo has been in South East Asia since signing for Singapore's Tampines Rovers in 2003 apart from a short Portuguese siesta in 2009 with Olhanense. He was naturalised in 2013 and has made six appearances for the national team
When Gomes sent his team out to play Perseru in their opening President Cup tie in Surabaya he left Maitimo and Gonzales on the bench. Nwokolo opened the scoring on 13 minutes, using his body strength to make space in the penalty area to turn and shoot before Bayu Gatra made it 2-0 just before half time finsihing frpm close range.
Nwokolo netted his second with a delightful free kick in the second half before laying on an easy side foot for Gonzales with 11 minutes remaining. Maitimo made it five with just eight minutes remaining with a typically calm finish inside the penalty area.
Two goals and two assists for Nwokolo and a goal apiece for debutants Gonzales and Maitimo, Madura's naturalised veterans have got their team off to a flying start but tougher opponents lie ahead with PS TNI (rebranded as PS Tira Bantul) and Persebaya next up.