Thursday, February 08, 2018
Fixture Chaos Forces Liga 1 Delay
Regular observers of Indonesian football will not be surprised to learn the 2018 Liga 1 season has been put back by a few days; for the second time. The nation's top league, with the nation's top clubs, top coaches and top players is being forced to play second fiddle to a number of pre season tournaments which confer considerable prestige on the successful teams but cause coaches headaches and can incur extra expense for the bean counters should players get injured.
Thousands of Persija, Arema, Bali United and Persebaya supporters descended on the Central Java city of Solo by plane, train and bus to catch the quarter finals of the President Cup. More than 50,000 watched Persebaya play Madura United in their final group stage game. The numbers passing through the turnstiles were comfortably exceeded by the rating the TV broadcasters attracted.
Be they seated in the stand or seated in the armchair those punters demand a show and woe betide any team that is deemed to be giving less than 100%. The frentic 100% frenzy on the field is matched by the TV commentator whose celebration of a goal needs to be heard to be believed; the gentleman concerned turns games played in empty stadiums into heavy metal concerts. For him, the TV stations and the spectators there are no friendlies. Coaches don't have time to bed in new signings. For them the President Cup is the new season.
If you've seen European teams on tour in Asia or watched an Emirates Cup tie you will see a game played at a relatively gentile pace where players and coaches are focusing on building fitness and not getting injured. TV viewers don't want that. They want the blood and the guts now, this minute and to hell with tomorrow. A coach could lose three big names to long term injury in such a meaningless competition but if his team lifted the trophy no one on the terraces would give a toss. Lose the first three games of the new season however and those same fans would be braying for his head, blaming him for not having a bigger squad or signing replacements.
Hot on the heels of the President Cup comes the Piala Guberner Kalimantan Timur (Kaltim Cup) featuring seven Liga 1 sides (Borneo, Mitra Kukar (co hosts), Arema, Bali United, Madura United, Persebaya and Sriwijaya) plus Persiba, another host.This tournament is scheduled to run from 23 February, a mere six days after the President Cup final, to 4 March. The Liga 1 season has now been put back to 10 March, just don't expect any fixture list yet.
It's one thing to mess around with the domestic schedule, we are all used to that. But surely it is another to make things difficult for the sides which are competing in Asian club competition for national pride and honour. When some players wanted to play in Malaysia their patriotism was questioned by some at the PSSI. When clubs are handicapped with a set of fixtures that could very well damage their chances of success in the AFC Cup not a word is said.
Let's consider Bali United.
16/01 Bali United v Tampines Rovers AFC Champions League P1 (Gianyar)
19/01 Bali United v Borneo President Cup MD1 (Gianyar)
23/01 Chiang Rai United v Bali United AFC Champions League P2 (Chiang Rai)
24/01 Bali United v PSPS President Cup MD2 (Gianyar)
29/01 Bali United v Persija President Cup MD3 (Gianyar)
03/02 Bali United v Madura United President Cup Quarter Final (Solo)
11/02 Sriwijaya v Bali United President Cup Semi Final 1st Leg (Palembang)
13/02 Bali United v Yangon United AFC Cup Group G MD1
14/02 Bali United v Sriwijaya President Cup Semi Final 2nd Leg (Gianyar)
17/02 President Cup Final/3rd/4th Place Play Off (Jakarta)
23/02 Kaltim Cup Starts Minimum Three Games (Balikpapan, Samarinda, Terenaggong)
27/02 Global Cebu v Bali United AFC Cup Group G MD2 (Manila)
04/03 Potential Kaltim Cup Final (Samarinda)
10/03 Liga 1 Starts
Bali United could potentially have played almost 20 competitive games before the Liga 1 season kicks off and that is just nuts. Yes, it could be argued coach Widodo Cahyono Putro has a larger squad than most of his peers, and perhaps Bali United have slightly deeper pockets, but by any standard that is not a pre season, that is a full on season. Lose a couple of key players and WCP won't have much time to find replacements of a similar quality.
Considering that little lot it beggars belief quite why Bali are entering the Kaltim Cup. Remember, there are no friendlies in Indonesian football and with the new season just a few weeks away WCP will have to juggle his resources carefully if his big names aren't to be burnt out before a ball is kicked in anger in what is after all the bread and butter of Indonesian football.