Tuesday, April 02, 2019
Introducing Kalteng Putra
The 2019 Piala Presiden semi finals kick off today with an unfamiliar name as newly promoted Kalteng Putra take on 2017 winners Arema at the Kanjuruhan Stadium in East Java. It's been quite a remarkable few months for Kalteng in which they have been promoted from Liga 2 and now are just 180 minutes from reaching the first major final in their history.
But do Kalteng Putra even have any history? The club was formed back in 1970 as Persepar Palangkaraya, a town on the south coast of the island of Borneo that is perhaps better known as an alternate site for Indonesia's capital as fears over Jakarta's uncontrolled expansion worried many.
Based in the province of Central Kalimantan, known in Indonesian as Kalimantan Tengah (hence Kalteng) the club changed its name during the dualism era back in 2013 and have the spent the last few seasons in the second tier.
All that changed last season of course when they finished runners' up of the eastern conference with no little help from a near invincible home record; from their 11 games in Palangkaraya they won nine and drew two, conceding just five goals along the way.
Drawn alongside Semen Padang, Aceh United and PSMP in the play offs the team nicknamed Borneo Hornbills continued their impressive form in front of their own fans winning all three games and finishing runners up behind Semen Padang and assuring a place in the semi finals.
They were drawn against PSS but were unable to optimise home advantage this time round as the Yogyakarta based side held out for a 0-0 draw. Back in Sleman two goals from the veteran striker Cristian Gonzales ensured it would be the home side which would be playing for Liga 2 champions while Kalteng Putra would battle it out for the final promotion place against Persita in neutral Cibinong.
First half goals from Dendi Agustan and another well travelled forward I Made Wirahadi earned the Hornbills a top in the top flight for the first time in their history.
With no sign of the Liga 1 campaign for a few months all eyes were focused on the Piala Presiden as Kalteng Putra sought to make the marquee signings which would lay down a marker for the new season.
Former Madura United coach Gomes de Oliveira was brought in to mould a team that could handle life in the top flight and he has tried to assemble a team of experienced old pros who know their way around the division.
Kushedya Hari Yudo, their top scorer in 2018, was allowed to move, ironically signing for fellow promoted side PSS and in his p;ace has come the vastly experienced Patrich Wanggai who counts Persipura, Sriwijaya, Borneo, Madura United and Persib among others on his extensive resume as well as stints in Timor Leste and Malaysia.
Journeyman defender Bobby Satria has also come in to provide experience at the back but youthful promise hasn't been ignored as Maldini Pali, one of a number of Indonesian players to have been named after famous footballers, although now 24 it is surely time he started to deliver on his promise rather than being known for his name.
Kalteng Putra came out on top of their group which featured PSIS, Persipura and PSM thanks to a better head to head with two goals from Wanggai helping to help the team to come from behind and beat Persipura in the final game.
Their reward for reaching the knock out stage was a quarter final tie away to Persija and again it was Wanggai leading from the front, giving the Hornbills the lead in Bekasi in front of 27,000 + with nine minutes gone in the second half. Persija's Bruno Matos levelled with 18 minutes remaining to send the game into penalties and despite I Gede Sukadana missing their first they held on to win 5-4 and so to the semi finals.
At the start of the competition I wrote we rarely see any upsets in cup competition. In normal circumstances overcoming PSM and Persija would count as shocks but with both teams distracted by the AFC Cup perhaps we can discount them. But were Kalteng Putra to overcome Arema over two legs, the second leg will take place in Banjarmasin, then I think yes, we would be witnessing some good old fashioned cup upsets which may delight an old fogey like me but won't impress the TV companies or sponsors who don't really get romance in football!