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Friday, October 12, 2018

 

Time For Supporters To Act Over Stadium Violence

It's been quite a few weeks for Indonesian football and especially the disciplinary committee of the PSSI. Following the murder of a Persija fan at the game with Persib the committee suspended all Liga 1 games while they looked into the death before ruling Maung Bandung must play their remaining home games in Kalimantan in empty stadiums, fining players and fining the club. As a fine and a punishment of playing behind closed doors is the normal finding in such cases it is difficult to understand why the league was stopped for two weeks.

No sooner does the league return and hey presto! It's Arema against Persebaya, another game with a history, and while we don't get another murder we do have pitch invasions and visiting players intimidated while they were warming up ahead of kick off. Now for me the question would have to be, with all the security presence such a high octane fixture attracts, were fans able to get on the pitch and approach players?

The PSSI have a different view and as well as telling Arema to play their remaining home games behind closed doors, because as a punishment that has proven to be so effective right(?), they have entered unchartered territory by issuing bans to the fans who ran on the pitch before the game started. The two fans concerned have been banned from entering football stadiums in Indonesia for the rest of their lives. One of the banned fans, Yuli Sumpil, is something of a terrace legend having appeared in The Conductors, a movie made by Andibachtiar Yusuf.

I have no idea of the legality of such a move, do stadiums even have ground regulations or is there a law that can enforce the action, nor am I sure of the logistics. All Indonesians have to carry identity cards with them so in theory all security officials have to do on a match day is check said ID card  and the individual would be denied entry. Simple eh?

Except security don't check ID cards. Hell, too often we have seen fans locked outside of stadiums just climb the surrounding walls to get inside.

Issuing stadium bans is a common deterrent in England. As of September 2015 there were 2,181 banning orders in place. A banning order is defined as 

Banning orders are issued by the courts following a conviction for a football-related offence7, or after a complaint by the Crown Prosecution Service or a local police force8. For an order to be made, the court must be satisfied that there are reasonable grounds to believe that making a banning order would help to prevent violence or disorder at or in connection with any regulated football match.
Orders are not imposed on individuals solely on the basis of minor convictions, like alcohol offences or similar misdemeanours. They can last between three and 10 years and can be customised to address individual behaviour patterns. Breach of an order is a criminal offence and is punishable by a maximum sentence of six months in prison or a fine of up to £5,000, or both9.
The number of banning orders does not represent the number of individuals with banning orders as one individual could be subject to more than one banning order although in general one banning order translates to one individual. Furthermore, an individual may have a ban which has conditions which apply to more than one football club therefore this would mean that the same ban would appear more than once in the figures.
There is not necessarily a correlation between the number of arrests in a given season and the number of new banning orders for the same year. This is because an individual with a ban can receive the ban one of two ways, either: following a conviction, i.e. the individual was arrested for a football-related offence which led to a ban; or the individual received a ban via the civil route (where the individual was not arrested), for example intelligence had been gathered on a particular individual and this led to a ban via the courts. In addition, the time taken to process a ban can vary in length and could mean that an individual, for example, arrested during the 2013 to 2014 season would be included in the 2013 to 2014 arrest figures but due to the time lag in processing the ban would not be included in the banning order figures until 2014 to 2015.
SOURCE 
If we look at Arsenal for example. 54 supporters received banning orders in 2014 2015 with 28 issued for offences at the Emirates and the balance at away games. Two were issued for throwing missiles, four for being in possession of flares and two for running on the pitch, the most common offences in Indonesia. Thirty one banning orders were issued for violent or public disorder while 13 related to alcohol offences.
Not only is it easy to find out the statistics for banning orders, they are easily enforced. It is no longer just a case of turning up on the day to watch a game. For clubs like Arsenal fans must join a membership scheme and receive a card that stores their information. Tickets are bought on line, their credit card details are matched against their membership details and only then is the ticket allocated to their account.
Arsenal, along side clubs like Manchester United and Liverpool tickets are hard to get using this method though many fans do take advantage of scalpers some of who have now also gone on line.
Even for clubs which don't sell out on a regular basis, purchasing a ticket isn't just a case of turning up on the day. Clubs want supporters to register their details on their database including name, address, post code, credit card details etc. Even supporters turning up and hoping to pay on the day are asked to join this database. Clubs get access to a whole treasure trove of punters who they can target for emails and advertising while of course if there is any trouble in or around the ground all police have to do is look at the ticket to find out about any naughty boy and suspend that account. It's big brother light with a dash of consumerism thrown in!
The UK has for decades said it is against identity cards yet all the while post codes, bank card details and now mobile phone numbers provide an easy measure of oversight for security officials. And I haven't even mentioned CCTV!
Is Indonesia ready to go down this path to reduce crowd violence at football matches? Football, and this includes PSSI, can't do this by itself. There needs to be legislation put in place demarcating offences and punishments, there needs to be an infrastructure in place that provides support and a flow chart for implementing such measures and there needs to be a society in place acquiescing to such a process.
Are Indonesians ready for such a sea change to the way they live their lives? My feeling is no. The informal economy is just so large, Poverty stands around 10% and according to a report by KPMG Indonesia is the second largest cash based economy in the world. Credit card checks would be a waste of time when it is estimated just 10% of the population use them. And far be it for me to go into the demographics of Indonesian football supporters but not many are driving cars to the stadiums on match day.
For these reasons alone Indonesia and the PSSI should not be going down the UK road to control fan behaviour. As mentioned earlier, legislation by itself won't solve anything. The UK response was tailored to fit the UK problem which was gangs of football hooligans who delighted in mobbing up, drinking lots of beer and having fights with opposing supporters. Infiltrating the home team's end was also considered a result. 
These issues aren't Indonesia's issues. In fact I wouldn't even say Indonesia has a football hooligan problem as we in the west would understand it. For every bitter rivalry that exists, like Arema & Persebaya, there exists an enduring friendship, like Persib & Persebaya or Persija & Arema. In part these come from the old 'thine enemy is mine enemy' but also can come about from familiarity. 
Outside the big four of Arema, Persib, Persebaya and Persija there will be very few Liga 1 games that would cause organisers many headaches security wise. Supporters from those four clubs may travel in large numbers to games across Java and to a lesser extent other islands but on the whole they tend to be self organised and very little trouble occurs beyond perhaps petty crime or theft. Away fans visiting Surabaya may be up against the feared Bonek in the stadium but now that a small restaurant in the city centre, a well known Bonek hangout, will always welcome them with food, drink, cigarettes and even a place to kip for example. 
Smaller clubs like Persela will always have a few away fans where ever they play as workers who have migrated or students will always make the effort to catch their team when they are in town and no one perceives them as a threat. They arrive at the stadium, set up their banners, eat their chicken and rice, drink their water, sing their songs and go home when the game has finished. I have seen visiting fans mingle on the terraces with home fans and nothing happens. 
While it is easy to suggest what Indonesia's supporter isn't it is harder to define what it is. The tragic deaths of Persib and Persija fans in recent years weren't the result of mass brawls between gangs of marauding hooligans. They were much more random than that. Someone noticing for example someone else wasn't celebrating a goal enthusiastically enough leading to harsh words, pre-preemptive slaps then a herd mentality kicking in and kicking off. Someone not wearing enough club colours. There is no pre-meditation as such, no desire to go out and hand out a kicking to a rival supporter, more an opportunity to dish out a few slaps as part of a mob, getting caught up in the moment, getting carried away in a rush of adrenaline.
This is of course not to condone such behaviour but before tackling it we need to understand its underlying causes and the spontaneity of Indonesian fan violence makes it all the harder to anticipate, to police, especially through legislation. 
I honestly believe many fans do a good job of policing themselves. I know because I have seen them. Just after the PSSI banned flares from stadiums I was at a game where a single supporter let one off. Immediately he was identified by supporters around him who handed him over to security officials. An attractive meme from PSSI highlighting the problems with flares may get a like or two but words from authority are just background noise. When your terrace peers tell you its wrong, then people start to listen.
Over the years I have met so many fantastic football fans, many of them well respected figures even within the clubs. Not like the moo moos at Arsenal Fan TV, these guys are often humble, quietly spoken, decent people who have proved their worth as fans and do their bit to develop the atmosphere we all enjoy in the stadiums.
I honestly believe if these guys were to get together at a national level, bring together supporters from not just Arema, Persebaya, Persija and Persib but all clubs, and come up with a range of initiatives to be implemented at fan clubs, schools and local communities around the country then we would go some way to reducing these random acts of violence that are marring the game. Promote the atmosphere a full house can bring but tell people that there are limits to displaying their fanaticism and some acts are unacceptable. Let's face it. If a politician or a policeman tells someone not to do it again does anyone really listen? However if it comes from someone they know, they recognise, they respect?
For now we have supporters beating up supporters, supporters killing supporters. Beyond a few hashtags and vain hopes the latest tragedy won't be repeated no one really cares beyond the victim's family. Politicians, with their security escorts and accompanying minders, don't connect well with people anywhere in the world. Surely it is time supporters started educating supporters? 

Tuesday, October 09, 2018

 

Liga 1 Returns With More Controversy

After the break imposed on Liga 1 following the events surrounding the Persib v Persija game which saw a supporter lose his life if the PSSI and the league organisers were expecting a peaceful ride they were either naive or sadly mistaken. It doesn't matter how many fines are dished out or how many games are played tanpa penonton fans will still be allowed to get away with misbehaving in and around a stadium on match day and this round of fixtures was no different.

All eyes were on East Java as Arema hosted Persebaya at the Kanjuruhan Stadium. The last couple of seasons haven't been the best for the Crazy Lions as they have struggled for consistency and their supporters have been staying away but with Persebaya in town a full house was guaranteed. The question was, would the supporters behave themselves?

Two so called supporters ran on the pitch during the warm up and got in the faces of the Persebaya players for a start. How was this allowed to happen? How were they able to climb the fences and run unimpeded on to the field like this? We keep hearing how many security officials are on duty at big games, why did none of these guys make an effort to stop the intruders?

Fortunately some men in uniform did their job better when a scuffle broke out on the terraces and they piled in to rescue the victim(s).

We now wait to see what sanction, if any, Arema receive with Persib and Persebaya fans watching particularly closely. After being forced to play their home games in Kalimantan for the rest of the season tanpa penonton they will be expecting a similar punishment for Arema or the criticism of the disciplinary committee, already under fire for the alleged randomness of their punishments, will only increase.

Anyway, the football

Persela v PSIS 1-1 (Wallace Costa Alves; Bruno Silva) 8,032
Arema v Persebaya 1-0 (Ahmad Nur Hardianto) 26,293
Sriwijaya v Bali United 3-2 (Novan Sosongko, Esteban Vizcarra, Alberto Goncalves; Ilija Spasojevic, Melvin Platje) 8,535
PS Tira v Bhayangkara 2-0 (Dmitry Rakish, Aleksander Rakic) 102
Mitra Kukar v PSM 1-4 (OG; Guy Junior 2, Reva Adi, Ferdinand Sinaga) 2,147
Barito Putera v PSMS 3-3 (Douglas Packer, Marcel Sacremento 2; Shohei Matsunaga, Felipe Martins, Rahmat Hidayat) 3,357
Borneo v Persipura 2-1 (Matias Conti 2; Addison Alves) 3,345
Persija v Perseru 2-1 (Marko Simic, Rudi Widodo; Alberto de Paula) 16,772
Persib v Madura United

 

Dominant Clubs Gloss Over ASEAN Weaknesses

As I sit here in my chilly East Midlands abode my mind looking forward to a cold, wet trip to the north east of England, my mind often wanders back to South East Asia and of course it's football. The Jakarta Casual blog started at the start of 2006, here we are 12, almost 13 years on and how does the football landscape look now?

Well, in Singapore Albirex Niigata have just lifted the Singapore Cup for the fourth strait year, defeating Brunei side DPMM 4-1 in the final. The Japanese side also won the title, now called the Singapore Premier League. They have won that particular trophy the last three years. 

At the start of the season they won  of their the Community Shield. As they have done the last three years. They have also won the League Cup three years on the spin. The only reason they didn't win it this year is because it was cancelled. No Singaporean team has won a domestic title since 2014 and if that isn't a cause of great humiliation I just don't know what it. They also went through the season unbeaten!

Home United finished second, a mere 23 points behind champions Albirex Niigata and 23 points clear of second bottom side Geylang International. 

But while Home finished distant brides maids at home they fared better in the AFC Cup, winning their group on goal difference ahead of Ceres Negro, but well clear of Boeung Ket Angkor and Shan United and so reached the next round which is now a zonal semi final where they were drawn against Persija. After narrowly defeating them 3-2 in Singapore they not only travelled to Jakarta in good hope. They thrashed Persija 3-1 in front of 62,000.

Verily, I asked myself, what manner of beast is this that is so limp wristed in their own backyard yet are able to enter the lions' den and crush their hosts in so complete a manner?

Home went on to overcome Ceres Negro one more time, this time in the grandly named zonal final to be crowned unofficial ASEAN club champions, earning the right to play a North Korean side. April 25th, in the next round.

Outside of their ASEAN comfort zone Home came unstuck, losing 2-0 at home and 9-1 in Pyongang! Is ASEAN football really that shit and the North Korean league that far ahead?

Crossing the causeway and guess what? Johor Darul Ta'zim won the Malaysia Super League losing just once along the way and winning 19 of their 22 league games along the way. JDT, backed by the enthusiastic deep pockets of the state royal family, have now won the last five titles.

Unlike Albirex Niigata, who are not permitted to play in Asian club football, JDT have had some success on the continent, winning the AFC Cup in 2015. With their ambitions JDT are not a club which worries too much about local cups, their dreams are much loftier.

Intriguingly JDT were drawn against Persija in the AFC Cup group stage, winning 3-0 at home and losing 4-0 in Jakarta to finish third in their group. They took a beating from Persija who took a beating from Home United who took a whalloping from a North Korean side. Whither ASEAN?

And do to Thailand. No surprise Buriram United were crowned champions. Again. In fact they have won each of the last five completed season. Muang Thong United were awarded the title in 2016 after the league was halted early when the king died.

Like JDT, Buriram are backed by a very rich local benefactor and have ambitions that extend beyond the nation's somewhat limited football borders. but while they are a regular fixture in the AFC Champions League they are yet to mount a sustainable challenge to lift Asia's grandest trophy, a quarter final appearance in 2013 being their best run to date. 

In their own league they are dominant, finishing  points clear of second place Bangkok United and 26 points clear of third place Port.

Indonesia is a different story and I'll look at them in another post but the continued success of Albirex Niigata, JDT and Buriram United cannot be good for the football in their countries. Who wants to follow a league which is only dominated by one team? And don't throw the Celtic, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich argument at me. They come from league that have far deeper roots where support for a team goes back generations. 

Next month sees the start of the AFF Suzuki Cup and the prospect of national bragging rights is at stake. But it seems the clubs are still struggling to make an impression beyond the restrictive borders of ASEAN and it is looking increasingly like JDT's success in the AFC Cup is a one off. 

JDT's and Buriram United's success in recent years really count for nothing as they are competing in leagues where clubs, associations and sponsors lack the desire to go head to head with them. Unless their triumphs can be translated into something more substantial across the continent they will have to make do with hollow victories which will count for less and less beyond their shores.

Next year sees the AFC Asian Cup in the UAE with Thailand, the Philippines and Vietnam competing against such powerhouses as Bahrain and Qatar. Syria, Iraq and Yemen, countries blighted by tragedy in recent years, are in there against the best of the continent while the likes of Malaysia and Indonesia are left sitting at home licking their wounds. Malaysia ruing a series of humiliating defeats and Indonesia pondering a FIFA suspension.

ASEAN football is where it is because it deserves to be there and the sheen provided by JDT and Buriram United only highlights the dust and cobwebs that rot the game from the top down.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

 

Big Gesture Won't Solve Multi-Layered Problem

Following on from the latest tragedy to hit Indonesian football where a Persija fan was beaten to death in Bandung following their 2-3 reverse against Persib the PSSI chief Edy Rahmayadi has announced Liga 1 will be stopped indefinitely out of respect for the deceased.

The announcement follows call from the sports minister Imam Nahrawi for the league to be halted for two weeks and the players' union (APPI) announcing they would strike for the next round of fixtures which would have commenced this Friday and, incidentally, features another high octane game with Arema hosting Persebaya.

Bandung police have responded quickly to the murder of a Persija fan by making a number of arrests including a 41 year old man and some teenagers. 

President Joko Widodo has spoken out on the murder saying '16 (dead supporters in 2018) is too high. Do not let fanaticism go off the rails and turn into criminal activities. This must be stopped since sport honours sportive behaviour'. He added that all stakeholders needed to sit down and discuss the problem.

Of course 16 deaths is too much. Isn't one death? So why have the PSSI only acted now, after the 16th? Why have they done nothing before? Obviously a Persib v Persija game is high profile and carries a reputation for fan behaviour getting out of hand but don't the supporters of other, lower profile clubs, deserve a similar reaction? 

Basically football fans are trusted to police themselves all too often. When they travel to away games in numbers it is often left to the supporters themselves to make the arrangements and that includes liaising with the police forces of areas they pass through. This can lead to misunderstandings and confrontation as we have seen in the past where a lack of coordination and a creaking infrastructure  some leading to death. 

It wasn't that many years ago when 25 or more buses carrying Persija fans to Bandung were halted on the tollway and eventually turned back after several hours of disturbances which brought this important road to a standstill. Or the thousands of Persebaya fans heading to Bandung on a single train, including sitting on the roofs of the carriages being attacked along the route at various stations. Or the numerous incidents that have occurred, and still occur in and around Yogyakarta and Solo when fans heading to or returning from games go through a rivals' patch.

And let us not forget that most venomous of derbies, a game so fearful it hasn't been played in years. As Persita fans used to head towards Benteng Stadium they would be greeted by hails of rocks from narrow gangs as Persikota supporters took offence at their presence.

To go to games some supporters use any means necessary including physically stopping trucks in the middle of the road and convincing the driver to carry some of their mates on the back. For free of course. 

When away fans arrive at a ground again they are left to do their own thing, often for hours ahead of kick off. Most just sit around, smoking, talking, sleeping. They are the lucky ones. They will have travelled to a game perhaps far from their home city and there will have been elements of organisation albeit of a rudimentary nature. Local supporters clubs will have made their own arrangements, booked their own coach, organised their own routes. Where there is a good relationship between home and away fans there would have been a welcoming committee who would have ensured some refreshments were on hand for the weary travellers.

Clubs and the authorities play little role in these away days and they can often be a good trip for all concerned.

Not all trips are like that though. The recent DIY Derby between PSIM and PSS saw hundreds of away fans form up in a convoy and make their own way to Sultan Agung Stadium in Bantul. The narrow lanes in and around Yogyakarta must be a nightmare to police but a joy for rival fans looking to take pot shots at their foes passing through their 'manor' and in the violence that followed one local resident who had been watching the game as a neutral died.

Inside the stadium itself we often hear of the large numbers of security personnel on duty but too often their reaction to any incident be it throwing plastic water bottles or worse is to wave their arms around from the other side of the fences in a futile gesture to soothe tensions. 

I recall one game where some supporters were getting highly agitated by what was happening on the pitch. First things were thrown on the field by irate fans. Security responded by waving their arms. Then some people started to climb the fencing and get on the field of play. Rather than nip in and nick these pioneers security backed off. Of course what happened next was obvious, you didn't need tea leaves. 

Other lads saw their mates on the pitch unhindered and thought 'hey ho, I'll have some of this' and over they went. Pretty soon the situation was getting out of hand and their were hundreds of fans on the field and the players had legged it down the tunnel. The security response was to use the ground's PA system to appeal to the fan's better nature. Didn't work of course and more and more supporters were joining their mates.

Eventually security forces reacted by charging the supporters who soon turned tail and ran themselves. In situations like this were police are being faced by increasing numbers of people they have been known to fire tear gas to try and control the situation and let's be honest while I am not condoning such an extreme action, you can understand how nervous they feel when faced by hundreds of angry youths.

My point is though the situation was allowed to escalate instead of being nipped in the bud when the first few jumped the fence.

I don't see how suspending the league for an indefinite period is going to address the issues I have addressed here. Let's hope the time is used for people to get together, by this I mean PSSI, government, security services and supporters and come up with a viable, sustainable nationwide programme of measures that sees, as a bare minimum, players and respected supporters (of which there are plenty) make highly visible visits to schools and kampung RTs, maybe with family members of the victims, to discuss fan behaviour and to drum into those a little slow on the uptake that beating the shit out of someone because he may support a different team or standing on top of a fast moving vehicle just ain't cool.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

 

Indonesia's Shame

In the USA a shooting spree that leads to mass casualties usually leads to the great and the good offering prayers while everyone else partakes in a orgy of hashtags before things go quiet and people move on to other topics.

Indonesia is pretty much the same whenever a football supporter dies either on their way to/from a game or during it. Prayers and pleas for this incident to be the last fill the airwaves and cyber space before people move on to to other topics.

On the one hand in this wired era where the rolling narrative ensures our attention is soon switched elsewhere society has developed the attention of a stick insect. On the other hand a cynic might suggest both in the US and Indonesia the 'wrong' sort of people are the victims and can be quickly forgotten. Be sure, if it were scions of the elite who were the victims we would be seeing action follow quickly on the heels of prayers and hashtags.

The tragedy in Bandung over the weekend which saw Hanggira Sirila lose his life wasn't of course the first this season. Because it was a Persib v Persija game it was the highest profile and made waves but who remembers William, an Persitara supporter who was beaten to death in August at a Liga 3 game? Hanggira became the 75th Indonesian to die at football in the last 23 years and if that is not a truly frightening statistic then I don't know what is

Hanggira of course is not a statistic and neither is William nor the other 73 fans who lost their lives over the years. As a body is beaten to death, or falls from a vehicle, they cease to become football supporters. They are human beings and like the rest of us their blood runs red. If all lives are precious why is this slaughter allowed to continue?

Timeline of Shame

1995 a Persebaya fan died watching his team play PSIM
1996  3 Persebaya fans fell from a train
1999 9 PSIS fans in a train incident in Jakarta
2001 1 PSIS fan beaten to death at a railway station in Jakarta
2002 1 Persijatim Solo fan in a truck accident
2002 1 Semen Padang fan beaten to death at a Persija game'
2002 1 Indonesian fan fell from a bus
2003 1 Persebaya fan in a truck accident
2003 1 Persebaya fan hit by a sharp object at a friendly against Persija
2005 1 Arema fan hit by a sharp object in an away game at Persekapbas
2005 1 Arema fan crushed to death in the crowd watching Persija
2005 1 Persija fan beaten to death in a game with Persipura
2005 1 PSIS fan fell from a train
2006 1 Persipura fan at a derby with Persiwa
2008 1 Persija fan attacked outside ground at a game with Persipura
2008 1 Persitara fan stabbed to death in game against Pelita Jaya
2010 2 Persebaya fans fell from a train heading to game at Persib
2010 1 Persik fan crushed to death in the crowd watching Persib
2011 1 PSIS fan fell from a train
2011 2 Persita fans killed in a brawl
2011 1 Pelita Jaya fan killed by a samurai sword
2011 1 Persela fan in an incident on a train
2011 2 Indonesian fans crushed at the SEA Games Final in Jakarta
2011 1 Persebaya fan in a brawl in Sidoarjo
2012 1 PSIS fan in a brawl between rival supporters of the same team
2012 1 PSIM fan in a brawl between rival supporter groups of the same team
2012 5 Persebaya fans in an incident when their train to Bojonegoro
2012 3 Persib fans in Jakarta
2012 1 Persebaya fan tear gassed
2012 1 PSCS fan returning from game in Solo attacked in Sleman
2013 1 Persebaya fan in a brawl with Arema fans
2013 1 PSPS fan in a brawl between rival PSPS supporters
2013 1 PSM fan stabbed at a game with Persepar
2014 1 Persiba Bantul fan in a brawl between Persiba fans
2014 1 Sriwijaya fan stabbed to death at a game with Persijap
2014 1 Persis fan in crowd violence after a game with Martapura
2014 3 Arema fans in a brawl with Persebaya fans on a toll road
2015 2 Arema fans in a brawl with Persebaya supporters
2016 1 Persija fan in an incident outside the ground
2016 1 PSS fan in a brawl with PSIM fans who were returning from an away game
2016 1 Sriwijaya fan in a brawl between Sriwijaya fans
2016 1 Persib fan fell from transport after a game
2016 1 Persib fan attacked after a game in Cikarang
2016 2 Persija fans died returning home from Solo. One fell from a vehicle, the other attacked
2017 1 Persija fan after seeing his team play Bali United
2017 1 Persib fan attacked
2017 1 Indonesian fan after being  hit by a firework at a friendly with Fiji
2017 1 Persita fan attacked at game with PSMS in Cibinong
2018 1 Arema fan following disturbances following a game with Persib
2018 1 neutral caught up in an incident in Bantul after local derby between PSIM and PSS
2018 1 Persitara fan part of a group of supporters involved in an incident in a market
2018 1 Persija fan in Bandung

So many deaths so many questions. Why are fans of the same team kicking the shit out of each other? I have been to numerous games where different fan groups don't even acknowledge the existence of other groups. One game had two different groups in an away end; one lot would stand up and sing then sit down and the other lot had their turn. In between they ignored each other. Who is allowing this shit to happen?

Why are supporters being allowed to travel on top of vehicles be they trains or mini buses. Oh yes, they do make for excellent photo opportunities but surely security officials don't need special health and safety training to know there is a danger of falling off a fast moving vehicle?

Fact is everyone shares a responsibility. Supporters for perpetuating irresponsible behaviour and football for taking no action. How many times do we hear about supporters trashing stadiums? It even happened this year after an expensive refit ahead of the Asian Games. Whose fault is that? Too often fans are quick to blame PSSI and yes, there are things that can be laid at their door. But not trashing stadiums, not throwing rocks and not beating the shit out of each other.

I've been here before. English football in the 1970s, 1980s wasn't a place for the feint hearted and no one wanted to take responsibility for the violence. Football said it was society's problem. The government said it was football's problem. meanwhile the police lapped up the over time and took the opportunity to dish out a few slaps at the weekend with no comeback.

It took and the Bradford City fire, which killed 56, and Hillsborough and the death of 96 fans to eventually force the government to knock heads together. Hopefully Indonesia doesn't need such disasters to force any kind of action. Anyway comparisons with England are not helpful. Indonesia has a vibrant football culture that has spread out across ASEAN but the beauty of the terrace choreography is on occasion marred by an ugliness that lies simmering under the surface.

Sadly these kind of disturbances aren't going to go away any time soon. The will isn't there and role models are few and far between. Players are only too happy to chase match officials if they feel hard done by. Some supporters are only too happy to try and go to and from a game, often travelling large distances, without paying a penny. 

There are positive role models out there. Well respected supporters at different teams who do their best to project best behaviour. But they can't change things alone. They need to be supported by the PSSI, the government and the clubs in a sustained way. They need to work together at a national level in a high profile way perhaps with some well respected players. They need to be out in the schools, working with security sending out positive messages beyond the usual, bland 'we ware all brothers'. 

There are initiatives at a local level but they need to be more consistent and better coordinated if they are to have any real impact in the kampungs and the gangs which are home to so many supporters.

However in a week when we have seen the head of the PSSI slap a supporter on the terraces and then go on TV and ask a reporter what right he has to ask questions you just know there is no will in high places to put an end to the deaths. 

Perhaps there will be talk about stopping the Liga 1 for a while. Perhaps play a few games behind closed doors. But these quick fix solutions won't solve the underlying issues that sees young lads climb on top of buses and trains, fight supporters of their own team or gang up mob handed on smaller numbers.

Just like in the USA meaningful action won't be taken and parents are left wondering who number 76 will be.


Monday, July 16, 2018

 

What Next For Djadjang After Medan Axe

Back in 2014 it seemed Djadjang Nurdjaman could do no wrong. He had just guided his beloved Persib to their first Indonesia Super League title and was looking forward to helping the club he once played for conquer Asia as they prepared to compete in the AFC Cup the following year. Djanur, as he is nicknamed, was going places. Or so it seemed.

The first set back came the following year when the AFC announced the Sumedang born coach would not be allowed to take charge of the team in the Asian club competition because he didn't have the appropriate coaching badges. In fact domestic club regulations also require coaches to have been trained to a minimum standard but as is too often the case in Indonesia the implementation of these rules is not always consistent.

As it happened the 2015 season was brought to an abrupt halt when FIFA suspended the PSSI and Djanur, at a loose end, was farmed out to Inter Milan to learn his trade as it were and finish off his badges.

Suitably qualified and, you would think, bursting with new ideas following his stint observing one of Europe's finest clubs on the training field, Djanur returned to Indonesia and Persib. He was soon to learn, however, what works well in Italy may not work so well in Indonesia. Despite boasting a team including new additions such as Michael Essien and Carlton Cole Persib were a club in off the field turmoil with an interfering management wanting their input on the eleven which took the field and Djanur just wasn't strong enough to face down the different factions.

A 2-2 draw at home to PS TNI was the final straw and the supporters quickly vented their fury against their hapless coach. It seemed his position was untenable and asresults didn't improve so the anger on the terraces and social media increased. Djanur wanted to resign but he wasn't allowed to which pretty much summed up his position. Here was a coach lacking the strength to handle a febrile atmosphere being told he had to stay and he accepting it.

Eventually of course Djanur was allowed to leave the club but only when a new coach had been found but his reputation was undoubtedly tarnished. 

It was therefore something of a surprise when PSMS, one of the biggest names in the Indonesian games but lately fallen on bad times, turned to the former Persib man to guide them to promotion in 2017.

PSMS of course were promoted, finishing runners up behind Persebaya and Djanur had another success to add to his resume. But starved of finances the team from Medan have struggled back in the top flight with all their points coming from home wins and, most recently, four defeats on the spin. Unlike Persib however no one at PSMS was willing to give their coach the benefit of the doubt and last week he was sacked after a run of four straight losses including home turf humiliations against Persipura and Persib.

What next for the coach? In Indonesia as elsewhere the best coaches are rarely out of the game for long but doubts remain as to how good Djanur really is despite his impressive pedigree and whatever lessons he learned in Milan. His next appointment could tell us alot.



Friday, July 13, 2018

 

Sriwijaya Player Exodus Amid Rumoured Money Issues

Back in March in the Jakarta Casual Liga 1 Season Preview I asked if two-time champions Sriwijaya are back after they had appointed Rahmad Darmawan as coach and they had signed a number of big names for the coming campaign. Surely after a few seasons below the radar the addition of quality players like Hamkah Hamza and Patrich Wanggai meant the South Sumatran side meant business?

Early results seemed to bear out those early predictions as a run of just two losses in nine games kept them close to the upper reaches of the table. A convincing win over Persela (5-1) meant Laskar Wong Kito went into the Ramadhan break in confident mood and surely that euphoria would have only been enhanced when they defeated PS Tira 4-1 after the break.

Then the rumours started to swirl in earnest. That Sriwijaya were having money troubles. There were suggestions at the start of the month the players hadn't been paid for June and there were doubts July's money would be paid.

Quite why this problem should arise is not clear though people have suggested a link with local elections which may or may be true. Politics in football? Hard to believe innit?

It's very frustrating for all concerned of course, including the fans who get excited about their team's chances only to see the wayang master slam shut the wallet.

Today saw Sriwijaya officially announce nine players would be released as well as Rahmad, the coaching and medical staff. Among those leaving Palembang are Adam Alis (Bhayangkara) and Hamka Hamzah who has been snapped up by Arema after rejecting offers from five other teams. Alfin Tuasalamony, Novan Sasongko, Pierre Paulin Bio, Patrich Wanggai, Rahmad Hidayat, Makan Konate and M Ndiaye have also been told they are no longer required with Alfin following Hamka to Malang.

Where this leaves Sriwijaya for the rest of the season. It looks like they have retained some experienced players like Esteban Vizcarra, Alberto Goncalves as well as youngsters like Teja Paku Alam and Ichsan Kurniawan while there has been suggestions Subangkit could replace Rahmad. But would a new coach be given funds to go out and replace those departures? Most unlikely. 

One thing is for certain. The 11 players who will line up for Sriwjaya next Tuesday away to Mitra Kukar will be a very different line up to the team that fought valiantly for a draw at home to Persija last time out.





 

Barito Putera Two Points Clear Despite Goalless Draw

Round 15

PS Tira v Mitra Kukar 0-0 67

As you know I do like to watch the odd game of football now and then and I do love my trips down to Yogyakarta. Hand on heart though there is no way I would have headed down for this particular game. PS Tira have struggled all season, both on the field and off it attracting fans to their new ground in Bantul, while Mitra Kukar, despite boasting Englishman Danny Guthrie and free scoring Rodriguez in their ranks just don't do well in their travels.

Sriwijaya v Persija 2-2 (Esteban Vizcarra 2: Ivan Carlos, Rezaldi Hehanusa) 19,151

This was more like it. Home side Sriwijaya have been plagued by financial woes with rumours of a mass exodus during the transfer window but Rahmad Darmawan's men came from behind twice to secure a point against Persija in a game that featured nine yellow cards. Vizcarra's brace made it four in four for the Argentine striker as Laskar Wong Kito keep up their title challenge.

Bhayangkara v Persebaya 3-3 (OG, Vendry Mofu, Alsan Putra Sanda: Osvaldo Haay, Irfan Jaya, David Silva) 1,200

Now this was a game and a half as Persebaya played their second game in a couple of weeks at the tiny PTIK Stadium in Jakarta. Champions Bhanyangkara, on a roll after a slow start to the season, led 2-0. Persebaya, with just three losses all season, fought back with Irfan levelling on 83 minutes later to set up an almighty climax to the game. Sanda restored the home side's lead a minute later before Silva saved a point for the Green Force with tow minutes remaining.

Barito Putera v Arema 0-0 6,827

Barito Putera coach Jacksen F Thiago may have been disappointed to see his team drop vital points in their bid for a first ever title but seeing his nearest rivals drop points would have gone some way towards brightening his mood. And anyway despite Arema's inconsistencies this season this was after all a game between the two best teams in the land on current form.

Bali United v PSM 2-0 (Ilija Spasojevic, Stefano Lilipaly) 15,425

You don't become a bad striker over night and although Spasojevic has not had his most productive season so far he will always be a threat. His opener against title challengers PSM was just his third of the season and Bali fans will be hoping it will kickstart his and his team's season as they have struggled to find the consistency that saw them push Bhayangkara all the way last season.

Persela v Borneo 2-0 (Loris Arnaud, OG) 9,098

Unfancied Persela continue to show their pedigree after this win put them within four points of the leaders Barito Putera with one of their former players, Eddy Gunawan putting through his own goal to secure another win for the home side. Persela just don't lose home games.

Perseru v Persib 0-0 836

Perseru recently beat Persija 3-1 at home, not a surprise in itself. No, what raised eyebrows was the team scoring goals full stop! In their 15 games this season they have netted just nine times. Normal service was resumed here.

PSIS v Madura United 0-0 8,415

With just one win in their previous four games Madura United have, rather like Bali United, struggled to imitate the consistency that marked their campaign last season. Gomes de Oliveira has returned as coach and may view this as a useful point earned on their travels but with a team boasting players like Fabiano Beltrame, Zah Rahan, Raphael Maitimo surely more is expected?

PSMS v Persipura 1-3 (Dilshod Sharofetdinov: Immanuel Wanggai, Boas Solossa, Hilton Moreira) 11,150

Persipura's longest awayday of the season saw them pick up a comfortable three points in North Sumatra against newly promoted, and bottom placed, PSMS. Winless in their previous five games the Black Pearls badly needed three points to restore some confidence; next up is a home game against relegation candidates PSIS and a local derby away to Perseru!

1 - Barito Putera 15 8 3 4 27-21 27
2 - PSM Makassar 15 7 4 4 21-18 25
3 - Sriwijaya 15 6 5 4 28-20 23
4 - Persela 15 6 5 4 25-20 23
5 - Bhayamgkara 15 6 5 4 19-19 23

12 - Ezechial N'Douassel (Persib)
11 - Fernando Rodriguez (Mitra Kukar)
9 - Loris Arnaud (Persela), Stefano Lilypaly (Bali United), Aleksandar Rakic (PS Tira)
8 - Samsul Arif (Barito Putera)

Friday, May 25, 2018

 

Bauman And Ezechiel On Fire as Persib Prepare For Bali Weekend

It's difficult to read too much into the Liga 1 table at the moment. Halfway through round 10 just nine points separate leaders Persipura (17 points) from bottom club PSIS. The fine art of defending seems to have gone walkabout with just three teams having conceded less than 10 goals so far and two of them (Perseru and Persija) in the bottom four.

While defensive coaches may be tearing their hair out at the other end forwards are having the time of their life and none more so than the new partnership at Persib.

Former Johor Darul Ta'zim coach Mario Gomez probably found Persib a bit of a culture shock after his trophy laden spell in Malaysia but slowly he is putting together a team built a round a core of Persib veterans and an exciting forward line that mixes Argentine flair with Chadian flair.

Ezechiel N'Douasel joined Persib for the second half of last season managing just four goals in his 14 Liga 1 games. Gomez however must have seen something he liked in the 30 year old striker as he didn't hesitate to keep him on for the 2018.

For a striker partner Gomez tapped into his knowledge of the game back in his homeland and recruited Jonathon Bauman, a 27 year old forward who played in Greece last season.

Despite some familiar faces in the middle of the field Persib started the season slowly. They failed to qualify from their group in the President Cup, finishing third and scoring a single goal in their three games and carried their struggles into the Liga 1 season, drawing their first game of the season at home to PS Tira 1-1 after the visitors equalised deep into injury time, Ezechiel scoring for the Maung Bandung in the first half.

Next up for Persib was an away game in Palembang and despite Ezechiel scoring again Gomez's team were left licking their wounds again as they lost 3-1. It wasn't until the third game of the season that Persib secured their first win of the season when they defeated Mitra Kukar 2-0 at Gelora Api Bandung Stadium. This time Ezechiel failed to get on the scoresheet but his partner Bauman did, opening the scoring early in the second half before Oh In-Kyun made it two on the hour mark.

Despite the poor start the Persib supporters were keeping the faith, more than 32,000 saw the game with Mitra Kukar, a club not blessed with stardust. However any hopes a corner had been turned were soon dashed when Persib could only draw 2-2 away at Arema despite a brace from Ezechiel in a game marred by serious crowd disorder.

If there was any consolation for Gomez it would have come from the form of Ezechiel, four goals in four games but late goals against PS Tira and Arema had cost the club four goals.

Persib returned to winning ways with a 3-1 victory over Borneo on their own patch and again Ezechiel bagged a brace with Bauman netting the other. With a fully functioning strike partnership Gomez surely could look forward to guiding Persib up the table. Unfortunately Persib's away doay woes continued in their next game, losing 2-1 away to Madura United with Bauman scoring a late consolation. 

With the game away to Persebaya postponed in the wake of the terrorist atrocities there Gomez could look forward to back to back home games and with his forwards now in full flow luxuriated in two victories against tough opposition (Persipura 2-0 and PSM 3-0) and just as crucially two blank sheets. 

Thanks to the tightness of the Liga 1 table I referenced earlier Persib are now 6th in the table and should they win their next game they could go joint top of the table. The Bobotoh won't be getting too excited though; their next opponents are Bali United. Away. And Persib haven't won an away game since last September. 

Bali United are having their own problems this season, failing to rediscover the consistency of the 2017 campaign but at least Gomez, and the Bandung faithful, go into the game knowing Ezechiel and Bauman are on fire!

Ezechiel 9 goals in 9 games
Bauman 5 goals in 7 games



Wednesday, May 16, 2018

 

The Singapore Cha Cha

Honestly can't remember the last time I wrote about Singapore football' it was probably a whine about Albirex Niigata and the lack of any domestic rival being able to take them on. There is a new leadership at the Football Association and apparently a rebranded league, featuring the same number of teams, is a sign of a new era but let's not go there.

Rather, let's look at a couple of events from Lion City over the last couple of days which are, hopefully, more meaningful in the long run than any name change of the local league.

1 Step Forward

Well, what can we say about Home United? After they defeated Persija 3-2  in the first leg of the AFC Cup ASEAN Zone Semi Final surely those two away goals by Ramdani Lestalahu were enough to give the Macan Kemayoran the edge in Jakarta? And come on, how many Home United players are familiar with 62,000 fans getting behind their team in the intimidating atmosphere that can envelope Bung Karno at times?

One of the few Singaporeans who did know a thing about playing in front of a hostile, baying crowd was former Persib striker Shahril Ishak and he played his part in this thrilling tie, scoring twice and missing a penalty to set up the minnows for a famous win. Yes, we can point to Persija losing their totemic defender Jamerson towards the end of the first half and yes, they were without Andritany. But this game was lost over two legs and Home thoroughly deserved their triumph.

From a commercial point of view no doubt the AFC would have preferred to have seen Persija go through, a packed Bung Karno with the Jakmania in full voice makes for better TV than a few uncles at Jalan Besar eating chicken and rice but it is kind of nice to see football being won on the pitch rather than in respective balance sheets.

2 Steps Forward

I have to hold up my hands and say yep, I am an unabashed Noh Alam Shah. It's a shame he is more fondly thought of in Indonesia than he ever was in Singapore. Since he hung up his boots for the last time Singapore football has been a poorer place for his absence and I have often felt he could at least have been given a media gig once in a while.

I was delighted therefore to hear that the former Tampines Rovers striker has been called up by the FA and asked to help new acting coach Fandi Ahmad as the Lions prepare for the AFF Suzuki Cup later this year. Moaning ninnies could argue what does NAS bring to the table? After all he hasn't set the world on fire recently (fortunately). But just imagine his presence in the dressing room ahead of big games. Home United have proved Singapore teams have what it takes to go toe to toe with the big boys, the appointment of NAS can only inject more spine into the game and hopefully excitement in to the fans and media.

1 Step Sideways

As mentioned the Lions have turned to Fandi Ahmad to take Singapore to the AFF Suzuki Cup. Apparently he is a stop gap, a short term measure. Why? This has happened before, the FA appointing a coach insisting it wasn't a long term appointment? What is with this short termism? Either give him the job and a contract or not, don't fanny round with short term this, short term that.

1 Step Backwards

Albirex Niigata have won the last three Singapore Cups, the last three League Cups, the last three Community Shields and the last two league titles. They are currently top of the league table with seven wins from seven games, 11 points clear of their nearest rivals. Last month they beat Home United, yeap them that beat Persija, 6-1! To paraphrase a long dead English monarch who will challenge these serial victors?

Friday, May 04, 2018

 

Piala Indonesia Returns

The logistical nightmare that is the Piala Indonesia is back after an absence of six years. If you think the normal league season is a nightmare spare a thought for this domestic behemoth that makes the AFC Cup look like a spontaneous play ground kick around.

The competition started life as Copa Indonesia back in 2006 under the sponsorship of a tobacco company, my things have changed, and Arema won the first two competitions. Sriwijaya then won it three years on the spin before Persibo lifted the trophy in 2012, the last time it was held.

And now it's back. Eighteen Liga 1 teams, 24 from Liga 2 and 86 Liga 3 teams have been divided into 16 geographical zones, a total of 128 teams starting out on a journey that will lead to the final being played in December. Or January. There are no fixed dates for the ties to be played meaning it will have to be squeezed in alongside the regular Liga season. And the Asian Games. And the AFF Suzuki Cup. But I'm sure that has all be taken into consideration by the organisers! Be that as it may, expect a few teams to fall by the wayside...

First round ties are expected to start next week with a couple of games slated for 8th May with holders Persibo hosting Madura United and Arema travelling to Blitar to take on PSBK. It promisies to be quite a season for football fans in the East Java city with no less than four teams competing in the competition; Blitar Poetra host PSMP, PSBI entertain Persebaya while Liga 2 side Blitar United make the short journey to Madiun Putra.

As is the way with good cup competitions around the world there are a number of eye catching ties pitching minnows against the big boys with Kuala Nanggroe hosting PSMS being a fine example of the genre. Another good measure of a domestic cup is the need for an atlas to find some of the teams!

There are a couple of derby matches in the Sumatra region which catch the eye. Persiraja host Aceh United while PSPS Riau will be taking to the boats to take on 757 Kepri Jaya. Three time cup winners Sriwijaya will also take to the high seas as they travel to Bangka to take on PS Bangka Selection.

Is there such a thing as a Sunda Straits Derby? Perhaps there is now as SS Lampung will be hosting Cilegon United meaning the Cilegon squad and their supporters will be crossing the narrow water way for the tie. Perhaps we could call it the Krakatau Derby?

Moving closer to Jakarta an intriguing match up sees Persitangsel hosting Liga 1 champions Bhayangkara. I have no idea where this tie will be played; should it be played at the Cops' new base in South Jakarta we can expect a healthy following of Persitangsel fans to make the short journey. 

Persija, flying high in Liga 1 and the AFC Cup have been drawn away to Persikabo, an easy trek south to the Pakansari Stadium for the Jakmania hoardes if the tie is not moved.

In West Java Persib will travel to Cimahi ensuring a large away following while Bogor host Persika Karawang coached by Ricky Nelson.

Another of those local derbies that can only occur in Indonesia sees Persiba Bantul play host to PS Tira at Sultan Agung Stadium. Both teams of course share the same stadium since PS Tira rebranded themselves and moved to the town ahead of the new season.

Further east sees a Madura Derby with Persepam taking on Madura while one tie that catches the eye sees Persekabpas host Persid. Don't ask why, it just does!

Moving beyond Java and things get very interesting with PS Sumbawa Barta playing Bali United, Sidrap United hosting PSM, Persiter v Celebest and Yahukimo taking on Persipura. 

The complete draw can be found here.

An exciting competition with some nervy ties awaiting the big boys, it is good to have the Piala Indonesia back!

Wednesday, May 02, 2018

 

Struggling Arema Face Tough Surabaya Trip

With just three separating the top 10 clubs in Liga 1 after the opening six rounds it is fair to say the first few weeks of the new season have been pretty close. No team remains unbeaten, likewise no team is winless and even the bottom sides PSIS and Arema are just six points off top spot. Persipura, three time ISL champions, are a point clear of Persija, Madura United, PSM and Barito Putera but the Macan Kemayoran have a game in hand following the postponement of their high octane clash with Persib last week.

This weekend's fixtures sees Persija again take a back seat as they are given time off to prepare for their AFC Cup tie with Home United, an example of the upside thinking in Indonesian football where you may recall both Persija and Bali United were forced to compete in both the AFC Cup and the pre season competition President Cup.

The stand out game in Round seven sees the East Java giants Persebaya and Arema go toe to toe at the Bung Tomo Stadium in Surabaya. There are usually fireworks when these two meet and this weekend's game, their first in the top flight since god knows; the last few years have seen these clubs blighted by confusion over which club is the 'real' one, a hangover of the IPL days. Suffice to say the rivalry hasn't  gone away and this week any motor vehicles in the Surabaya area with a Malang number plate are in for a torrid time.

Arema haven't started the season well and current;y sit 17th on goal difference ahead of newly promoted PSIS. The Crazy Lions are not the team they once were. The money seems to have dried up and many supporters have long since turned their back on the team. Just over 12,000 saw their opening game of the season against Mitra Kukar where the visitors came from 2-0 down to score twice in the last eight minutes and secure a point. 

Two defeats on their travels followed, away to Persija and Borneo, before Persib came to Malang and this time the supporters did show up, more than 31,000 witnessed this clash between the 'Thine Enemy is Mine Enemy' Derby. This time it was the home team which escaped with a point following Balsa Bozovic's late equaliser but that didn't stop a mass pitch invasion as Arema fans invaded the pitch following a controversial decision. Riot police used tear gas to calm things down and unsurprisingly this only made things worse with several supporters receiving injuries and reports of fatalities.

The come back however hinted at a mental strength among the team and for their next game away to Madura United, another potentially tricky road trip, Arema set off feeling confident about their chances. With 24 minutes remaining they were leading 2-1 but Madura can be a fortress and the home side fought back to claim the points with two late goals leaving Arema bottom of the table and licking their wounds. 

Just over 3,000 made the effort for the next home game against Persipura, a game that saw the Crazy Lions race into a three goal lead and run out 3-1 victors, inflicting the first loss of the season on the table topping Black Pearls with Dedik Setiawan netting twice. 

It is too early to see whether a corner has been turned; it hasn't been an easy start to the season for Arema with tough away games and things aren't going to get any easier with Sunday's trip up the jalan tol to Surabaya. Despite boasting an experienced rearguard Arema have shipped 13 goals this season, the worst in the league. At the same time only Madura United have scored more goals. Coach Joko Susilo will be looking to the likes of Arthur Cunha and Yudi Purwoko to show all their experience in the cauldron like atmosphere at the Bung Tomo if Arema are to get anything out of the game

Friday, March 23, 2018

 

Liga 1 2018 Preview

Finally, after numerous false starts we are at the dawn of a new Liga 1 season with champions Bhayangkara set to entertain Persija in the season opener at Bung Karno Stadium later this evening. History tells us it is nonsense to try and anticipate how a season will pan out, we can anticipate more WTF moments is about the only guarantee, but let's try and consider the new campaign from a purely football point of view.

One thing we can look forward to hopefully is larger attendances with some of the biggest clubs in the domestic scene back in the top flight. PSMS, PSIS and Persebaya return and with them will be some large crowds; Persebaya last season attracted the largest crowd in South East Asia when over 50,000 packed Bung Tomo for a Liga 2 game.

The geographical make up of the Liga remains very Java centric with fully half the 18 teams coming from Indonesia's most populated island. The remaining clubs are spread around the country with Sumatra (2), Kalimantan (3), Papua (2) while Bali and Sulawesi have one each. Location is important of course given the travelling some clubs are forced to do. For example every away game for PSMS and Sriwijaya will involve trips to their local airport while clubs based in East and Central Java can look forward to many uncomfortable hours on the island's numerous pot holed roads.

Arema have massively underachieved over the last few seasons in the league and the supporters have responded by staying away in droves. With Joko Susilo at the helm and a new skipper in Dendi Santoso can the remaining fans look forward to a new season with any optimism? I fear not. Big things are expected from their new Montenegran number 10 Balsa Bozovic (ex Persela, Melaka United), while Ahmet Atayew has been retained from last season. With Cristian Gonzales moving on it will be interesting to see how much game time Dedik Setiawan gets. He impressed at the start of the last campaign.

After coming so close to winning the title last time round, Bali United have unsurprisingly kept faith with their coach Widodo Chayono Putro. However they have a gaping void to fill after the departure of record marksman Sylvano Comvalius who moved to Suphanburi in Thailand. They also released Dutch midfielder Kevin Brands after he failed to impress pre season. To replace Sylvano signed Ilija Spasojevic, formerly of Bhayangkara, and undoubtedly he has the credentials to fill the space left by the 37 goal Dutch striker. Bali could also have an edge over their rivals having already played competitive football in the AFC Cup.

Barito Putera are one of those clubs that operate below the radar but they do seem to have a plan having retained Jacksen F Thiago as their coach. The experienced Brazilian coach looks to have completed an astute signing when he brought in Samsul Arif from Persela and it will be interesting to see how the former international teams up with Patrick da Silva who was recruited from relegated Gresik United. While Jacksen will be looking to his experienced pros to help improve on last season's seventh place finish keep an eye on local lads Rizky Pora, Hansamu Yama, Paolo Sitanggang and Gavin Kwan.

How do you follow up last season's surprise title success? That is the challenge facing Simon McMenemy as he plans for a second season with Bhayangkara minus a few key names. Spasojevic, whose goals in the second half of the season played such a major role in the run in, has gone to Bali United while youngsters Enav Dimas and Ilham Udiin have signed for Selangor in Malaysia. Three key pivots from the team moving on leaving McMenemy with some big decisions to make in the transfer market. The inspirational Paolo Sergio has been retained while former Persib defender Vladimir Vujovic has been brought in to add more experience to the back. Veteran striker Herman Dzumafo was brought in to add presence up front but surely the main choice will be new Serbian signing Nikola Komazec, an unknown quantity in Indonesia but boasting a good record from stints with South China and Pattaya United.

Forward thinking Borneo have kept faith in coach Iwan Setiawan and made a splash internationally when they signed ex West Ham United player Julien Faubert. He may attract some headlines but surely the addition of Marlon da Silva will be more crucial in the coming campaign. The 28 year old Brazilian striker will start the season with his third East Kalimantan team, completing the set, and has scored goals wherever he has been. The experienced Titus Bonai has also joined the club as has Persija's Ambrizal Umanailo while Lerby Eliandry has been retained. And in Ridho Mohammed they boast one of the top keepers in the country.

Madura United lost the services of Gomes Oliveria after a disappointing pre season and will now look to Milomir Seslija to improve on last season's credible fifth place finish. Madura have adopted an interesting transfer policy, signing foreign players who have been naturalised; Greg Nwokolo, Cristian Gonzales, Raphael Maitimo, OK John make up that merry band. They have also signed Zah Rahan, the Liberian player maker who has come in from Malaysia. As is often the case it is the big name swho will attract the headlines but Milo won't be understimating what Bayu Gatra and Slamet Nurchayo bring to the team.

Little known fact. Mitra Kukar, now with new coach Rafael Berges. boast the highest paid player in the league in ex Newcastle United midfielder Danny Guthrie. The unfashionable team from a bend in the Mahakam River have a fine record in uncovering exciting foreign strikers and they will be hoping Spaniard Fernando Rodriguez follows in that tradition; 26 goals in the Philippines for Ceres Negros suggest he could well do. Former Persipura keeper Yoo Jae-hoon has come in as has Brazilian defender Maurico Leal. Arif Suyono and Ahmad Bustomi have been retained as has the promising Septian David Maulana. They may not win any honours but other clubs will be watching Mitra Kukar very carefully.

Persebaya are back. Indonesian football isn't quite the same without the Green Force from Surabaya and with their fanatical following they are sure to attract interest everywhere they play. The new owners are prioritizing stability over splashing big money on players and coach Angel Alfredo vera seems to be buying into that philosophy; Robertinho and Otavio Dutra are three foreign players who know their way around Indonesian football while David da Silva maybe new but brings a years of experience in the middle east. Persebaya are true sleeping giants, expect to hear alot about them no matter what happens on the pitch!

Unfancied Persela hit the headlines last season following the tragic death of their long serving goal keeper Choirul Huda and his passing left a dark shadow over the club, and the town, for the rest of the season. Coach Aji Santoso is now having to build a new team, a new era for this well run club and one of his first signings was former PSG striker Loris Arnaud. Japanese import Shohei Matsunaga has also been added to the squad. Unfancied they maybe but their fans are among the most loyal in the country, nearly every game at their Surajaya Stadium is full to capacity.

Perseru just are, aren't they? I don't think anyone knows much about this club beyond the fact they are extremely difficult to get to. They have a new coach, the one time tough tacking midfielder I Putu Gede and a new signing who may be familiar to Indonesian football watchers; Djamel Leeflang played for Deltras back in 2011/12. It will be interesting to see how he gels with Silvio Escobar. Expect Perseru to be strong at home, weak on their travels but ultimately to survive. 

The last couple of seasons have been a bit of a disaster for Persib whose supporters must have been hoping the 2014 ISL title would have been the launch pad to greater things. Sadly for the Bobotoh it was not to be and the club have become a byword for managerial incompetence as coaches have found their hands tied. Mario Gomez is used to working with large egos, he was with Johor Darul Ta'zim after all but at least the serial Malaysian champions invested in infrastructure. Gomez has already gone public with his frustration over training facilities and with the Persib manager now, officially, allowed to be involved again, it looks like another firey campaign behind the scenes. What about on the pitch? Oh Ink-yun brings plenty of experience new foreign recruits Bojan Malisic and Jonathon Baumann are unknowns in Indonesia. Eka Ramdani has returned while Gomez has added Victor Igbonefo, Muchlis Hadi and Ghozali Siregar to the ranks. If Gomez is allowed time and space to do his job, Persib could do well. Time and space are rare commodities in Indonesian football, in Persib they are all but impossible.

For the first few months of last season Persija fans wanted coach Teco gone. After finishing fourth and qualifying for the AFC Cup they love him. They also love new signing Marko Simic who hit 11 goals in the President Cup and a hat trick in the AFC Cup. The Jakmania are drooling over the prospect of seeing Simic line up alongside Addison Alves (ex Persipura) with Bambang Pamungkas as support. After the usual 'where will Persija call home' drama that saw them linked with Karawang, Solo and Bantul it was announced earlier this week they would after all play their home games at Bung Karno. Keep your eyes open for their games with Persebaya!

Last season was that rarest of rarities, An anonymous campaign for Persipura. They finished 6th in Liga 1, a campaign they never really go going as a number of coaches tried to bring back the consistency the Black Pearls were once so famous for. It looked like 2018 would go ahead with the team as they struggled to find sponsors and withdrew from the President Cup. Englishman Peter Butler is now at the reigns and he can look to the familiar old guard of Boas Solossa and Ian Louis Kabes as well as bringing in new imports Marcel Sacremento and Hilton Moreira. Butler has taken to social media drooling over the young players at his disposal and we can expect to see few given their chance in the upcoming season.

Where would we be without a club changing name. And city. PS TNI have rebranded themselves PS Tira (which translates as People's Military) and relocated to Bantul for the new season but despite the hard work being done by coach Rudy Eko Priyambada and his exciting squad they will still be seen as a military backed club. The core of the team remains Abduh Lestalahu and Manahati Lestusen while Rudy has added the experienced Gustavo Lopez to prompt from the middle of the park. Will they attract much of a following from the people of Bantul whose own team, Persiba, are now in Liga 3?

PSIS haven't kicked a ball in anger but they have already got rid of their coach, with Subangkit paying the price for what was considered to be a poor pre season. Newly promoted teams need a core of local players who know their way around the top flight and, despite adding Ruud Gullit to their ranks PSIS do seem to be short of top class local know how and it remains to be seen how quickly a foreign spine of Peter Planic, Ibrahim Conteh, Akhlidin Israilov and Bruno Silva can adapt to the rigours of Liga 1, especially as only Conteh has any prior experience.

Stability seems to be paying off for PSM. They finished third last season under Robert Alberts and have managed to persuade Marc Klok, Wiljan Plun and Steven Paulle to stick around for another campaign. Ferdinand Sinaga has returned after a short stint with Kelantan while Zulkifli Syukur, Zulham Zamrun and Rizky Pellu have also been persuaded to extend their stays in Makassar. PSM were scintillating at times last season; if they can get more from their travels expect them to mount another title challenge.

Another team with strong military ties, PSMS as a football club are a welcome addition to Liga 1; it has been a few years!.With ex Persib coach Djadjang Nurdjaman at the helm and the evergreen Legimin Raharjo as skipper PSMS could be a surprise package this season and read between the lines on the opening two sentences. Apparently their major shareholder has stepped down from his PSSI duties to focus on the Governor election in North Sumatra so no matter how much we wish it wasn't so, we are never far from political intrigue in local football.

Are Sriwijaya back? The two time champions have brought back Rahmad Darmawan as coach, signed Hamka Hamzah, Makan Konate, Patrich Wanggai and Alfin Tuasalamony and retained Alberto Goncalves, now an Indonesian national. They are a team packed with experience yet boast a first choice goalkeeper, Teja Paku Alam who is 23. Palembang is in the spotlight this year as it is co-hosting the Asian Games. Surely the perfect opportunity for its local football team to regain the spotlight?

Thursday, February 15, 2018

 

Is Indonesian Football Capable Of Meaningful Change?

Football clubs have been planning for the 2018 Liga 1 season since December, paying salaries, signing players, booking hotels, playing for flights, yet we are still none the wiser of the format of the new season. When will it start? Who are the sponsors? Will Piala Indonesia return? Mystery surrounds all  these questions and more.

The season was due to start 24th February. That was moved to 3rd March. The latest we have is 10th March. We're in the second half of the second month of the year and we are still none the wiser. It's not as if 2018 isn't going to be a busy year. Jakarta, West Java and Palembang are hosting the Asian Games; we have the AFF Suzuki Cup at the end of the year. Nine months to squeeze in 34 rounds of league games, if we have 18 teams in Liga 1, a national cup competition, international friendlies and of course full on internationals? It's a mammoth ask for any organiser.

Even if we have a fixture list released are we sure where teams will play their home games? Persija's Bung Karno Stadium and Sriwijaya's Jakabaring Stadium may not be available for some games as they are needed for the Asian Games. Interestingly Persib can use their GBLA Stadium while other venues in West Java, like Soreang, Cibinong, Bekasi and Cikarang are prepared for the international events.

And what of newly promoted PSMS? Their stadium is undergoing renovations, where will they call home? Some stories suggest Banda Aceh, others Pekanbaru; neither a short bus ride away from their core support in Medan. Persija have been linked with Singaperbangsa Stadium in Karawang. Bhayangkara with PTIK Stadium, more a field with a stand, in Jakarta while PS TNI have renamed themselves PS Tira and moved to Bantul for the season and another newly promoted side, PSIS, have been linked with playing their home games in Sleman or Magelang while Jatidiri gets renovated.

This kind of nonsense of course happens every year, it's just no one seems to be prepared for it.

Instead of being excited about a thrilling new season where we welcome back three of football's great names, PSMS, Persebaya and PSIS, we are left asking questions about the PSSI and the administration of football in the country. Is it true neither Bhayangkara nor Persebaya (Liga 1 and Liga 2 champions respectively) have received their prize money for last season? Is that not embarrassing?

Instead of celebrating the fact so many promising young players are being appreciated overseas and have been offered contracts in Malaysia and Thailand we have a PSSI leadership damning them with feint praise and casting doubts on their patriotic fervour. A PSSI by the way that is now, according to some reports, based in a private house in South Jakarta and whose leader, quick to condemn others for lacking their nationalistic credentials, will be taking a sabbatical from his duties to stand for election in North Sumatra.

Against this backdrop of institutional malaise the clubs are pretty much being left to fend for themselves, hence the number of pre season tournaments which offer the prospect of some cash flow and the chance of winning trophies. Bali United and Persija will meet in the President Cup Final this weekend in Jakarta in front of over 60,000 and such is their determination to succeed they effectively sacrificed their opening group stage games in the AFC Cup to protect key players ahead of the game.

And once the President Cup ends the focus will switch to the island of Kalimantan which will play host to the East Kalimantan Governor's Cup and the Battle of Borneo. It was to accommodate the former the Liga 1 was put back a week. yep, pre season tournaments taking precedence over the domestic season and international competitions.

The slap dash approach to regulations that confused so  many last season shows no sign of disappearing. How many clubs can an individual be involved with? In many countries the answer is clear, in Indonesia less so. And now, just to show how innovative the country can be with football we are seeing the rise of coaches as franchises with one gentleman, involved with at least two clubs, possibly a third, as well as overseeing the selection process of another. In between all these jobs he is also involved with the national Under 19 team.

Outsiders like to gush over the potential of Indonesian football. We see it every time someone comes over to visit for two or three days on carefully stage managed tours where they are greeted by warm smiles and friendly faces. The latest was Michael Owen who visited a well known soccer school in Jakarta and told the young lads he hoped one of them could follow in his footsteps in a career that has seen him play for Liverpool, Real Madrid and Newcastle United. So excited is he by what he saw he is looking to give his name to a new football academy. He would do well to learn the lessons of Arsenal and Liverpool who similarly have been seduced by the passion they witnessed only to fail when it came to matching that passion with cold hard cash.

The potential is there, of course it is and slowly clubs outside Indonesia are recognising it. We are currently blessed with some top coaches, Simon McMenemy (Bhayangkara), Robert Alberts (PSM), Widodo Cahyono Putro (Bali United), some forward thinking clubs (Borneo, Bali United, Madura United) and of course some exciting young players like Andritany Ardihasa (Persija) and Febri Haryardi (Persib). Indonesia boasts the best terrace culture in South East Asia and whatever else happens in 2018 once the season kicks off Persebaya are likely to have the largest attendances not just in ASEAN but throughout Asia. Unlike Malaysia and Thailand, every season four or five teams are serious title challengers. There is a Liga 2 which has teams attracting more fans than the biggest and best across the region.

But what do all these pluses mean when those charged with running the game can't do something as basic as prepare for a season? What's the point of buying the body of an Aston Martin but installing the engine of a Vespa?

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