Saturday, November 29, 2014


Good Evan! The Boy Done Good

For many, the performance of Evan Dimas for Indonesia against Laos in their final ASEAN Football Federation Championship tie in Hanoi will have come as a surprise. It is not often teenagers are fast tracked to the full national side without having played in their own domestic league but then Evan can be considered a special case.

Since Indonesia lifted the AFF Under 19 title in Sidoarjo in 2013, Evan and his team mates have spent the last 15 months of so preparing for the AFC Under 19s in Myanmar and although they lost all three games there are widely considered to have restored some pride for Indonesian football after years in the doldrums.

Like young players everywhere, Evan brought a freshness and an eagerness to the national team that came as a breath of fresh air after the more static, turgid performances that marred the first two games (against Vietnam and the Philippines).

You would expect that of course from a young player keen to prove himself. But Evan played with a purpose. It may sound daft but he didn't just play like he knew what he was doing; he played like he knew what he wanted to do next.

Let's go back to 2010 when coach Alfred Riedl included another youngster, Okta Maniani, in his squad at the same competition. His pace thrilled many but oh boy you never knew what he would do and, crucially, nor did he.

He came on as a sub in one game and started going the wrong way before a team mate considerately pointed out which direction he should have been going! And then, attempting to clear his lines near the goal line, he attempted an audacious overhead kick which thrilled the folks who thing Mexican Waves are a part of the football experience but give coaches heart attacks.

Evan on the other hand will be remembered for what he did right. His goal early in the first half for example, unleashing a powerful drive from outside the box. Technically, he did everything right, head over the ball, keeping it low. Too often in Indonesia, players put those chances into the car park as they go for the big welly but not Evan.

But for me the most thrilling part of his performance came when he did a Michael Thomas (Anfield '89 for the Arsenal fans) and went charging through the middle, defenders backing off, before finishing tamely. Rarely do you see that kind of attacking midfield play in Indonesia, many of his peers would have attempted to put their boot through the ball at the first contact in the outside hope they could practise their latest goal celebration.

Not Evan, he drove forward purposefully and again, you get the impression he knew what he wanted to do. Even the finish, which ended up too close to the keeper, was deliberate and an attempt at placing rather than opting for power.

But while Evan showed what he could do others reverted to default mode. One classic moment occured in first half injury time when Evan's Persebaya team mate Manahati Lestusen went charging forward into the Laos half and on into the penalty box. He had a couple of options in the box but on he went before collapsing in a heap on the pitch. Laos countered and only poor finishing prevented them from scoring.

But while Evan looked like he knew what he was doing, Manahati just ran. And ran. And hoped for the best. And fell over. He couldn't just slow the play down and take it somewhere to run down the clock, he couldn't look up and find a team mate. He just did a Forrest Gump and Indonesia nearly paid the ultimate price.

It is worth pointing out Manahati has had some kind of footballing education having enjoyed stints in Uruguay and Belguim.

There was a similar incident of carelessness and rush of blood in the second half involving Mitra Kukar's Zulham Zamrun. On as a substitute, he had done well to find space down the left hand side but his cross was just far too powerful to allow the marauding Cristian Gonzales to connect with and quite rightly the naturalised striker bawled out his team mate.

Zamrun has had a good tournament, scoring against Vietnam and again against Laos as well as providing an assist against Laos, from the same position as his uber cross earlier., with a defender turning the ball into the back of the net. Gonzales, it is worth pointing out, led the applause.

Both of Zamrun's goals were well taken, placed with a degree of economy and in the second goal, from a difficult angle. The wayward cross that earned the ire of Gonzales may have been out of character but it is unfortunately common enough domestically.

So, Indonesia won 5-1. Had they turned up against the Philippines they would have finished second and be looking to a semi final place but they didn't. Coach Alfred Riedl may have had his last hurrah with the team, his future remains uncertain, but players like Evan and Ramdani Lestalahu, who scored a brace, suggests the future of the national team is bright. If the next coach is brave enough to give youth its head and that is by no means a given.

Friday, November 28, 2014


Rahmad's Return

With bitter foes Persib lifting their first ever Indonesia Super League title, you can imagine Persija would be pulling out all the stops to ensure they do not remain in the blue shadow for too long.

With Benny Dollo stepping down after failing to take the Kemayoran Tigers through to the play offs, the pressure was on for Persija to bring in a top coach to break their title drought. Names like Dejan Antonic (Pelita Bandung Raya) and Bojan Hodak (Johor Darul Tazim) were reportedly linked with the vacancy but instead Persija have gone for Rahmad Darmawan.

This will be RD's third spell with Persija and while he is perhaps the most successful local coach in the country having won the title with Persipura and Sriwijaya the last few seasons have seen his sides fall short; last season early favourites Persebaya (aka Persikubar!) disappointed at the play offs and failed to reach the semi finals despite boasting a side filled with experience, flair and goals.

Whether he can make it third time lucky with Persija remains to be seen and it is telling he reportedly asked the club about their financial situation. The club are notorious for struggling to pay salaries and despite boasting one of the largest fan bases in the country, their 66,000 attendance against Persib was the largest in the ISL last season, they have struggled to find alternative cash flow, an area ironically Persib excel.

For RD to succeed there will need to be a change in the culture at the club where things are traditionally left to the last minute, including squad building.

Emmanuel Kenmogne had a successful 2013 with the club but as they dithered over offering new contracts for the following season in stepped Persebaya and he headed east. This left Benny Dollo scrambling to find a replacement and when they finally secured Zelmir Terkes it didn't work out and he was later released from his contract.

They do have a handful of quality young players, Andritany Ardhiyasa in goal and Ramdani Lestaluhu spring to mind, but there does seem to be a preference for the tried and trusted in other positions, Ismed Sofyan and Ponaryo Astaman (both aged 35) spring to mind and reports linking them with ex striker Bambang Pamungkas suggest that policy isn't likely to be put to bed yet.

The Bambang move is an interesting window into the soul of Persija. Despite having been away from the club for a couple of seasons, in 2013 he took a year off and this last season has seen him play for Pelita Bandung Raya, such is the esteem with which the player is held among the fans, his presence alone would deemed sufficient to allow the team a certain amount of leeway.

Certainly in the eyes of the support Bambang can do no wrong and over the years he has proved his attachment to Persija but would bringing him back be a smart footballing move or would it be a case of heart ruling head? And is that always a bad thing in such an emotionally charged sport as football?

Ultimately, Persija want to win the ISL. Seeing Persib win the league will have grated with the support and perhaps the new season will see the expectations of the support increased a notch or two.

It remains to be seen whether a trip down memory lane will be enough to bring the success the fans crave.

Thursday, November 27, 2014


It's An Indonesian Thing

Not for the first time in recent weeks, an Indonesian league game ended in a brawl that saw the game halted on 62 minutes.

Laga were leading Persintan 1-0 in a Liga Nusantara game at the Brantas Stadium in Batu, East Java when the players from the losing side apparently started kicking off. The ref stopped the game and took the players off the pitch with the match commissioner saying he would report Persintan to the disicplinary commission.

The security officials in Batu refused to allow any more games to be played under their jurisdiction so the remaining 28 minutes were played out at Kanjuruhan Stadium in nearby Malang.

Persintan have since apologised for their players' behaviour but the club still face sanction from the PSSI for their actions.

Liga Nusantara replaces the old second and third divisions and sees clubs challenging for a place in Divisi Utama next season.

15 teams remain and spread among 4 groups with the top two in each group going on to the next stage.So far, Perserang, Laga and Persatu have qualified for the final round which will take place in Yogyakarta next month.


More AFF Cup Excitement

Well, that is the end of match day two of the ASEAN Football Federation Championship and there were certainly a few more thrills and spills.

In Hanoi, Indonesia again disappointed most people with another lacklustre performance which I covered yesterday while Vietnam defeated Laos 3-0 though the result did not take on a convincing air until a couple of late goals.

While my ranting was all about Indonesia, credit must go to the Azkals and their performance and as someone who is unfamiliar with the game there I will follow the crowd and highlight Phil Younghusband. The one time Chelsea trainee has been collecting goals and assists like they are going out of fashion (they already have in Indonesia) and he turned in another impressive showing against the wingless Garuda.

Admittedly most teams would have defeated Indonesia and Laos coach David Booth must be hoping for a similarly shocking display when they meet on Friday. Laos came to Hanoi as the underdogs and have lived down to that name with a couple of displays that at least show some promise but lacking any experience. Witness the flurry of late goals they concede.

1 - Philippines 2 2 0 0 8-1 6
2 - Vietnam 2 1 1 0 5-2 4
3 - Indonesia 2 0 1 1 2-6 1
4 - Laos 2 0 0 2 1-7 0

Moving down to Singapore and what a couple of thrillers were served up there. Malaysia took the lead against favourites Thailand twice but were left cruelly undone after the Thais scored a last minute winner for the second time in two games. Oh, and can I join the list of folks drooling over Chanathip Songkrasin with the proviso he stays away from either Buriram United or Muang Thong United?

In the other game, Singapore overcame Myanmar 4-2. Ahead of the comeptition many were asking where the goals would come for the Lions but Shaiful Esah and Harris Harun answered that little conundrum last night. The next question is where the fans will come from as another disappointing attendance made their way to the  new National Stadium.

Myanmar fought back well in the second half and at 3-2 looked to be asking the holders a few questions but Esah put the game to bed with a second free kick. The only dark clouds on the result, not those in the sky, came with the injury to Shahdan Sulaiman and Singapore will be hoping he won't be out for too long.

1 - Thailand 2 2 0 0 5-3 6
2 - Singapore 2 1 0 1 5-4 3
3 - Malaysia 2 0 1 1 2-3 1
4 - Myanmar 2 0 1 1 2-4 1

Last night's results in Singapore mean the Thais are through to the semi finals with six points from their two groups stage games while Singapore edge Malaysia into second place with three points. If Malaysia can  beat the old enemy at the weekend though then it is they who will go through to the semi finals!

Perhaps Singapore fans can get out and support their team in the decider...I guess much depends on whether Manchester United or Liverpool are being shown live on TV at the same time.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014


Misunderstanding The Beautiful Game

I love Singapore. I love sitting in a coffee shop early in the morning eating roti pratha and reading the nonsense stories in the local tabloid. I enjoy being able to jump on a bus and get to almost SLeague ground from the area I stay in. Changi Airport is a great place to wait for a connection.

You are never far from a local guy wearing a Liverpool or Manchester United shirt and coffee shops are packed when there is a live game on TV. The price of watching the EPL or the World Cup is a national debate that fills the newspapers and on line message boards. Futsal is thriving.

Singaporeans love football.

But why is it the people who run the game don't get football?

Take the recent hoo haa which greeted a decision to limit the number of players aged 30 and over. With that decision, surely Singapore would have been the only nation in the world to implement ageist policies in football? The reaction was so powerful they were forced, after the face saving 'serious consideration' to rescind the policy but it was just one of many in recent years that suggests a massive disconnect between them charged with running the game and those that love the game.

What about Tampinese Rovers from the eastern suburb of Tampines no less. What a spiffing idea that was to move them to distant Clementi in the west while a new stadium goes up in their home town.

The classic example in recent weeks was the decision to have pole dancers at the league award nights!

Then there was the time when a league official told players from one club that is taking a year off that they 'must understand...'. Yes sir, of course sir, you are our better sir, bow, scrape, grovel.

And we have a decision to merge Hougang United and Woodlands Wellington. Two clubs with distinct identities, it has been decreed from on high they are to merge. Probably to form some super club with a hub in the north east where it can leverage on the local population's interest in football and become a hub for the region offering bespoke business school bullshit la di da di da.

There is also the small matter of how Singapore welcomes visiting fans. Specifically fans from across the causeway.

There was an incident earlier in the season when fans of a Malaysian side travelling to catch their team play LionsXII were refused admission to the country! Not the stadium but the country. Others were not allowed in the stadium either!

And reports circulated following the Malaysia game against Myanmar in the AFF Championship that travelling fans were again being refused to enter Singapore.

Away fans are an important part of football, check out my piece on Prediksi 90, they add to the atmosphere and god knows the new national stadium was crying out for some against Thailand. But to stop them even entering the country, even when they possessed tickets? There are plenty of crowd control experts out there who could advise on how to channel fans to and from a stadium with the minimum of fuss.

What would happen if for example the biggest team in Singapore, Liverpool, were to play Manchester United in the new nationa stadium? Would the authorities ban United fans from travelling south?!

I still maintain the SLeague is as exciting as any other league but the lack of marketing and the growing disconnect between those in charge and the potential fan is only widening and it is difficult to say it getting better any time soon.


An Autopsy For Indonesia

Following the oh so lucky 2-2 draw against Vietnam, Indonesian coach Alfred Riedl bemoaned the lack of preparation and said fans would notice the difference in the next game against the Philippines.

Umm, what difference?

As an Arsenal fan, I have grown used to displays where the players don't seem to know where they are going or what they are doing. Leaderless, powerless and clueless.

Why, as I watched Indonesia try to salvage their AFF Championship against the Azkals was I continuously reminded of the Arsenal?

The defending at times was borderline comical. In fact I did laugh. Firman's challenge that led to the penalty. The indirect free kick that led to a goal. And others besides. Too many others.

Riedl opted for Samsul Arif as a starter up to alongside Sergio van Dijk which meant Boas Solossa dropping to the bench. Firman also started in the midfield but they were the only changes. Surely Indonesia couldn't be so poor as they were in the opening game?

It is easy to hark on about individual performances or who should have gone but didn't but at the end of the day the buck must stop in a place where they are unsed to bucks stopping.

Consider recent events in Indonesian football. One of the worst teams in the Divisi Utama play offs gets promoted to the Indonesia Super League. An international goal keeper is throttled on the pitch by a club official. A team refused to play a game because they felt intimidated. Two other teams played a nonsense game they both tried to lose. Players still left waiting for their salaries.

Against this backdrop of uncertainty and confusion, just how can a coach and a team be expected to prepare properly? And this is before we take into account the ISL which only finished a few weeks before the AFF Championship began leaving Riedl with just a few players to work with.

Within that environment it is very difficult to expect any Indonesian side to excel on the international stage. And don't forget they are very poor travellers; merah putih played many friendlies at home, none away in the run up to Hanoi so little was done to prepare the side for intimidating atmospheres overseas, far from their safe Indonesian home of teh botol and bakso.

Riedl accepts responsibility for the defeat and as coach then so he should.  But anyone who works with the Indonesian national team takes the position with their eyes wide open. They are aware of all the stuff that goes on behind the scenes and unfortunately until that nonsense comes to an end then not even Jose Mourinho could lead the merah putih to the promised land.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014


Degrading Promotion

In most countries, promotion goes to the teams which have performed best over the season. You know, winning the most games, not losing too often, turning up for games. That sort of thing.

Indonesia? Nope, not always. That method is too unreliable, all them referees, dodgy pitches and players who don't score when they should.

Two new teams have been confirmed for the 2015 Indonesia Super League.

Pusamania Borneo meet Persiwa in the final later this week but it is just a formality to decide who goes in the record books as champions...and in this place there are no record books.

Once upon a time there was a team called Perseba Super Bangkalan on the island of Madura just off the coast of Surabaya. They are no more. Their 'licence' was bought by Pusamania, set up by disgruntled fans of Persisam (now known as Pusam) upset by the politics of the club management.

No one is sure what the fans of Perseba thought when they were told there team was moving to another city on another island with another name.

Still, at least the prospect of Pusamania taking on Pusam in a Samarinda would have been interesting!

And Persiwa? They were the worst team in their play off group and didn't t urn up for an away game.

Now there are stories PSS, who were involved in that game with five own goals, are looking to 'merge' with Pusam! Under the terms being discussed, Pusam would move to Sleman and be renamed PSS, thus allowing the Java Eagles into the ISL via the back door!

I wouldn't call that a merger!

PSS were one of the better teams in the Divisi Utama last season but they are being investigated for their part in the game with PSIS. To have them enter the ISL through such a method might give the wrong impression to other clubs in the league. And where would it leave PSIS?


Persiwa Are Back

That nonsense of a game between PSS and PSIS when the professional footballers decided they didn't want to win the game and scored a bunch of own goals continues to have repercussions.

As the two top teams in their group, PSS and PSIS would have gone through to the semi finals and though they were scared to play Pusamania at least they would have stood a chance of promotion and their fans would have been a credit to the ISL.

But because they decided to play silly buggers, Persiwa took their place in the semi finals and now we have the Highwaymen back in the top flight. The same Persiwa who refused to travel to an away game at PSS during the Divisi Utama play off.

Pusamania defeated PSGC on penalties while Persiwa overcame Martapura to confirm their spot in the final game to decide the champions.

But yes, Persiwa have been rewarded with a spot in next season's ISL.

Monday, November 24, 2014


AFF Cup 2014 Pieces

Nothing posted for a few days on here but I have been busy elsewhere, honest guv!

Jakarta Globe preview
Jakarta Casual Podcast With Sergio van Dijk and Raphael Maitimo
ESPN FC Philippines v Laos match report
ESPN FC Vietnam v Indonesia match report
Jakarta Globe Indonesia v Vietnam review
Images from Hanoi and Singapore
Prediksi 90 ASEAN Awaydays 
Jakarta Casual Some thoughts on Indonesia's performances

Tuesday, November 18, 2014


AFF Cup - Recent Results

08/08 Tajikistan v Malaysia 4-1
03/09 Philippines v Chinese Taipei 5-1
03/09 Myanmar v Palestine 4-1
06/09 Singapore v Papua New Guinea 2-1
06/09 Vietnam v Hong Kong 3-1
06/09 Philippines v Myanmar 2-3
09/09 Indonesia v Yemen 0-0
09/09 Singapore v Hong Kong 0-0
14/09 Indonesia v Malaysia 2-0
20/09 Malaysia v Cambodia 4-1
25/09 Indonesia v Cambodia 1-0

10/10 Hong Kong v Singapore 2-1
10/10 China v Thailand 3-0
12/10 Philippines v Papua New Guinea 5-0
12/10 Laos v Cambodia 3-2
14/10 Macau v Singapore 2-2
14/10 Laos v Brunei 4-2
14/10 Timor Leste v Myanmar 0-0
16/10 Brunei v Myanmar 1-3
18/10 Cambodia v Myanmar 0-1
18/10 Timor Leste v Laos 0-2
20/10 Myanmar v Laos 2-1
31/10 Philippines v Nepal 3-0

07/11 Bahrain v Singapore 2-0
09/11 Vietnam v Palestine 1-3
09/11 Thailand v Philippines 2-0
11/11 Indonesia v Timor Leste 4-0
12/11 Malaysia v Syria 0-3
13/11 Singapore v Laos 2-0
14/11 Philippines v Cambodia 3-0
15/11 Indonesia v Syria 0-2
16/11 Vietnam v Malaysia 3-1
17/11 Singapore v Cambodia 4-2

Monday, November 17, 2014


Divisi Utama Semi Finals Face Low Crowds

Indonesian football moves in mysterious ways. After the nonsense between PSS and PSIS which ended 3-2 to one of the teams with all the goals being own goals, and Persis refusing to travel to Samarinda to play Pusamania we are finally coming to the end of the Divis Utama.

The dates and venue were announced for the semi finals. Persiwa, who finished bottom of their group and didn't bother travelling to one of their away games, have been rewarded with a berth in the semis and they join PSGC, who finished 3rd in their group, and Martapura, who won their group.

Pusamania are still to play Persis in the outstanding game, that will be played this Thursday with tickets priced at Rp 1,000 and R 2,000, and the winner of that game will determine who joins Martapura, PSGC and Persiwa in the semi finals.

The semis will take place at Delta Stadium in Sidoarjo on 24 November with the final being played at the same ground on 27 November.

If Persis don't make it through then expect some pretty low attendances. For those who don't know their Indonesian geography, Persiwa are from Papua, Martapura and Pusamania come from Kalimantan and PSGC come from West Java. Persis of course hail from Central Java and they face the shortest journey of all and would be probably assured of a large following.


Riedl Swings Axe After Syria Loss

Indonesia's final friendly before heading to the ASEAN Football Federation Championship ended in a 2-0 loss at home to Syria which was played out in front of a crowd given as 500!

In response, coach Alfred Riedl has dropped some big names from the squad that flies to Vietnam. Out go Ahmad Bustomi and Bayu Gatra, joining other names which had previously been told they would not be needed; Irfan Bachdim, Hamkah Hamza, Dedi Hartono, Teguh Amirudin and Andritany Ardhiyasa.

The following players are packing their toothbrushes as I type this:

Goalkeepers : Kurnia Meiga, I Made Wirawan, Dian Agus Prasetyo

Defenders : Zulkifly Syukur, Supardi Nasir, Rizky Pora, M Roby, Achmad Jufriyanto, Victor Igbonefo, Fachrudin

Midfielders : Manahati Lestusen, Hariono, Raphael Maitimo, M Ridwan, Ramdani Lestaluhu, Firman Utina, Evan Dimas, Zulham Zamrun. Immanuel Wanggai

Strikers : Boaz Solossa, Sergio Van Dijk, Samsul Arif, Cristian Gonzales

One name that sticks out is Evan Dimas (Persebaya) who made his name with the Under 19s over the last 12 months but has yet to make his Indonesia Super League.  A strange one when you think Patrich Wanggai (T Team) and Titus Bonai (Persipura) have not been called up despite performing well at the 2011 SEA Games.

Indonesia went with a 4 3 2 1 against Syria with Suphanburi striker Sergio Van Dijk playing the lone striker with Boas, Ridwan and Zulham looking to get up in support. However it is difficult to see Riedl sticking with that formation if he decides not to use the naturalised striker and indeed when he was withdrawn on Saturday, Gonzales and Samsul were up top in a more traditional two.

Sergio though brings a physical presence and an aerial threat to the team while Gonzales, though much shorter, has the ability to disrupt defenders and Samsul is more comfortable with the ball at his feet. Interesting though that the coach saw Boas more as a support player rather than the main man the Persipura striker has been used to over the years.

But is the squad good enough to get past Philippines, Laos and hosts Vietnam? As always, the home team will be under immense pressure to perform in front of their fans. They won the trophy back in 2010 but have slipped up badly in the last couple of competitions.

Laos are a funny one. Little known beyond, and probably within, their own borders, they have punched above their weight in recent age group competitions and it will be interesting to see how their coach, for the second time, David Booth gets them to gel in the region's premier tournament. (Check out my interview with Booth back in 2010 on Jakarta Casual TV).

And then we have the Philippines. Considered a football nonentity up until 2010, young English coach Simon McMenemy came in and changed perceptions with a disciplined squad drawing heavily on naturalised players with experience, at one level or another, of playing in Europe.

It is a hoary old cliche but every competition must have a group of death to keep headline writers and 'in the know' social media addicts pumped up and feeling relevant. This time round the toughie would seem to be in Singapore where the four time winners and hosts come up against Thailand (three times winners) and Malaysia (2010 champions) plus one other.

Yep, a tough group but perhaps more interesting than actually tough. Singapore are entering a new era. They go into the competition with Raddy Avramovic who guided them to success in 2010 while several of the old guard have moved on.

The Thais? You never know what you are going to get with them. They should be favourites but you get the impression up there the clubs are not really fussed how the national team fares. When they step it up a gear then they should win everything on offer but the last few years, coinciding with the increased popularity of the Thai Premier League and club owners flexing their muscles, have seen them take the eye off the ball. Much depends on which Thailand is sent to Singapore.

Malaysia? In crisis if you believe the hype. The goals seem to have dried up for key performers like Norshahrul and Safee Sali but alot of work is still going on behind the scenes to improve Malaysian football and this year is seeing the fruits of that labour with players like Gary Steven Robbat getting their chance. But will they take it?

Many questions, there will be no answers until the 29 November when the group stage ends and I for one, even though I have little interest in international football ordinarily, can't bloody well wait!

Sunday, November 16, 2014


Jakarta Globe Column

My latest column looks at the teams that just missed out in the Indonesia Super League.

Check it out here

Wednesday, November 12, 2014


Singapore Football's Upper Echelons Are Poles Apart From Reality

Nope, I am not talking about  Szczesny, I still have to google the spelling of that, and Fabianski.

Just days after professional footballers at a professional football club in Singapore were lectured to and told they 'must understand' their club is taking a year off, the Singapore football awards went off with a hitch or two last weekend.

Now, anyone who has been to a football match on the island will know that most of the players come from a specific ethnic group. Not a road I really want to go down, better for local writers to address that issue perhaps, but it is a fact. Most professional footballers are ethnic Malay Muslims.

So whose bright idea was it to hire scantily dressed pole dancers for 'entertainment' on the night when Singapore football gathered to honour its own? And did someone really call for players to touch the dancers?

Is it any wonder football in Singapore is unfortunately considered a laughing stock by so many when this kind of dinosaur thinking goes on at the top level.

It is a great shame that another exciting season gets to be overlooked by crass insensitivity and boorish behaviour. These people should be spending time promoting the game and selling it to the masses, not thinking about cheap thrills.

Read this for a look at how the SLeague awards night unfolded and the reaction from some of those who were there

Tuesday, November 11, 2014


Football & North Sulawesi

Back in 2006, Persimin Minhasa won the eastern conference of the Liga Indonesia while Persma Manado reached the quarter finals of the Indonesian Cup and the play offs of the second tier Divisi Utama.

Today, neither they nor Persibom Kotamabagu are anywhere to be found with the Indonesian football pyramid! They haven’t even got updated wiki entries, that is how far off the radar they have fallen. So what I hear you cry. Well, they all come from the province of North Sulawesi.

And apart from half a season in the short lived Indonesia Premier League by Manado United, that is pretty much the sum total of top level football from that province in the last eight years. And, for people who know the region and have played there, that is a crying shame for their fans are among the most passionate in a country known for its passionate supporters.

 But Manado is far from anywhere; flights to Jakarta take just shy of four hours, about the same as Jakarta to Bangkok and, um, it seems no one seems to miss them too much. Indeed, when I asked on Twitter what had happened to the clubs from that province, in one short hour, I received absolutely no response.

Not even an RT. Persmin Minahasa are based in the North Sulawesi town of Tondano, some 35 kilometres from the provincial capital of Manado and take their name from the Minahasa kingdom of days gone by. As for Persmin, they won all 10 of their home games, scoring 19 goals and conceding three. On the road, of course, things weren’t so simple.

Their travels took them to Deltras, PSS, Bontang, Persiba Balikpapan, Persela, Persik, PSM, Persibom, Persipura and Persiwa; with the exception of their local derby with Persibom, each away game required airport time while Bontang would have required a flight, or maybe even two, followed by a road trip of several hours! So how did they fair on their travels? They won at Persibom and Persiter, a relatively short hop from Manado and also thumped Persigi 4-2.

The Bali side were pretty crappy it must be said, winning just five games all season.credible draws came at Persiba and Bontang while they lost the remaining eight away games. Persmin did emerge with some credit from their trip to Jayapura, losing 3-2 against Persipura after being 3-0 down at half time. However, they won’t have looked back on their game away to Persik, losing 5-1 with Cristian Gonzales netting the whole bloody lot!

 They were rewarded for finishing top with a ticket into the play offs, or what they call here the Big 8, where the top from both the western and eastern conferences got all mixed up. In one group (based in Solo) there were Persik, PSIS, Arema and Persiba while Persmin were drawn alongside Persekabpas, Persija and PSM in Gresik.

In their opening game, Persmin came from behind to draw 2-2 with PSM, Eugene Gray and Jorge Toldeo scoring in the last seven minutes to keep their hopes alive. The second game of the day saw Persija take the lead against Persekabpas only to lose 3-1 in a game you just knew the East Java side were going to win!

 Next up, Persmin played Persekabpas and this time they raced into an early lead, goals from Gray and Daniel Campos putting them 2-0 up inside 20 minutes. But again, the gods seemed to be favouring Persekabpas as they scored twice in injury time to save their blushes and keep them in prime position with four points from their two games.

Persmin had just two points as did PSM after they held Persija to a 0-0. On the final day, Persmin drew 0-0 with Persija to ensure they finished second in the group and they were drawn against Persik in the semi final. Persekabpas had thrashed PSM 5-1 and their reward was a semi against PSIS with both games to be held in Solo. Persmin were beaten 3-1 by Persik who went on to defeat PSIS in the final and lift the trophy.

The Copa Indonesia was less kind to Persmin. Both they and their opponents Mitra Kukar were disqualified for playing too many foreigners in their first round tie! Persma Manado though had a much better time of it in the cup. Ok, so their first leg against nearby Persigo was awarded to their neighbours but they more than made up for it in the second leg, winning 5-1 with Ruben Cecco hitting a hat trick.

The second round was even kinder. Persma were drawn against Persmin in what would have been a tasty local derby but was not to be! So, with just 90 minutes football under their belt, Persma found themselves in the last 16 and this time they actually had to play some football.

They were drawn against Persiku in Central Java and won the first leg in Kudus 2-1 to give themselves a cushion for the return game on home turf towards the end of August. They won that comfortably 4-2 to set up a quarter final tie against PSMS who back then had the makings of a powerful side. Too powerful for Persma, the men from Medan won the first leg in Manado 3-0 and the second 4-1.

It was also a pretty good league season for Persma as they finished second in Group 4 of the second tier Divisi Utama, one point behind the leaders, Perseman. On 24 May, Persma travelled to Persipare in Para Pare, South Sulawesi and were trailing 1-0 with just over 20 minutes to go when Cecco equalised.

That seemed to have been the trigger for some pretty serious crowd disorder and the game was abandoned. Subsequently Persipare were relegated to Division Two for the 2007 season and half a dozen players were suspended for 12 months for attacking the referee. The team manager got a 10 year ban and the game was awarded 3-0 to Persma. For some reason, the final 21 minutes were played on July 5 and Persma apparently ran out 6-1 winners! You want explanations?!

Persma’s reward for finishing second was to go through to the play offs where they were drawn alongside Persebaya, PSSB and Pelita Jaya Purwakarta to be held in Surabaya. The play offs started well as they beat PSSB 4-1 but a draw with Pelita Jaya meant they needed to defeat Persebaya in front of their passionate support to go through to the final but of course that never happened.

The game was shifted to Delta Stadium in nearby Sidoarjo and Sujana even gave Persma the lead before the half hour mark but two goals in the second half from Anang Ma’aruf and Mursyid Effendi ensured it was Persebaya who were to play Persis in the final.

As happens so often in Indonesia, it all seemed so academic as the powers that be decided in their infinite wisdom all eight teams would be promoted as they expanded the top flight to 40 teams! So, 2007 saw all three teams playing in the Liga Indonesia, the last season in that format before the Indonesia Super League was to be introduced the following year.

Neither Persibom nor Persma made the cut and while Persmin did finish 8th they did not take part in the ISL’s debut season. As far as the rest of the country was concerned, it was almost as of football in North Sulawesi ceased to exist.

Oh yes, headlines were made in 2008 during a game between Persibom and PSIR when the referee was attacked. That made a few headlines for a few days.

And then, in 2011, the province, or more specifically the city of Manado, was back with a new team called Manado United 9. Nine? Yep, apparently it was a nod to the ‘rebel’ Indonesia Premier League’s intention to have clubs relate to their community’s history and traditions. Apparently there were nine tribes that united to form Minhasa back in the day while the club crest of a naval wheel referred back to the region’s strong maritime heritage.

Manado United joined the other 18 clubs in that inaugral season and while they could draw on great support at their home games, they struggled to make an impact and by the time the season folded at the halfway point in May 2011, they were 16th with 15 points from their 18 games. The fans got to celebrate just three wins; 3-0 at home to Cendrawasih Papua, 2-1 over Persibo and a narrow 1-0 over Bogor Raya.

While they boasted a good home record, those three wins were joined by three draws, on their travels they bordered on abject with a nadir coming in a 7-3 thumping at Solo. They picked up just three points on their travels. In 2012 when the rebel IPL became the official league, Manado United were nowhere to be seen.

A few clubs merged with more established clubs but others just seemed to fall by the wayside as people decided maybe football wasn’t for them. There was some talk of Manado United 9 merging with a team on the island of Java, no suitor was mentioned, inferring perhaps the talk was just one sided. Today there is nothing. Even with the national Under 19 travelling round the country as part of their preparations ahead of the AFC Championships in Myanmar, no one has seen fit to include North Sulawesi on the itinary. It is almost as if the province has ceased to be in football terms.

Sunday, November 09, 2014


Son Of Sunda

Persib are a big club in every way possible. In an era of football austerity as clubs adapt to life without local government funding, Persib have entered the market place and found themselves companies willing to pay hard cash to be associated with the team and of course reach out to the large numbers of supporters.

Despite the ambitions of the football club they remain very close to their community and their fan base encompasses a district others can only dream about. As their profile rises it is possible we may find people on other countries 'adopting' Persib as their go to Indonesian team but it is hard to see the club turning its back on its own community in the way that so many in England have done.

Given this closeness to the local people it is appropriate the man to guide Persib to their first ever Indonesia Super League title should be a local lad. Born and bred in West Java, the town of Majalengka to be precise, Djadjang Nurdjaman was perhaps feted to lead Persib to success.

He was a part of the last great Persib side, the one that won the Perserikatan (an amateur league) in 1986, 1989/90 and 1993/94, the last season before football went professional. In all he spent 10 years playing in the blue of Persib and if his connection ended then he would still be fondly remembered.

From 2006 he has been employed in a number of coaching roles with Persib apart from a few years spent with Pelita Jaya (also in West Java of course). Finally in 2012 he was bought in to steady the ship after a couple of years when the club kind of lost their way under the guidance of foreign coaches of varying ability.

Two years with one club is a long stretch in this part of the world but the powers that be must have seen something they liked with Djadjang at the helm and that faith was rewarded last Friday night as he saw his charges defeat Persipura on penalties in Palembang to lift that first ever ISL title.

The city of Bandung has been partying hard ever since and not even reports of coaches ferrying fans back from South Sumatra being attacked in South Jakarta have done much to dampen the mood. Persib fans have waited two decades for this moment and they intend to savour it as long as possible. That the man who made it possible is one of their own just makes success all the more sweeter.

Saturday, November 08, 2014


Persib Are Champions

Indonesia Super League

Persib v Persipura 2-2 (Ferdinand Sinaga, M Ridwan; Ian Luis Kabes, Boas Solossa) 30,165

Persib won 5-3 on penalties

Singapore Cup

Balestier Khalsa v Home United 3-1 (Goran Ljubojevic, Kim Minho, Park Kang Jin; Sirina Camera)

Balestier Khalsa won the Singapore Cup for the first time in their history. No attendance given because, umm, it's a secret so there.

Friday, November 07, 2014


Persib's Unlikely Hero

This weeks Jakarta Globe column looks at how the goals of a defender have driven the team to this evening's Indonesia Super League Final.

Read it here.

Thursday, November 06, 2014


SLeague's Latest Revamp

The SLeague at times seems less like a football association and more like a bunch of graduates from a business school using trendy business type jargon to sound knowledgeable in their current job. They like hubs, they like leverage and they like to connect.

And they like revamps.

Next season the SLeague will have 10 teams, down from the current 12. Tanjong Pagar United are withdrawing for a season because they have no money, much like Gombak United did a couple of seasons back. 

There is a recording on line that purports to have a football official explaining to the players and staff at Tanjong Pagar what is going on which is nice but it becomes very difficult if you are a professional to have some guy saying 'you must understand...' It sounds very much more like a lecture or some dear leader explaining to the plebs how things are and must be. Understand?

Woodlands Wellington and Hougang United are to merge. To be known as what is not yet clear. 

Apparently 10 is better suited to Singapore's demographic. Eh? I dunno. Read the first paragraph again...

Three of those teams will be foreign teams from Malaysia, Brunei and Japan so 30% of the league can win it but not qualify for any Asian club competition. Actually that is 40% if you add Young Lions, a Singaporean development team.

One argument for having less teams is the remaining clubs will be stronger...the best players are snapped up by LionsXII or Johor Darul Tazim. The rest are shared around Tampines, Home and newly crowned SLeague champions Warriors. The remaining clubs will be left how they have always been hoover up the scraps no one else wants or has no space for.

As is often the case with revamps they come across as ideas scribbled down on the back of beer stained napkins in a coffee shop somewhere in the heartland by people looking to tick boxes and use the jargon they imbibe so effortlessly.

Reducing the number of clubs in the SLeague will not encourage more fans to watch games. Are there going to be less games? What do you think? Nope, probably what will happen will teams will play each other four times in the SLeague, probably meet in the League Cup and the FA Cup and who knows, arrange friendlies against each other as well. And this will increase the quality how?

We have just seen the conclusion of another thrilling SLeague season with the title race going down to the wire yet again. What are the powers that be doing to promote that excitement? What are they doing to bring more fans in beyond offering free tubes of potato crisps or cinema tickets?

Another wheez e being decreed from on high is a limit on the number of players over the age of 30 clubs can play. Agism anyone? And clubs will be encouraged to find promising young foreign players to fill their ranks. Because, umm, this will make the game more appealling?!

Title races that go down to the wire are exciting but what is the leagie doing to increase awareness about that? What are the marketing people doing to get people into the stadiums? What is being done to change the mindset that has many Singaporeans think Liverpool are still a big club? Has anybody been to India to see how they are promoting the Indian Super League?

As has been the case, another revamp is just another excuse to be seen doing much but actually doing very little. And until that mindset changes then no one has much hope of changing other people's mindsets.

And that is a shame because Singapore football does have promise. It has some good smart people operating around the edges. Perhaps it is time to bring them on board? Shorn of KPIs who knows, they may even have some new ideas?


DRB Hicom Move To Tanjong Malim

The mighty DRB Hicom have announced they will be playing their home games at Proton Stadium in Tanjong Malim next season.

DRB Hicom used to be known as Pos Malaysia when they were formed in 2008 and they won the FAM League, the nation's third tier, in 2009. They changed their name to the eye catching DRB Hicom at the start of this season.

They now compete in the Premier League and will no doubt be hoping the good folk of Tanjong Malim rush out to support their 'new' 'local' team.

No news as to whether they will change their name to try and engage with the local community. They are owned by a private company, they probably think that is enough.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014


Results 04/11

Indonesia Super League Semi Final

Persipura v Pelita Bandung Raya 2-0 (Boas Solossa 2) 2,635
Persib v Arema 3-1 (Vladimir Vujovic, Atep, Konate Makan; Alberto Goncalves) 10,325

Champions Persipura bid for their fourth ISL title when they face Persib in the final on Friday which will now be played in Palembang.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014


AFF Cup Ticket Prices (Singapore)


Tanjong Pagar Pull Out From SLeague

Tanjong Pagar United have announced they will be withdrawing from the SLeague in 2015. No reason was given in the release posted on their Facebook page.

The club were founder members of the SLeague back in 1996 when they were known as Tiong Bahru before changing their name two years later. From 1997 until 2001 they never finished outside the top three, winning the Singapore Cup in 1998.

However they withdrew from the league in 2004 after back to back 10th place finishes.

They returned in 2011 but despite a healthy 6th placed finish in 2013 when they also finished runners up in the Singapore Cup have struggled to make much of an impact and finished the last campaign in 10th place.

Taking a gap year seems to be no big deal in Singapore, a league without promotion or relegation. Gombak United withdrew in 2013 due to financial problems.

Monday, November 03, 2014


Not Persib's Year

Cynical? Moi? Nah, never. But let's just absorb some recent snippets of news shall we?

1 - It is announced any Indonesia Super League final will be held at Bung Karno Stadium in Jakarta. Everyone knows if Persib defeat Arema in Palembang they will not be allowed to play in Jakarta, at least not with their supporters. The local security officials have confirmed no permission has yet been released for the game to be played in Jakarta.

2 - Arema fans are shown taking their large flag to Jakarta for the final. Not to Palembang for the semi final first but straight to Jakarta. Yes, they need to win the semi first but the fans don't seem to concerned with that minor point...they are going straight to Jakarta!

3 - PSSI announce the Persib fans are not allowed to travel to away games following incidents at an earlier game. This announcement obviously comes too late to stop many thousands who have already gone to the expense of organising travel for the journey to South Sumatra.

Previously the league had said Persib fans could attend the game but only if they didn't wear colours. Apparently colours would identify them as Persib fans whereas if they were dressed normally no one would know what team they supported. Probably because they would watch the game in total silence.


Indra Pays The Price

Indra Sjafri, coach of the Under 19 team that won the AFF Championship and qualified for the AFC Championship has been sacked. The reason? He didn't achieve the target of reaching the World Cup!

Football can be a heartless business and after all the work Indra has put in with the youngsters over the last year or so it does seem rather unfortunate. Especially when you consider it wasn't him that had the team travelling rond the country playing daft friendlies against teams that don't really exist.

No one seriously expected Indonesia to get out of their group in Myanmar; a group that consisted of Australia, UAE and Uzbekistan. To be brutal, Indonesia just ain't at that level and won't be for years to come. Playing West Java National Games Trialists is poor preparation.

No doubt there will be plenty of clubs interested in Indra's future. We know for example, Persija and Persipura are looking for new coaches for 2015. For me, Indra's best option would be to go overseas and learn alongside a seasoned pro in a different league to add to his education.

Indonesia doesn't need any more coaches that get recycled among the same clubs every few months. It needs people who can help develop players because sure as hell no other bugger in this place can.

Indra should do ok whatever happens. But Indonesian football remains hostage to short term thinking and politicking...that will not change any time soon.

Sunday, November 02, 2014


Indonesia Super League Semi Finals

04/11 Pelita Bandung Raya v Persipura
04/11 Arema v Persib

Both semi finals to be played at Jakabaring Stadium, Palembang

The final has been slated for 7 November at Bung Karno Stadium but you don't need to be Mystic Annie to know that if Persib overcome Arema then the chances are high the final will be moved elsewhere.

Before then of course the good people of Palembang must prepare themselves for a blue invasion as fans of Arema and Persib descend on their city and of course relations between those two are not harmonious at the best of times.

The other game is almost seen as an afterthought, a starter before the biggie!


The Match Fixing Curse

The Asian Football Confederation says it has a zero policy towards match fixing. It is apparently examining allegations from the recent Asian Games that were held in 2014 and responded to a Vietnamese club that were expelled from their domestic tournament by allowing them to carry on in the AFC Cup.

Has the AFC taken a position on the recent non-game between PSS and PSIS; you know the one, ended with five own goals? Have they seen the video? Or are they content to allow the PSSI to take their own action? (By the way, the two clubs are calling on people to pray for them as they seek to get their disqualification overturned. In their eyes they have done no wrong).

What about a concern the clubs allegedly had? The concern where the champions had already been decided elsewhere and any team that faced them in the semi final would only lose to the 'anointed' one anyway so why carry on?

No matter what happens there will always be allegations of match fixing in South East Asian football. That comes with the turf. Be they big international syndicates flashing cash or local shady figures intimidating match officials many involved in the game have their own stories but until people go public with their experiences there is little chance of anything concrete being done.

It's a bit like corruption. 'Where's the proof' cry the accused. And they have a point. Bungs don't usually come with a receipt. They do buy expensive goods though. The fruits of corruption are plain to the naked eye and surely they too can sometimes to be visible in football be it the final score or the number of 'strange' bookings. Or five own goals in a short period of time. Or 14 minutes of injury time or until the home team levelled the scores.

The thing with match fixing is the team on the receiving end will be quick to cry foul and fair enough. But they remain quiet when they are the beneficiaries. When that happens, everyone goes all Wenger-esque and sees nothing. And the problem continues.

I was watching one game earlier this season and at half time I received a tweet from someone telling me what the final score would be based on tracking on line betting websites! Coincidence? Maybe.

I wasn't really a big fan of Sham 69 but I loved Questions and Answers; the lyrics struck a chord. Even now I use it as a lullaby to help MyLittleGooner get to sleep! I have become even more cynical than when I was a young punk since living in these parts and part of me is even looking at the AFC Champions League, which Western Sydney Wanderers won, with a raised eyebrow. Why? Think AFC Asian Cup being  held in Australia next year.

Back in the 1970s I grew up convinced Liverpool, as the biggest club in the country, got more than their fair share of dodgy decisions. Recently, when Muang Thong United were docked nine points (nine!!) for their fans' role in crowd disturbances my eyebrows went into overtime.

Maybe I have become too Machiavellian but whenever something odd happens my gut reaction is who benefits?

There will be inquiries perhaps but I have little faith in them either. A body to be investigated sets up another body to investigate for the boys. Or in the case of corruption at FIFA just squash the findings.

Still, there is no proof and perhaps everything is just nice and dandy and that FIFA Fair Play banner is taken seriously by all involved and there is chocolate on the moon sold by elves and pixies.

The questions remain but the answers remain elusive.

One thing does remain clear though. Many Asian football fans prefer European football to their own game and one of the reasons, beyond perceived status, is the domestic is dirty and tainted. In other words them what is involved in match fixing, if anyone is, are stunting the game in their own country for their own petty gains.

You only have to look at Australia's A League and India's new Indian Super League to see there is a market for a well run domestic league that caters to local fans. People want to support their local team in the same way they support their local pub or their local corner shop. The crudity of match fixing deprives them of that and they look elsewhere to the detriment of their 'own'.


Pahang & Warriors Triumph

Malaysia Cup Final

Pahang v Johor Darul Tazim 2-2 (Dickson Nwakaeme 2; Luciano Figuero, Jorg Diaz) 90,000

Pahang won the Malaysia Cup on penalties.


Tampines Rovers v DPMM 2-1 (Jozef Kaplan, Miljan Mrdakovic; Rodrigo Tosi)
Warriors v Albirex Niigata 1-0 (Hafiz Rahim)
Balestier Khalsa v Home United 0-1 (Suzukicastanheira Brunojunuchi)

1 - Warriors 27 16 5 6 53-35 53
2 - DPMM 27 15 5 7 63-30 50
3 - Tampines 27 14 7 6 44-32 49

Warriors secured the SLeague on the final day of an emotional campaign. And it was oh so fitting their former striker Aleksander Duric's Tampines Rovers should have played their part in the success, defeating long time leaders DPMM 2-1.

For the Warriors it was their 9th title and their first since 2009. For Duric? He probably woke up on the Saturday morning, his first day as an ex pro, and went for a 15 kilometre run!

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