Wednesday, December 31, 2014


Persebaya Tighten The Pursestrings

Traditionally Persebaya are one of Indonesia's biggest clubs. Over the years they have won the Perserikatan, the predecessor to the professional era, six times and have won the Liga Indonesia twice. But not since 2004. And since the duelism era of the Indonesia Premier League ended they have struggled to make an impact as their fans have stayed away.

During the 2011-2013 years there were two Persebayas. One was was called Persebaya 1927, they played in the IPL and they were the ones the fans supported.

Since the leagues 'merged' Persebaya 1927 to all intents and purposes no longer exists. The Persebaya who play in the ISL are seen as imposters, a fake team parachuted in from East Kalimantan masquerading as the real Green Force deal.

The club invested heavily in players for the 2014 season, bring in Rahmad Darmawan, an experienced coach who had previously led Persipura and Sriwijaya to the ISL. RD, as he is known, went on a spending spree, bringing in the likes of Emmanuel Kenmogne, Greg Nwokolo and M Ilham. He even had two international keepers at his beck and call; Jendri Pitoy and Ferry Rotinsulu.

To be fair they justified the pre season tipsters who felt they could go all the way. In their 10 home games they eight of their 10 games during the regular round, netting 27 goals in the process. And they weren't too bad on their travels either, losing just twice.

Despite the goals and victories, the fans stayed away.

For some reason, come the play offs that came one month after the regular season had ended, Persebaya couldn't find any consistency. They drew five and lost one meaning they missed out on the semi finals and a stab at the title.

It seems the club's beancounters have learned their lesson. The highly paid big names have moved on and in have come a number of younger, perhaps hungrier, players including the promising Evan Dimas who made his international debut before he had played any club football.

The purse strings have been drawn shut and Persebaya look to be opting for youth in the new season with coach Ibnu Grahan relying heavily on Brazilian import Otavio Dutra to provide experience.

Last season's coach, Darmawan, has returned to Persija for a third spell and he has taken with him some of his favourites.

With the club signalling their ambitions for the new season it appears the fans will continue to stay away as they continue their protest at the owners. There has been talk Persebaya will play their home games at Bangkalan Stadium on the nearby island of Madura. That would certainly be a more comfortable fit that the cavernous Bung Tomo (pictured) which echoed to the sound of perhaps 2-3,000 fans last season.

You wonder, don't you, what the owners' motives really are. With the fans against them what do they hope to achieve?


Nothing Stange About Rabb

Controversy in Singapore football. Well, after a fashion. Questions are being asked about fitness coach Jurgen Rabb, specially hired by the FAS to get the Singapore Under 23s ready for the SEA Games next year.

One source has said  "Juergen knows the basic drills but that is because fitness training is part of the syllabus at coaching courses.

"All coaches must know the basic fitness stuff. But when you look at his CV, all these years, there is no mention of his track record as a fitness trainer. With the national team without any major tournaments next year, the SEA Games should take priority.

"The team are expected to at least make the final so shouldn't the best man be picked for the job?"

Let's put aside this nonsense in the last paragraph, in football expect nothing, hope for everything, but let's look at Rabb. And what do I know about him? Nothing...

But...back in 1984 I went to see England play East Germany in a friendly at Wembley. Coaching the East Germans that day was Bernd Stange, coaching Singapore today. And included in the East German line up was a 25 year old midfielder named Jurgen Rabb!

And judging  by his player profile in the programme Stange and Rabb go way back.

Of course there is nothing to suggest there is anything untoward in the appointment of Rabb. Coaches around the world routinely appoint people they are comfortable with and it does seem Stange and Rabb go back over 30 years.

As for the comment from the insider about Rabb having no experience as a fitness trainer...I guess the anonymous source do some research on East Germany's sporting achievments as well as the course Rabb studied at university.

Like I say, I have no opinion either way...


Jakarta Casual T Shirts

I have just come across a handful of Jakarta Casual t shirts!

These would make a great new year's gift for yourself or a pal so why not treat yourself.

Only available in Indonesia, they coast Rp 150,000 including postage and are available in M and L sizes.

If you are interested please contact jakartacasual at yahoo dot com or BBM 7ADAEB72

Monday, December 29, 2014


Padang Mayor's Cup

Group A

PS Padang, Selangor, Persib

Group B

Semen Padang, Sarawak, Persiba Balikpapan

04/01 PS Padang v Selangor, Sarawak v Persiba
05/01 Persib v PS Padang, Semen Padang v Sarawak
06/01 Selangor v Persib, Persiba v Semen Padang
08/10 Final

Games to be played at H Agus Salim Stadium, Padang

A good looking tournament this with a couple of decent Malaysian sides plus the return of Andik Vermansyah.

And after this of course, Padang is co-hosting the SCTV Cup! Exciting times in Padang...meanwhile in Jakarta we must wait for Trofeo Persija

Saturday, December 27, 2014


Indonesia's Bright 2015

My latest column for ESPN takes a positive look at Indonesian football in 2015! Check it out here.


Jakarta Casual Awards 2014

It's that time of the year again when we look back at the best of South East Asian football in 2014. Well, when I say the best, it's only from what I have seen so there! Maybe next year we can look at getting people to make nominations from Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand but for now this is what it is so sit back, enjoy the complementary finger buffet and enjoy the show...Minus the pole dancers!

In the absence of any flash photography or 24/7 media coverage or indeed any inane speeches let us get a bloody move on.


For a long while it looked like Persib fans would regain the title they shared last season with their enemy in Jakarta but they were well and truly usurped at the last by some supporters from another country.

Anyone can turn up and cheer on their heroes when they are winning. Look at Manchester City and their 'new' fans for evidence of that. A replica shirt, a scarf and a bit of face painting and away you go. The world recognises you for what you are.

This year has seen support cranked up a notch. Witness several hundred Arema fans at the AFC Cup tie with Selangor for example or the one man band who lives somewhere out in West Africa yet goes to as many Arema games as possible. And the several thousands who travelled from all across Indonesia to see Persib win the Indonesia Super League in Palembang.

But for me the best stories came during the recent AFF Cup. What about the hardy few who drove from Malaysia to Bangkok for the first leg of the final against Thailand? Worthy of a story in itself but mostly ignored by local English language who can't wait to print tired agency waffle from the Premier League but have no idea about the stories in their own backyard.

The winners though are the Ultras Malaya. Watch this video...if you are not stirred by the noise and the sheer vibrancy then perhaps you don't have a heart but a stone.

2014 Ultras Malaya
2013 Persib/Persija
2012 Pasoepati
2011 Lions All The Way
2010 Pasoepati
2009 Woodlands Wellington


For too long football websites have been designed by spotty nerds who love flashing lights and rolling text but have no real idea about the experience for the visitor. That is slowly changing and Indonesia is leading the way with some excellent, thoughtful websites. It is also good to see some fans doing their best to launch English language accounts to spread the word about Indonesia's own version of the beautiful game.

 The history and culture of football has long fascinated me so for that reason and that reason alone I have decided the unofficial website of 2015 goes to a labour of love from fan(s) of PSIM and Bawah Skor ... an excellent resource of photographs and stories mostly revolving around their beloved team. Looking forward to the book lads!

2014 Bawah Skor
2013 Axross The Line
2012 Twitter
2011 Thai Football Message Board
2010 Pusam FC
2009 Ongisnade


There are a 1,001 stories a year coming out of Indonesia that deserve a wider, albeit disbelieving audience and 2014 has been no different.  The farcical game of five own goals with two scored by a lad named Komedi for example would win it every bloody year. And what about Persis refusing to play Pusamania and heading home? Persiwa refusing to travel, playing a player despite him being suspended and getting promotion for their efforts?

What about a good news story though? Like, for example, Thailand and especially Kiatisuk Senamaung? An absolute gent guiding his team to success in the AFF Cup by playing football the way it should be played. And he has been involved in every Thai triumph in the cup having won it three times as a player and now once as a coach.

In ordinary circumstances he would be a shoo in for the coach of the year but not 2014. Instead, the Thai Zico has to make do with being a gooey, cuddly, fluffy story of the year!

2014 Kiatisuk Senamaung
2013 Indonesia U19
2012 FIFA
2011 Liga Primer Indonesia
2010 Buriram PEA
2009 Noh Alam Shah signing for Arema


Where to begin on this one? Buriram United win the Thai Premier League again...but where would they be without their owner? A great year for Persib, ending their 20 year title drought and in such style. Johor Darul Tazim doing the right things on and off the pitch?

Part of me, the footballing romantic, is leaning towards Pelita Bandung Raya who had a sensational season, reaching the play offs and proving a tough nit to crack but in the end I am going to plump for a Thai team with the potential to make a real impression in the Premier League next season, either on or off it. Nakorn Ratchasima!

2014 Nakorn Ratchasima
2013 Tampines Rovers
2012 Sriwijaya
2011 Buriram PEA
2010 Etoile
2009 Selangor


Apologies have already been offered to Zico but there can only be one winner of this. Honourable mentions also to Alex Weaver (Warriors), Bojan Hodak (Johor Darul Tazim), Dejan Antonic (Pelita Bandung Raya) but there can be only one winner in 2014.

After reaching the Divisi Utama play offs, Persiwa picked up one point from their first three games. They refused to travel to their fourth game so it was awarded to the home team. They then got beat 5-0 and only managed to win their last game because the other team failed to travel! From four play off ties, they drew one and lost three!

Yet they reached the Divisi Utama final and despite losing 3-1 to Pusamania still earned promotion to the Indonesia Super League! Who needs to bother with training sessions and coaching badges eh?!

2014 Mahmudiana (Persiwa)
2013Jacksen F Tiago (Persipura)
2012 Raddy Avramovic (Singapore)
2011 Ong Kim Swee (Malaysia Under 23)
2010 Rajagobal (Malaysia)
2009 Richard Bok (SAFFC)


Kawin Thammasatchan (Muang Thong United) - Alfin Tuasalamony (Persebaya), Safuwan Baharudin (LionsX11), Arif Amiruddin (PDRM), Vladimir Vujovic (Persib) - Ramdhani Lestalahu (Persija), Hariss Harun (Johor Darul Takzim), Chanathip Songkrasin (BEC Tero), Makan Konate (Persib), M Ridwan (Persib) - Jorge Diaz (Johor Darul Tazim), Ferdinand Sinaga (Persib)

Substitutes - Andritany Ardhiyasa (Persija), Mahali Jasuli (Johor Darul Tazim), Kim Jeffrey Kurniawan (Pelita Bandung Raya), Sahril Suhami (Young Lions), Evan Dimas (Indonesia U19), Charyl Chappuis (Suphanbur), Ilija Spasojevic (Pusam)


When a football pitch becomes one man's canvas. Slight of foot, a joy to behold, Chanathip may not be around much longer so when you get the chance, watch him!

2014 Chanathip Songkrasin (BEC Tero)
2013 Hariss Harun (LionsX11)
2012 Izwan Mahbud (LionsX11)
2011 Khairul Fahmie (Kelantan)
2010 Frederic Mendy (Etoile)
2009 Kawin Thammasatchan (Muang Thong United)


He is one of football's archtypal journeymen having played in more than 10 countries. Yet he came to Persib as a defender and it was his goals that helped the West Java side clinch their first ever Indonesia Super League title. Ironically he was sent off in the final! When it came to signing a new contract the saga took over the back pages as rumours flowed he would be leaving.

2014 Vladimir Vujovic 9Persib)
2013 Baihakki Khaizan (LionsX11)
2012 Keith Kayamba (Sriwijaya)
2011 Aleksander Duric (Tampines Rovers)
2010 Pierre Njanka (Arema)
2009 Greg Nwokolo (Persija)

Tuesday, December 23, 2014


Bali United Pusam

The 2014 Indonesia Super League wasn’t the best of seasons for Pusam (Putra Samarinda). The campaign started badly when the supporters, disappointed with the management of the football club, decided to form their own club.

They eventually purchased the rights to Perseba Super Bangkalan, renamed them Pusamania Borneo and entered the second tier Divisi Utama. Pusam (pictured left in orange playing PSM in 2014) were left to play their games at the cavernous but almost inaccessible Palaran Stadium, built to host the National Sports Week back in 2008, but despite the best efforts of striker Ilija Spasojevic they could only finish mid table.

Their new city rivals on the other hand were thriving. Pusamania Borneo won promotion to the ISL and the fans were turning up in large numbers after a hesitant begining. The East Kalimantan provincial capital was faced with the prospect of a local derby on the banks of the Mahakam River.

However, it wasn’t long before rumours started surfacing about Pusam’s future. The rift with their support base had made life uncomfortable for them in Samarinda and they started scouting around for a new home. News reports linked them with Sleman and Martapura before it was finally confirmed earlier this week they would in fact be moving to Bali.

The idea of football clubs moving willy nilly round the country is nothing new to Indonesia. Sriwijaya Palembang, for example, began life as Persijatim East Jakarta before heading to a new city on a new island.

For all the history of clubs moving, the choice of Bali caught many surprise. Despite the island’s riches it has lacked a top flight football club for several years although the short lived Indonesia Premier League did possess a Bali Dewata for its short existance and next season PS Badung will play in Divisi Utama for the first time.

The club’s owners are naturally bullish about the move which sees the club renamed Bali United Pusam and have signalled their intent in another suprise move by announcing the highly rated Indra Sjafri will be their coach.

The former national Under 19 coach had been strongly linked with the position at Persela Lamongan but is plainly excited by the switch to Bali United saying he shares the club’s vision for a football club. ‘They not only want to concentrate on the ISL but they also want to develop their own players through their system,’ said the coach who had guided Indonesia to the AFC Under 19 Championships in Myanmar. ‘That is for me an attractive challenge.’

Another challenge will be to build a team for the new season. David Pagbe will provide plenty of experience to a side that will be young and relatively untested and already the club are saying their target for 2015 is survival.

With a coach committed to a long term contract and sponsors already in place, Bali United Pusam are laying the groundwork for success but it remains to be seen whether or not the Bali football public take to the club being parachuted into their backyard, especially with PS Badung making their Divisi Utama debut.

Monday, December 22, 2014


Singapore Legends Weigh In On SLeague Future

A couple of great pieces recently coming out of Singapore from a couple of legends there. First up, Aleksander Duric says LionsXII should withdraw from the Malaysia Super League and the players signed by other SLeague clubs.

Great idea. I have been a fan of having a Singapore side playing in Malaysia and in recent years they haven't done too badly out of it, winning the league once and then lifting the AFF Cup with many of the team playing north of the Causeway.

But amid all the soul searching and whining that followed the failure to progress from their group at the AFF Cup was the belief that with the best players playing 'overseas' the domestic league was suffering. That is not an argument I buy into. When there was no LionsXII where were the crowds then when the supposed best players were playing domestically? The league was still exciting but still people didn't want to go.

Surely it is up to the players and the coaches who remain to step up to the plate? And, dare I say it the administrators to provide the environment for that to happen.

Unfortunately it is a fact of football like that good players go where their talents are in demand. There aren't that many Croatian internationals playing domestically are there?

If LionsXII were to be disbanded there is  no guarantee the best players would stick around and wait for an SLeague team to sign them. This pre season has seen Fazrul Nawaz join Sabah, Hariss Harun is sticking around with Johor Darul Tazim as is Shahril Ishak and Baihakki Khaizan. Others could join them.

Nope, disband LionsXII and send Young Lions north of the Causeway. Give them the experience of playing in hostile atmospheres and long coach journeys. They need that experience. Then let the likes of Safuwan Baharudin and Shafiq Ghani be snapped up by local teams if they are interested.

And Indra's idea that the SLeague should fold and a new privatised league be set up with major investors from the local business community? Great idea but turkey's rarely vote for Christmas.


Cosmopolitan Zico And Lessons For Indonesia

When I first moved to Thailand in the early 1990s the first time I ever sat up and took any notice of the local football was during the Asian Games when they were held in Hiroshima, Japan. An event by the way Indonesia withdrew from after they were drawn in a group alongside China and South Korea.

The Thais were drawn with Uzbekistan, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia and Hong Kong and they failed to win a game but they impressed many at home who dubbed them the Dream Team. I remember watching the odd game in an old fashioned style dining/drinking venue not far from Lumpinee Park and while I could not get my head around the Thai commentator I managed to pick up a few names: Tawan Siripan. Kiatisuk 'Zico' Senamuang. Dusit Chalermsan.

Dusit, a rampaging full back, scored in Thailand's first game, a 2-1 loss against Hong Kong. Unperturbed, he scored twice in their next game, a 4-2 defeat against the Saudis.

The full back decided to let the rest of the team have a go scoring goals in the next game as the Thais hit four against Uzbekistan (Somrit Ornsomchit 2, Suchin Phanpraphast, Thawatchai Damrong-Ongtrakul) but the defence shipped five as they fell to a 5-4 defeat.

Zico finally got on the score sheet in their final game against Malaysia, scoring half way through the first half only for the Malaysians to equalise just minutes later. It was the Thais only point at the tournament. Interestingly in the Malaysian squad at that tournament was a player by the name of Dollah Salleh...he scored twice as his country finished third in the group.

At the time Kiatisuk was playing for that well known glamour club Krung Thai Bank, (I still have my bank book from them; they have some of my satang resting in their vaults!), today better known as Bangkok Glass before joining Raj Pracha and Royal Thai Police.

In 1998 Zico made his first move overseas when he joined Perlis in Malaysia and followed that with stints at Huddersfield Town, SAFFC and Hoang Anh Gia Lai in Vietnam. Indeed, it was Vietnam where the well spoken Thai got his first coaching experience, taking over there back in 2006.

Those spells overseas have obviously left a deep impression on him, saying after Thailand had won the AFF Cup on Saturday that he would recommend any footballer try his luck playing abroad and far from their comfort zone.

There is a delicious irony in Kiatisuk and Dollah going head to head 20 years after the Hiroshima Asian Games. While they were able to reminisce over old times and shared experiences they were also able to look back on action packed, successful careers as players and coaches.

Indonesia of course missed out on the Asian Games and they missed out on the AFF Cup. In fact, they have missed out on much over the last 20 years. And while Zico is testimony to the benefits of players getting out and trying something different, Indonesians playing abroad with any degree of success are as rare as hen's teeth and those who do venture out from their motherland soon find themselves scurrying back to the questionable delights of teh botol, bakso and backbreaking bus rides.

No Indonesian coach would suggest players try their luck overseas. And most players have little interest in it. In their small world they are the raja, the king and that is enough for them. Not for Zico though and as he celebrates Thailand's triumph in the AFF Cup with a young squad perhaps it is time for Indonesia to consider what it really wants from football.

At the moment it appears to be very little and at the moment that apathy is seeing the largest country in ASEAN about to fall behind Laos in the FIFA rankings.

Sunday, December 21, 2014


Thailand Win AFF Cup

No story yet but here are the links to some other stuff

Ultra Malaya video
Instagram images

Saturday, December 20, 2014


Indonesia Cup Returns

After an absence of a few years the Indonesia Cup makes a welcome return to the football calender in 2015.

1st Round - 18 teams from Nusantara Cup, 58 teams from Divisi Utama
2nd Round - 38 winners from 1st Round, 18 teams from ISL
3rd Round - 28 winners from 2nd Round
4th Round - 14 winners from 3rd Round, Persib, Persipura
Quarter Finals
Semi Finals

The Cup is scheduled to run from early March until November

2005 - Arema
2006 - Arema
2008 - Sriwijaya
2009 - Sriwijaya
2010 - Sriwijaya
2012 - Persibo

Tuesday, December 16, 2014


SCTV Cup 2015 Draw

Monday, December 15, 2014


Malaysia FA Cup Draw 2015

First Round

Harimau Muda C v Kuala Lumpur
DRB-Hicom v PKNS

Second Round

Pahang v Johor Darul Ta’zim
Sungai Ara v Malaysian Indians
Negri Sembilan v Universiti Teknologi Mara
Penang v Perlis
Penang Water Supply Corp v Sime Darby
Police v Sabah
Sarawak v Kelantan
Ministry of Finance v Harimau Muda C/Kuala Lumpur
Felda United v Selangor
Malacca v Terengganu
Shahzan Muda v Perak
Kuala Terengganu T-Team v ATM
Kedah Malays v LionsXII
Public Service Commission v Kuantan
Hulu Terengganu Hanelang v Kedah
Johor v DRB/PKNS.

There are some great names in the draw! I guess the highlight is a repeat of the Malaysia Cup Final when Pahang go toe to toe with JDT but me, I would love to see Penang Water Supply Corp in action!


Australia In AFF Cup?

Australian Under 16s celebrate winning the AFF Championship in 2008
So, what do you reckon? Australia to enter the ASEAN Football Federation Cup in 2016? Apparently this is being mooted and a decision could be taken at a meeting this Friday.

Anything that raises the standards of local football has to be a good thing and surely pitting wits against a regional powerhouse on a regular basis surely falls into that category?

After all, look who the ASEAN teams played in the run up to the AFF Cup this year. No offence but are you going to improve by playing the likes of Papua New Guinea or Macau?

Let's face one like Japan, Australia or South Korea is going to give up a precious FIFA date by playing some nonentity like Indonesia or Thailand...there is no benefit for them rankings wise. But put them in a competitive environment like the AFF Cup and hey presto...their reluctance may ebb as they way up the pros of blooding fringe players in meaningful games.

But this would not be about them. Any expansion of the AFF Cup has to ultimately benefit ASEAN football; there is no point having 10 teams battle each other only for Australia to meet Japan in the final. Perhaps opening the door to Australia and allowing one other team to qualify could be a good start?

From a local point of view there is an obvious benefit for local players coming up against the Socceroos on a regular basis. A different sporting culture, sledging, never say die, ASEAN has much to learn from other countries, lessons that don't always come across when watching games on TV where analysis amounts to blaming the defence or the ref.

Robbie Gaspar is a man with feet in both camps. Aussie born, Gaspar spent most of his career playing in Indonesia for Persiba, Persita and Persema among others and he is convinced letting Australia compete would be a win-win.

' I think it will be a good thing with Australia joining the AFF Suzuki Cup. It will be a good test for Australia and by no means a walk in the park for Australia. Hopefully help to lift the standard of the tournament to an even higher level and give the ASEAN teams an opportunity to play against Australia.

'Play against a different style of football. Maybe some players from the other countries could get picked up by A-League clubs.'

Yes, we know players from this region have talent and yes we know football has potential but that talent and that potential is not being realised on a regular basis. Amateur thinking forms the football dialogue  and that thinking comes from amateur administrators with their own agendas. Will they even want to have their naivety shown up on a regular basis by professional footballers and professional bodies?

Unfortunately the powers that be like to have the EPL clubs come and visit. Then they can show off their 'connections' get the selfies and pander to the masses. But those visits are meaningless and don't benefit the local game one iota.

Australia competing in the AFF Cup, having open training sessions for local schools, making themselves accessible to local media, holding clinics for local coaches (not the highly choreographed events by the likes of Arsenal etc)...that would be positive for football in the region.

Sunday, December 14, 2014


Wear Your Colours

I've written on more than one occasion about the almost total lack of marketing savvy that afflicts most clubs in the region with the possible exception of clubs in Thailand.

So it is good to see when one club does try and break the mould.

Johor Darul Tazim have come on leaps and bounds since the state royalty invested a few bob in the club. Not only have expensive imports been brought in, with varying degrees of success. Money has been ploughed into the club's training and medical facilities.

On my last visit last season, in a Super League game against Terengganu, there were so many changes from my visit before, when they were a second tier without fans nor royal patronage, including a small club store selling merchandiise.

It may not have been particular busy when I was there but judging by the fans milling around the stadium, plenty had handed over their cash to show their colours.

Now comes news JDT have inked an agreement with a Malaysian sports retailer to sell their merchandise through their outlets across the country.

It may seem simple but go into an average sports store and you fall over Liverpool and Brazil shirts. Now we have JDT putting their stuff out there and perhaps they could be the first of many? Certainly when you think of the likes of Kelantan and Selangor they too have the potential to go down the same road.

Indonesia? Nah, don't be silly!

Friday, December 12, 2014


Persija Go Back To The Future

Persija have responded to Persib's title success by bringing back some familiar faces. But will it be enough to spark an assault for honours? My latest Jakarta Globe column considers this question.


Thai Lessons

Did you see the way Thailand controlled the game against Philippines? Do you remember how the Azkals ripped Indonesia apart?

Then last night Malaysia went to Hanoi and crushed Vietnam 4-2. Another side Indonesia failed to get to grips with.

Indonesia finished third...neither of the top two made it to the final!

What can Indonesia learn from the Thais when it comes to football? My latest column for Prediksi 90 looks at that question. Available both in English and Indonesian.


Stags Getting Ready For New Season

Last season was a rarity for Tampines Rovers. After five consecutive top two finishes they finished just above the bottom half of the season in 3rd and the club will be looking for better in the 2015 SLeague.

Coach Rafiq Ali has been replaced by V Sundramoorthy, a legend in Singapore delighting in the name of The Dazzler (maybe he was involved with a washing detergent?) who spent last season in Malaysia with Negeri Sembilan.

One other change at the club sees Aleksander Duric hanging up his boots and taking over as fitness coach as well as assisting Sundram with the first team. I can imagine that news was greeted with a few good natured groans as Duric is well known for his own personal fitness levels and standards.

On the pitch the Stags have apparently brought in Guadeloupe international Eddy Viator. Me, I never knew there was a Guadeloupe international side but there is and good steady Eddy, formerly of SPA and Felda United in Malaysia (yes there really is a team called SPPA in Malaysia) is part of it. And aged 32 he is the right age for the squad known for the experience it packs.

Another signing has been Hassan Sunny coming off the back of a successful season with Warriors where he won the SLeague. A bit of a surprise really considering the fine form he showed last season, perhaps he is being brought in to add some youthful experience...after all he is only 30. Quite young for Tampines.

If Hassan is borderline young then Fabrice Noel, a Haitian striker who played in Malaysia last season with ATM is literally just out of short pants. At 29 he may well be one of the youngest players in the squad if the move is confirmed!

As well as the changes on the on the pitch and in the dugout, there will be a new stadium for Tampines. No, their new one isn't ready yet, don't be silly. Instead their new stadium will be Jurong West, even further from their home 'burb of Tampines in the east.


Persib's ACL Adventure

Before Persib can even contemplate taking on the best in Asia in the AFC Champions League they must overcome an obstacle that afflicts just about every player, coach and official in Indonesia. They face an away game against Hanoi T & T in Vietnam in February and that means dusting off the passports and packing the winter woolies.

I don't mean to generalise but Indonesian football doesn't travel well. If they could host the World Cup and provide their own referees, arrange the catering and lay out pot holed roads, Indonesia would be world champions. Unfortunately international sport doesn't work that way and that handicaps this country.

Getting out of tanah air means moving away from the creature comforts of bakso, kretek, teh botol and chili sauce. I have friends who have been on tour groups to places like Europe and their idea of a good time is to stand in front of a famous building, everyone take group pictures, get back on the bus, look at the pictures, update their social media before heading for the nearest Chinese restaurant.

Footballers find it harder. Getting beyond Sabang is a journey into the unknown; a land where match officials can't always be convinced to change a decision or are not easily seduced by a spectacular fall and roll like they are back home. They aren't used it it and their clubs aren't set up for it.

Arthur Irawan plays in Europe but remains ignored by national selectors while Irfan Bachdim moved to Japan as part of a tourist promotion but very few players try their hand overseas; Patrich Wanggai left T Team after a season as did Hamkah Hamza (PKNS). Fair play to Andik Vermansyah for staying another season but he is overlooked by the national team for his ambition and efforts.

What will the Persib fans and players make of Hanoi? I know plenty of Indonesians who have been there and they all complain about the traffic! Oh irony, how sweet thou sounds.

You can be sure ahead of the one off tie there will be plenty of stories about the weather there but need that be an issue, especially for Persib? They have Lembang just up a hill or two. Most of their players will have experienced the delights of a chilly dusk in Wamena.

If they do manage to overcome Hanoi T & T, their reward is another one off away Seoul in South Korea. They are sure getting no favouurs in the draw, are they?

There has been some progress in recent seasons with Persipura, Semen Padang and Arema performing with credibility in the AFC Cup. But that is by far a weaker competition and the best of Myanmar, Maldives is no match for teams from South Korea, Japan or Australia.

The odds are heavily stacked against Persib making progress and much of that is mental. Indonesian football somehow needs to overcome its fear of playing overseas and stop acting the big fish in a small pond. On the world stage the country ranks pretty lowly and while the fans make the games a pretty awe inspiring experience on the pitch, as we have witnessed in the recent ASEAN Football Federation Championships, they are way behind the rest of the region.

Persib players may have nice new boots for the season ahead bought from their bonuses for winning the Indonesia Super League but it is the other baggage they, and the rest of football, carry that will prevent them making any headway in the Asian Champions League.


Home Comforts

In England, a football club's home ground is as much a part of the club's heritage as the shirts and the great names who have worn them in years gone by. Fans grew supporting their team and making a pilgrimage to their home ground and that home ground rarely moved.

The first team to move in my lifetime was, I think, Scunthorpe United which didn't concern. Many have moved since including of course my own team and not every fan has enjoyed the experience.

Of course in South East Asia there is little of that attachment to a home ground. For the simple reason clubs don't have the wherewithal (or savvy) to build their own stadium; notable exceptions include Buriram United and Muang Thong United.

Many others move willy nilly and there is sod all anyone can do about it. And given the shortage of adequate stadiums, especially in Indonesia, the moves border on nonsensical.

Persiram Raja Ampat, for example, are from Papua but last season they played their home games in Sleman on Java, thousands of kilometres and two time zones to the west!

News in Malaysia recently that Kuala Lumpur FA are looking at playing their home games next season at the historic Merdeka Stadium (left). Their fans have had a torrid time in recent seasons what with a slide down the leagues, a match fixing scandal and more homes than itinerant buskers. The move to Merdeka Stadium could well be a popular choice; certainly for me; with budget airlines and a convenient kick off time I could get there for a game and be home for a late dinner!

One of the beauties of the Merdeka Stadium is how central it is. Well served by public transport and close to plenty of dining opportunities. Many new grounds in Indonesia lack any of that. And Persib are looking to postpone their move to their new stadium, Lautan Api Stadium, because of poor access facilities. They will make their first foray into the Asian Champions League, or the AFC Cup, using Si Jalak Harupat Stadium which is hardly blessed with good access...a narrow lane it can best be described as.

The promotion of Pusamania Borneo to the Indonesia Super League has put Putra Samarinda in a bit of a spot. Last season they were using the cavernous Palaran Stadium for their games in front of a few hundred but Pusamania's rise suggests they may move on. Which is ironic because Pusamania were formed by fans of Pusam upset with the new owners.

Anyways, Pusam have been linked with moves to Sleman and most recently Bali. Perhaps they could move to Madura?!

PSM celebrate their centenary next season and to commemorate...they have done nothing. Last season they played their home games in Surabaya, another island another time zone, but things are less clear for the 2015 campaign with their own stadium in Makassar still considered unfit for use.

I could write a book on the ground changes in Indonesian football in recent years and there are no dount plenty of posts concerning this topic with the likes of Pelita Jaya and Persitara cropping up frequently but it's not just Indonesia that has these problems though they do have more than most and the sprawling nature of the country, 17,000 islands, three time zones etc, makes their issues much more fun. Tiny Singapore is struggling.

Next year it hosts the SEA Games and has already begun selling merchandise...which will no doubt be available after the event at knock down prices so just wait lah.

The games have caused the authorities to juggle their meagre resources with the skill of a geographically challenged card shark. Tampines Rovers come from Tampines in the east of the island. Their stadium was demolished to make way for some new kind of integrated, leveraged hub with inter connectivity and key nodal points that provide an aspirational lifestyle for the eternally deluded etc.

The Stags have been forced to play home games in Clementi, in the west of the island, in recent years and next season could be forced to play in Jurong which is even further west.

It does seem to be all change in the west as champions Warriors have been told they will not be able to use Choa Chu Kang Stadium and have been moved to Woodlands in the north. Of course, Woodlands won't need their stadium any more after they merge with Hougang United.

Oh, and Home United, who were forced to do without their Bishan Stadium a few years back, will also be on the move to accommodate the SEA Games.

Yearbooks with complete info on the season ahead and facts about the teams and the players and the stadiums have never caught on in this part of the world. While Kicker Sonderheft and Rothmans Football Yearbook are considered reverently by connoisseurs of the game, here anything you write today is usually redundant a few hours later!

Monday, December 08, 2014


Arcan Iurie Takes Over Pusamania

Arcan Iurie would never get a job managing an English football club.

The Moldavan coach has been part of the Indonesian football scene for yonks and over the years he has coached Persija, Persib, Persik, Persebaya, Persita and Persepam MU. And now he has taken over the reigns at newly promoted Pusamania Borneo for the 2015.

The first time I got to see him on TV he was coaching Persib and I couldn't believe my eyes. There was the coach of a professional football club ambling onto the field smoking a cigarette, sporting a denim jacket and with a packet of fags sticking out of the back pocket of his jeans.

He looked like he had just left the pub and wandered over to the pitch to see what was going on!

None of this designer wear that coaches in other countries like to wear, Arcan keeps it real and down to earth and judging by the clubs he has worked with over the years he is highly respected in the game here.

He is also pretty damned well fluent in Indonesian.

Nope, he would never work in the sanitised, PR fed world of the English Premier League and that is just one of the reasons I and many others are turning their backs on it.

Football in Indonesia is earthy and lacks pretensions and coaches like Arcan are down to earth and don't worry about bigging themselves up for the media.


Balinese Side Faces Tough Finale In Divisi Utama Bid

Will we see a Bali side in the Divisi Utama next season?

It's not looking good for PS Badung in the Nusantara Cup play offs. Their 0-0 draw with Persigar Garut leaves them bottom of their four team group; the top three will go into Divisi Utama.

In their first game they lost 2-0 to group leaders Perssu.

1 - Perssu 2 1 1 0 2-0 4
2 - Perserang 2 1 1 0 2-1 4
3 - Persigar 2 0 1 1 0-2 1
4 - PS Badung 2 0 1 1 0-2 1

In their last game PS Badung will go head to head with Perserang and we could end up with all four teams on four points which would be very interesting indeed.

In the other group, Persatu have confirmed their slot after two straight wins. Laga FC would seem to have one foot in the division with four points; they only need a draw in their final game against...Persatu!

And given PS Batam have a negative goal difference of -eight it would seem their chance of promotion border on zero


JDT To Ban Fans Involved In AFF Cup Violence

It appears that while Vietnam were coming from behind to defeat Malaysia 2-1 at the Shah Alam Stadium, a group of Malaysian fans were targetting Vietnamese fans, leaving them battered and bloodied.

It wasn't that long ago Malaysia was complaining fans travelling to Singapore with tickets for the game with the hosts were not being allowed in the country. Now this. Perhaps Singapore knew something?

Not all Malaysian fans are hooligans, of course they are not. The vast majority of the support put on a wonderful show in the stands and there was heaps of ASEAN friendship, selfie style, before the game.

But the harsh truth is one group of wannabe tough guys, fans of Johor Darul Tazim, attacked visiting supporters. And looking at the pictures, you get the impression they are not going for the lads prepared to go toe to toe.

Lets hope any travelling Malaysians are not targetted in Hanoi in supposed revenge attacks. Where will the tough guys be then?

Credit to Johor Darul Tazim. They have reacted by banning the Inter Johor Firms (?) from all of their games.

There have been growing instances of crowd trouble at Malaysian games. Let us hope this incident forces clubs to start and take it seriously.

JDT Statement

Sunday, December 07, 2014


Awaiting Hougang's Latest Name Change

As part of the super dooper forward thinking plan from the Singapore football authorities, Woodlands Wellington and Hougang United are to merge and form some kind of footballing hub somewhere on the island.

You must understand this is for the best in football because surveys have been done which show 10 clubs is the best Singapore can handle but no one has actually seen the surveys?

By the way a 10 team SLeague would only have seven Singapore teams so by their own twisted logic there would still be room for three more teams?

Anyway, this here merger. Perhaps they could leverage on each other's market place presence to bring all sorts of Key Performance Indicators and benchmarks into play as well as the sprint test and perhaps with a dash of a convergence sponsor thrown in?

No one seems to have decided on a name yet. Woodlands Wellington Hougang United perhaps? Or Sengkang Punggol Woodlands Wellington Hougang United? In a country where little attention is paid to club names and the marketing thereof, nothing would surprise me. My favourite would be Pole Dancing North Wellington United FC but that conjoures up images of scantily dressed ladies dancing in farmer clothes in sultry Singapore.

Hougang are of course used to frequent name changes and this cavalier attitudes to fans may well play a role in the public's disillusionment with football in the island. Or may not.

They started life as Marine Castle United (1998-2001) before changing their name to Sengkang Marine for two years then Paya Lebar Punggol for one season in 2005.

In 2006 they stormed the SLeague with a new name, Sengkang Punggol, and for four of their five years with this name, they finished 11th in the 12 team league. The other season they finished 10th, heady days for the faithful.

One of my abiding memories of Sengkang Punggol was watching them play Woodlands Wellington in one of the most boring games I have ever seen (on a par with Aldershot v Rochdale 1980 and Jakarta FC v Semarang United 2011). How boring? I fell asleep for a few moments only to be awoken at half time by the usual SLeague overexcited PA announcer who thought he had a packed crowd of 7 year olds and not half a dozen uncles in vests and flip flops.

2009 was time for another change with Hougang United which is where we stood at the end of the last season.

I wonder if there are any Marine Castle United fans still out there and how they feel about the shenanigans that have followed their club.

In their various entities the club have never finished higher than 7th and look destined to being also rans no matter what they are called. But they way the fans are treated at both clubs shows the contempt the powers that be have for the terrace fan. And as long as that attitude remains, no bugger will go to the games no matter how many free crisps are offered.

Thursday, December 04, 2014


Nusantara Cup Draw

Apparently, six of the eight clubs competing in the Nusantara Cup will be promoted to next season's Divisi Utama.

All games will take place at Sultan Agung Stadium in Bantul.

Group 11: Perserang Serang, Persigar Garut, PS Badung, Perssu Sumenep
Group 12: Persatu Tuban, Laga Surabaya, Persibas Banyumas, PS Batam

04/12 Perserang v Persigar, PS Badung Perssu
05/12 Laga v Persibas, Persatu v PS Batam
06/12 Persigar v PS Badung, Perssu v Perserang
07/12 Persibas v Persatu, PS Batam v Laga
09/12 Persigar v Perssu, Perserang v PS Badung
10/12 Persibas v PS Batam, Laga v Perssu

Wednesday, December 03, 2014


Who'll Succeed Riedl?

This week's Jakarta Globe column looks at the national team coach...and who may want it next! Read it here...

Tuesday, December 02, 2014


Stange Or Twist

Always happens. When a major team exits a major tournament there are the autopsies and the gut reaction is always to sack the coach.

It's the same in Singapore where everyone is queuing up to take pot shots at Bernd Stange following the Lions' exit from the ASEAN Football Federation Championship. That the exit was confirmed at the hands of bitter rivals Malaysia and come in such a dramatic fashion only increases the ire.

Football fans are born with  a sense of optimism. What else could drive fans of Cowdenbeath or Northampton Town to go week in, week out. However there is a fine line between optimism and entitlement and just because Singapore were the hosts and the holders doesn't mean all they have to do is turn up and they will win.

Stange has been in getting it from all sides in the wake of their 3-1 loss against Malaysia with players, fans and journos sticking the knife in but I can't help feeling a bit sorry for the fella.

Singapore are going through a renewal process and remember they have a tiny pool to draw on; there are not many Chinese names on the average SLeague team sheet and they are after all the majority in the country.

Since 2012 long serving players who have done their (adopted) country proud have fallen by the wayside as age has finally wearied them. A new generation is coming through and trying to make its own mark; players like Shafiq Ghani, Sahil Suhaimi and Faris Ramli.

Singaporeans like to talk about the Class of 94, overlooking the fact they have produced a few decent players since then. Unfortunately the generation of Baihakki, M Ridwan, Hassan Sunny et al never received the same kind of accolades; for some reason best known to the collective psyche, they fell short of the plinths created in lore for Fandi and the rest.

Pandering to the hysterical social media for Stange to be replaced won't do much for Singapore football. Raddy Avramovic is finished and over, much like the Class of 94 and while nostalgia is good and healthy in football there is also today to think about.

Stange needs to be given time to challenge for a place in the AFC Asian Cup. That has to be the next level for ambitious national sides in the region like Singapore and Thailand. Compared to that, the AFF Cup is a sideshow and if Stange is able to get the Lions into the frame for 2019 then the whiners will soon change their tune!

Monday, December 01, 2014


Singapore's New National Stadium

Was at the recent ASEAN Football Federation Championship tie between Singapore and Thailand and obviously it was my first visit to the new stadium.

Not impressed. It just seems to be the latest stadium from a kit with standard fare features including the now obligatory wavy roof,

As an aside, and to prove what a whiny git I can be, I was at Huddersfield Town, right, back in August...and how disappointing that ground is. I loved the old Leeds Road but this new thing, with wavy roof, seemed so artificial. Yes, there were good views from the seats but it didn't have the atmosphere of Leeds Road.

Back to all stadium designers go to the same school? Classic stadiums of yore developed organically, not the wet dream of some spotty graduate given a large budget to play with looking to include all the bells and whistles that float his boat. This scatter gun approach is what gave grounds a uniqueness and style all of their own.

Now, we get architects, management companies, clubs, consultants and uncle Tom Cobley and all telling us how wonderful their new stadium is. Note that, we are told it is wonderful as if we are not allowed our own opinions. Repeat the message often enough and folks will end up believing it; its a tried and trusted methodology practised around the world and in countries the west deems its enemies it is called propaganda. Or spin. Or hype.

Anyway, take a gander, so about all the geese references, at the stadium in Singapore and check out the coloured seats. Apparantly business school speak says the white seats placed randomly around the stadium are specially placed to give the impression the stadium is fuller than it really is. What a crock of crap...people get paid to come out with this nonsense and the sad thing is people actually believe it.

Still, it is Singapore and could well be the new home of the intimidating Kallang Roar, the noise not the website. I say noise, 'We Want Goal' was about all they came up with against the Thais despite the best efforts of an MC who tried to get some singing going. Serious!

The Mexican Waves got started early on and everyone got excited and took selfies.

Yeah there was a good view and all that but perhaps if they spent less time on imbibing business school speak and more time checking out other stadiums around the world they may have come up with something that looks a bit interesting.

Moan, moan, whine whine, blah blah.

Oh yeah, all that money spent but they couldn't get an accurate crowd figure? 32, their dreams!


Samsul Arif & Khairul Amri

Two 29 year old strikers with impressive cameos in the opening games of the ASEAN Football Federation Championship are the focus of a Jakarta Globe column.


Support Your Local League

I suppose everything aspiring writer thinks they have an idea that is unique and never been attempted before. They, I, can't all be right though, can they? I?

I have just sent my manuscript for my first book to a publisher and one of the questions they ask is for me to list three titles similar to my proposed tome.

I could only think of one and that was Nick Hornby's Fever Pitch even though my work has nothing  to do with a lad growing up in Maidenhead even though we both support the Arsenal. Perhaps though it has everything to do with pushing the envelope?

There isn't a lot of literature out there about Indonesian football in English. A bit more exists about Singapore and Malaysia, not so much about Thailand.

#supportyourlocalleague is an attempt to change that. South East Asian football is, unfortunately synonymous with European clubs coming over on highly choreographed tours designed to turn the local populace into customers parting with their hard earned cash for the right to wear a replica shirt supposedly made from plastic water bottles and carrying at least three different brand names (think club, sponsor and kit manufacturer).

This book is an attempt to change that perception. There is no such thing as a homogenous South East Asia and there is no such thing as a South East Asian football culture, one size fits all. From the choreographed terraces in Indonesia to the 'selfie' culture in Thailand via chicken and rice in Singapore, the football is as varied as the national dishes.

What I have tried to do is introduce South East Asian football to football fans who know little or nothing about the region and I try to do this by talking to fans, players, ex players, hooligans, business people, taxi drivers, name it. Football is football and everyone has an opinion about football much as it pains the likes of Arsene Wenger and Safee Sali.

In the book, set against a backdrop of the Brazil World Cup, I meet Singapore football fans who have fallen out of love with the game, hooligans who battled with police on a major highway for several hours, the first American to play in the Soviet Union, a member of the Cameroon World Cup 1990 squad, expats who support their local team. I go to games in Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand and have everyone tell me England are rubbish and will never win the World Cup!

This is neither a warts n all nor a kiss n tell. I have tried to present the material in much the way I would if I was talking with some fans. South East Asia has been my home for about 20 years, I have been a football fan for twice as long. I am as passionate of one as I am the other and I hope that passion shines through.

Passion yes, but I don't try and use that passion to blind me to the ailments of the game. They are touched upon but in some cases I feel some issues are better coming from local writers; another fat white guy saying people should do this, do that doesn't always go down well in area that experienced colonialism for so long.

At the end of the day the book is about people. People who love football and support their local league.

Anyway, I am sending out proposals to publishers this week and I hope to get to meet some folks over the next few days in a bid to move this project along a bit further. Not easy, I know but then hey! If you don't try and all that.

Ideally I would like to have English and Indonesian language versions available as well as possibly an e-book.

Here goes!

If you wish to know more about the book please feel free to contact me through the contact me button on the side panel!


Ferdinand's Sriwijaya Switch Leaves Hole In Persib Attack

Things are looking bright at Sriwijaya for next season with the club investing heavily in three of the country's brightest attacking talents, Ferdinand Sinaga, Patrich Wanggai and Titus Bonai but back in Bandung, no one is celebrating.

From the euphoria of winning their first ever title last month, ironically in Palembang, the Bobotoh are coming to terms with the fact they have lost their top scorer.

Ferdinand's fiery nature and eye for goal  endeared him to the Persib faithful and his goals played a major part in bringing the trophy to Bandung.

Ferdinand's departure comes hot on the heels of the news that transfer target Ilija Spasojevic could well be moving to Bandung but to Pelita Bandung Raya and not Persib.

As ever Persib are being linked with some big names including Emmanuel Kenmogne and Sergio van Dijk but unusually for the West Java club they are being slow off the move. Kenmogne, formerly of Persebaya, has been strongly linked with Kelantan in the Malaysia Super League.

And the striker may not be the last to leave with suggestion Vladimir Vujovic, whose goals played such an important part in Persib's run in, has yet to put pen to paper for the new season.

Kudos to Sriwijaya for moving quickly in the transfer window after a couple of relatively bland seasons but Persib fans will be feeling less charitable and the pressure will soon be on for a big name striker ahead of the 2015 season which is likely to begin in February. And with the club looking at Asian club competition next season for the first time in yonks, Persib will need to get busy recruiting players to build on the momentum of last season's success.

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