Thursday, April 09, 2015


Ibo's Fate Highlights Football's Ills

Having promise as a youngster in professional football in no guarantee a player will go on to become a household name, a world beater or even any bloody good. For every Gareth Bale there are hundreds more David Bentleys or Peter Coynes or John Bostocks.

There are many obstacles that stop a player becoming a true great and to be fair many are down to the player himself. Being told you are brilliant when you are 19, it doesn't mean they have to believe it and become Billy Big Bollocks.

I remember the first time I met Fandi Ahmad, the one time Singapore legend who was coaching Pelita Jaya at the time. He was positively drooling about some of the young players at his disposal.

Egi Melgiansyah for example. He always looked cool, calm and collected when I saw him, comfortable on the ball and able to spray passes around the field like Phil Taylor on the Oche. He left Pelita Jaya in 2012 and despite having spells with Arema and Persija he has yet to really blossom as he should have. Mind, he is only 24...the first time I saw him play he was a callow 16 year old.

He is now with Pusamania Borneo, perhaps harbouring at the back of his mind the notion a good run there could see him earn a call up to the national team or perhaps just hoping to get regular game time.

Another Pelita Jaya alumni to look to East Kalimantan is striker Jajang Mulyana. This lad was considered good enough as a teenage to spend time with Brazilian side Boavista in 2008, 2009.

Pelita Jaya let him go in 2011 and after a spell on loan with Sriwijaya he moved to Mitra Kukar. Out of sight out of mind it seems, despite being 5.11 tall, large for an Indonesian striker, he continues to be overlooked by the supposed bigger clubs and the national team despite netting a goal every three games for his team.

Fandi's goalkeeper in that youthful line up was Dian Agus Prasetyo. Now 29, Pelita Jaya signed him from Persijap and he became a mainstay of the team that reached the Copa Indonesia semi finals in 2007, even getting called up by the national team.

Leaving Pelita Jaya in 2011, he went on to have spells with Arema, Barito Putera, and Mitra Kukar before signing for Sriwijaya ahead of the 2015 season where he will be hoping regular first team football could see him back in the fold for the national team.

And then we have Yohan Ibo. A cultured defender, comfortable on the ball, he joined Pelita Jaya in 2007 and was a mainstay at the back. Leaving in 2010, he went on to Arema, Persebaya, Barito Putera before pretty much falling off the map, another promising young player chewed up and spat out by the short termism of a game where politics will always trump football.

Ibo was back in the headlines when it was revealed he was allegedly offering cash to players to lose a football match. It is highly unlikely he was acting on his own but whether we ever hear who was behind the scenes remains to be seen.

He is now being talked about the face of a football match fixing mafia. A harsh word mafia, especially if you have watched the Godfather. Ibo is no cigar chewing wise guy in a sharp suit who is being seized upon as an easy target.

It is tempting to think what might have happened had Fandi kept those players together. Would they have benefited from the shared experiences and mentoring they could provide each other? We will never know. But far from Ibo being the bad guy here, what we have is a failure of the way people approach football in this country. Everything is immediate be it from club owners worried about their status in their community to fans quick to stay away when results don't go their way.

12 month contracts, unpaid salaries may not be the reason why Ibo decided to get involved, we just don't know. But they are just two more ingredients in a lethal cocktail that is poisoning Indonesian football and Ibo is one more victim.

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