Monday, February 29, 2016


Tampines Rovers v Hougang United 4-1

Yeah I know it is a few days late. Sorry. Been busy with MyLittleGooner and his aspirations to be a goalkeeper. Shame he can't play further up the field or he could get in the Arsenal team...only Wenger would have him injured for two games going nine months.

Anyways, Tampines. After the proper, ok too many drums but you know what I mean, atmopshere at Jalan Besar Stadium for the Young Lions v Geylang clash I was looking forward to catching this one. Tampines of course with their team of all stars, a quietly confident Hougang United and the promise of another genuine football atmosphere.

Things started well.with a coach load of Tampines fans arriving just as I did. Both sets of fans had a fair old journey by local standards so good to see a decent turn out in Jurong West.

SLeague ticket prices have gone up to 6 SGD, the first rise since I started going to games so no complaints from me there. And as you walk inside the stand there is a table selling replica Tampines shirts and polo shirts. The PA gace them plenty of publicity and there was also talk and leaflets promoting Tampines trip to Selangor for the AFC Cup tie next month. Yep, felt like proper football.

Now much has been written about Jermaine Pennant and his arrival at Tampines but personally, while recognising the impact his presence has on local media and supporters more crucial signings were elsewhere with the likes of Fazrul Nawaz, Billy Mehmet and Jordan Webb. As a foursome they would take some beating and when you see a team line up for kick off with a 3-1-6 formation you just know you are in for a fin night.

History of course tells us the Stags raced into a 3-0 lead but Hougang weren't there to be on the arse end of a thrashing. They put themselves about and caused the Tampines defence and Izwan Mahbud in their goal more than a few headaches and perhaps offered hope to the other SLeague teams for the long season ahead.

At times the game resembled attack v defence with of course the Stags doing the pressing. As mentioned it was the first time the four had played together up front and it was interesting, and worrying, three of their goals came from defenders and midfielders!  Going forward they looked dangerous and you just know as they get more accustomed to each other the flicks and the runs will play greater dividends.

The second half was a bit of a non event after the first 45 minutes but that was perhaps to be exoected. The onus was on Hiugang and they did their bit in a thrilling match. If you are a football fan who loves fast, attacking football try and book a trip to Singapore that coincides with a Tampines game.Unlike us Arsenal fan, you won't be left disappointed.

Friday, February 26, 2016


Dan The Man For Low Key Eagles

A few days back I was penning, nay keyboard punching, the virtues of Cristian Gonzales, now approaching 40 but still netting for fun in Indonesia. Last night I was watching another ageless, timeless one putting in a shift but this time at the other end of the pitch.

For many, Daniel Bennett is inexorably linked with Warriors/SAFFC. He spent more than a decade with the club over three spells and lifted the SLeague five times in a glittering career. Just turned 38 you could forgive him if he contemplated a quieter life but oh no, for the 2016 season Bennett, pictured in action for SAFFC against Muang Thong United, will be wearing the unfamiliar green and white hoops of Geylang International wearing the even more unfamiliar number eight shirt.

Yet if last night's performance against Young Lions is anything to go by all the familiar skills are there as Bennett turned in a faultless performance marshalling the Geylang defence against the pacy young cubs.

You don't get the snarling, chest pushed out, fist punching old school English style centre half with Bennett. No John Terry or Tony Adams, rather the English born, Singapore raised central defender plays with a calm assurance and, lacking pace even at the best of times, an astute footballing brain that last night at least saw him comfortably handle players half his age.

Traditionally Warriors were a team packed with experience...a polite way of saying older players and of course Bennett was just one of many. Now however he is one of the elder statesmen at Bedok where his experience is doubly valued in Jalaini's youngish squad and he seems to be relishing the role with the odd quiet word here, a finger point there to help his colleagues at the back.

He shone with a performance of cool, calm authority and when his defensive partners were caught upfield he slipped effortlessly in to their vacant space and dealt with the danger before trotting back to the centre of the defence without the rants you may see from higher paid prima donnas.

To Tampines the headlines but Geylang and their supporters will be looking for Bennett to work quietly behind the scenes and on the pitch to forge a winning mentality that could surprise many this season.


Government Lays Down Three Conditions Before PSSI Suspension Lifted

Things have been moving regarding Indonesian football's current mess. Recent meetings between the president and the sports minister have seen the government put forward three conditions before they lift their suspension of PSSI, the first step perhaps towards FIFA allowing Indonesia back into the international fold.

The government initially withdrew recognistion of the PSSI last April. The move followed recommendations from the sports organising body BOPI that two clubs, Arema and Persebaya, be banned from competing in the 2015 Indonesia Super League season citing ongoing concerns over their ownership. The ISL ignored the recommendations and the season began as planned but games were soon cancelled as local authorities refused to release security clearance for games to be played.

FIFA told the PSSI they and they alone were responsible for football in Indonesia but they were powerless to act and they were soon suspended by the world governing body. The ISL was cancelled and Indonesia were banned from entering the World Cup/AFC Cup Qualifiers die to start later in the year.

Following a meeting between the president and the Youth and Sports Ministry the latter is now drawing up a list of conditions the PSSI must fulfil before the government recognises FIFA again.

First, PSSI needs to be in constant communication with the government over their running of football in the country. How FIFA reacts to that will be of interest considering their fear and loathing of any kind of government interference in their beautiful game.

It was PSSI inability to stand up to the government in the first place that saw FIFA finally impose the ultimate sanction last year following several years of mismanagement and serial incompetence. Allegations of match fixing and non payment of players' salaries and having the head of the PSSI behind bars twice were ignored by FIFA but once they felt the government was impinging on PSSI autonomy they felt the need to get involved.

The second condition requires the PSSI to be accountable and transparent while the third is a demand for an extraordinary congress to set up a new organisational structure.

Meet those conditions and the government would consider recognising PSSI and add weight to demands for the body to be let back into the FIFA family but the road ahead won't be smooth. There have been congresses in the recent past but little changes as football's ruling family has consolidated its hold not just at national level but more crucially at provincial level which is where the race for the top spots is fought.

There is some urgency creeping into the talks. In 2018 Indonesia is slated to host the Asian Games and of course it would be kind of embarrassing if they were not allowed to enter a team in the football competition. Mind, that decision isn't without controversy with concerns in Indonesia about the slow pace of development on facilities for the multi sports competition.

FIFA of course have their own issues with elections for a new gaffer to replace Sepp Blatter but it is unclear how any decisions made in Zurich will impact Indonesia's suspension and its lifting.


Kelantan's Special Adviser Expresses Her Concerns

The dug out for Kelantan has room for the club sponsor, far right. Hasmiza Othman has been impressing all and sundry with her football knowledge by declaring she is concerned by the club's performances and lack of goals, thereby putting pressure on coach K Devan.

Club president Annuar Musa says her words should be taken in the right context. 'She is our main sponsor and a Kelantan football fan,' says Annuar. 'I have tried to follow what Johor Darul Ta'zim owner ... is doing with his team...listening to the fans. What she has said should be taken as advise to help spur the players to perform better.'

Not only is Hasmiza club sponsor, she is also apparently a special adviser and, judging by the picture, gets to sit in the dug out. She also found time to design the club's shirt for this season and it is not just a football shirt. It also makes the skin whiter!

Kelantan are unbeaten this season having drawn their opening  game with Perak 0-0 but defeating PDRM and UKM (Malaysia FA Cup) 1-0.

Annuar went on to say if coach Devan did fail to meet the club's targets then discussions would be held but for now 'Devan is doing a fantastic job with the team...'

I would imagine he is not just doing a fantastic job with the players. Having to deal with Annuar and the special advisor as well...he has my sympathy


Young Lions v Geylang International 0-2

My first look at the 'new look' SLeague and to be honest I came away fairly impressed. It wasn't  a bad game, far from it, but perhaps for the first time since I have been watching the SLeague there was something approaching a proper atmosphere on the terraces. OK so the official attendance of 2,416 may be a tad on the high side, I couldn't see how many people were in the upper tier, but there were large numbers in the lower tier and both sets of fans were kicking up a percussion led racket. Not a fan of that kind of stuff myself but hey this is Singapore and it is a big improvement on recent seasons.

Geylang were comfortable winners and continued their unbeaten start to the season with goals in each half by new signing Branko Cubrilo and Fariz Abdul Hameed moving the Eagles into second place behind early leaders Albirex Niigata.

New Geylang coach Hasrin Jailani has built an impressive, strong squad at Bedok with the likes of Isa Halim, Gabriel Quak and Sahil Suhaimi starting last night's game on the bench while on the field another new addition Daniel Bennett, wearing an unfamiliar number eight shirt, put in a typical performance at the back, letting his work do the talking against a pacy Young Lions strike force.

All eyes have been on Tampines in the early days of the new season but it might be worth watching how the Eagles soar as they squad bed down and get used to each other.


ASEAN Scramble For AFF Championship Host

The Philippines hopes for hosting the ASEAN Football Federation Championship for the first time have been dashed after they withdrew their bid. Apparently they don't have a large enough stadium. They didn't when they were awarded the 2016 event and they still haven't so it does beg the question why were they awarded it in the first place and why ASEAN had no Plan B in place should the PFF not com good on a proper stadium.

So we have Malaysia, Vietnam and Singapore in the running to step in and take over...they do have then necessary facilities. No mention of Indonesia! The ASEAN Football Federation will make a decision in Match when they meet in Vietnam.

A shame really. I was looking forward to catching a game in Manila at year end...

Wednesday, February 24, 2016


Tampines Start AFC Cup Campaign With Rout


Tampines Rovers v Sheikh Jamal Dhanmondi 4-0 (Billy Mehmet, Abu Sujad, Afiq Yunos, OG) 2,378

Ah the Stags! When you start the game with Jordan Webb and Fazrul Nawaz on the bench you just know you have the makings of a decent squad. An Billy Mehmet's goal inside two minutes was the makings of a decent result. Scratch that. Great start to the AFC Cup campaign and with that squad surely the minimum is reaching the knock out stages?

Ceres v Selangor 2-2 (; Mauro Olivi, Hafiz Kamal) 8,000

Selangor were leading 2-1 with four minutes to go before Adrian Gallardo levelled things for the home side. Away draws in cup competitions are no bad thing but to come so close...

New Radiant v Balestier Khalsa 2-2 (;Fazli Ayob, Fadhil Noh) 900

On paper a decent result for Balestier Khalsa in the Maldives but looking back they led twice and Rilwan's injury time equaliser bust have left a sour taste in the mouth.

Kuwait Emir Cup

Khaitan v Al Nasr 1-0 (Otavio) AET

It was all very low key. When I arrived 15 minuted before kick off the gates were locked...the guy on toilet duty said open them yourself. Fair enough. 'Twas a dour affair to be honest at the Khaitan Stadium. Otavio missed a first half penalty and the game fizzled and faded soon after and it was clear, apart from a lively few moments at the end of the second half an extra 30 minutes would be required. Al Nasr may be bottom of the Premier League but they battled and harried throughout but as a side with a few youngsters they were always going to struggle.

Al Sulaibikhat v Al Yarmouk (Ahmad Yani) 0-1

Bali Island Cup

Bali United v PSS 1-1

Arema v Persib 1-0

Arema lifted the Bali Island Cup with Persib upset about the refs performance in the final game. The Bali United CEO says PSS fans are the best in Indonesia and that surely is the abiding memory of this may be tootally unofficial but the four sets of supporters proved when it comes to football passion on the terraces there is no country that can match Indonesia in South East Asia. Unfortunately the same can be said for football administration...

Tuesday, February 23, 2016


SLeague Warns About Flares On Terraces

Apparently SLeague crowds are on the up but the league organisers are worried. Some Hougang United fans let off a few sparklers at their home game with Home United and the authorities are keen to see this type of colour quickly extinguished.

In a statement on their website earlier today the SLeague warned fans against using flares and sparklers at games.

'On 18 Feb 16, after the match between Hougang United FC and Home United FC at the Hougang Stadium, sparklers were lighted up by a group of fans.
The lighted sparklers created a huge ball of fire and billows of thick smoke that engulfed that section of the grandstand. The incident created anxiety and threatened the safety of fans.
Police has confirmed that both flares and sparklers which are binded together and set off is a criminal offence punishable by law.
Fans are hereby reminded that flares and sparklers are prohibited from all S.League matches. Offenders will risk being arrested and charged by the authorities if they are caught in possession or guilty of setting off sparklers in the stadium.' SOURCE - SLeague
Back in the day me and my garage band did a song called Rock Against Flares. We found the very sight of bell bottomed trousers to be offensive to the eye and felt they oppressed people who worse bicycle clips so any move against these particular fashion faux pas gets my vote.
But sparklers? Come on, stop bloody meddling and let fans create a bit of atmosphere and colour at games. That will encourage others to join in and hey presto, you get Singapore football cool again.
The press release says the incident caused alarm among fans. Yep, take a look at the picture...shitting bricks they be, shitting bleeding bricks.
If they wanna ban something, and these suit types usually do, then ban people over the age of 12 wearing replica shirts of overseas clubs. The likes of Jermaine Pennant and Jordan Webb are bringing flair to the pitches, what is wrong with a boot of flare on the terraces? Don't go down the Arsenal route where the stadium is full of well behaved moo moos taking selfies and scared to stand or sing for fear of breaking nonsense ground regulations.

Monday, February 22, 2016


Kuwait Emir Cup 2016

Preliminary Round

29/10/15 Burgan v Al Tadhamon 1-0

1st Round

26/01/16 Al Sahel v Burgan 1-0, Al Shabab v Al Fahaheel 3-3 (Al Fahaheel won 11-10 on penalties)

2nd Round

09/02/16 Al Nasr v Al Sahel 3-0, Al Yarmouk v Al Fahaheel 1-0

Tomorrow night sees the 3rd Round of this slow moving cup competition with as ever information hard to come by.

23/02/15 Al Sulaibikhat v Al Yarmouk (Thamer Stadium), Khaitan v Al Nasr (Kuwait SC Stadium)

NOTE - Al Sulaibikhat played their game at Kuwait SC and Khaitan played theirs at Khaitan Stadium with kick off times and venues changed on match day!

Al Sulaibhikat are the side in form as they face Al Yarmouk in Salmiya. They are unbeaten in their last five games and put up a dogged resistance with 10 men last time out against Kazma, earning a point against a side that missed two penalties and spurned chances aplenty especially in the first half.

Khaitan to are on a good run, unbeaten in their last five while Al Nasr only have that win over Al Sahel in the last round to look back on fondly.

Recent Winners

2011 - Kazma
2012 - Qadsia
2013 - Qadsia
2014 - Kuwait SC
2015 - Qadsia

Qadsia - 16 times winners
Al Arabi - 15
Kuwait SC - 10
Kazma - 7
Al Salmiya - 2
Al Yarmouk - 2
Al Fahaheel 1


JDT Begin AFC Cup Defence

Group E - Tampines Rovers, Selangor, Ceres, Dhanmondi
Group F - Balestier Khalsa, Kitchee, New Radiant, Kaya
Group H - Johor Darul Tazim, Bengalaru, Lao Toyota, Ayeyawady

AFC Cup winners' JDT's failure to overcome Muang Thong United in the AFC Champions' League Play Off means they get a chance to regain their title and to do so they must overcome a familiar foe.

They of course met Bengaluru last year in another ACL preliminary and although they won that game they were later knocked out by Bangkok Glass, the Thai hoodoo again, and were consigned to the AFC Cup.

A year older and with a year's more experience under their belt, not to mention the underlying ambition to pit themselves against Asia's best, will mean JDT won't be taking this competition as an inconvenience.

Back to back winners of the Malaysia Super League, JDT have begun the new season in a confident manner, drawing 1-1 in their opening game against (but lifting the Charity Shield after defeating the Red Giants on penalties) before picking up three points away to T Team. On Friday they thumped second tier UiTM 5-0 in the FA Cup.

Bengaluru have ambitions of emulating JDT in India. Coached by Ashley Westwood they won the I League in their debut season and finished second last time time round while lifting the Federation Cup. With the experienced Sunil Chhetri, the Indian captain had a spell in the US with Kansas City Wizards, providing know how and guile and former Northampton Town defender John Johnson at the heart of the defence, The Blues will be looking to kick on this time around and will be hoping former Republic of Ireland Under 21 international Michael Collins can add some experience in the middle of the park.

While Bengaluru maybe considered the toughest opponent in the group for the Malaysian champions, they will not be underestimating Ayeyawady from Myanmar. Perhaps little known beyond their own borders, they did meet in last season's Round of 16 with JDT winning 5-0 but Ayeyawady are becoming a regular fixture in the AFC Cup and qualified from their group last year for the first time in their history though the disqualification of Persib may have helped!

Lao Toyota may have finished bottom of their group last year but drew their three home games and kept their away losses to the narrowest of margins.

Balestier Khalsa impressed many last season when they were challengers for the SLeague for most of the campaign. Their reward is a return to the AFC Cup for the second successive year. Last year they were drawn with JDT, Kitchee and East Bengal but failed to make much of an impression, winning just once against East Bengal and losing the rest of their games to finish bottom.

With coach Marko Kraljevic in charge for a third season Balestier are slowly changing perceptions of being an also ran club in Singapore. In 2013, under Darren Stewart, they lifted their first ever trophy, the League Cup and they followed that success with the Singapore Cup in 2014. Add to that a fourth place finish in the SLeague last season as well as runners' up in the League Cup and these are heady days for the Toa Payoh side though doubts linger whether they have the strength in depth to handle four competitions in the long year ahead.

Group E throws up the tantalising prospect of Tampines Rovers v Selangor and with no disrespect to their Bangladeshi and Filippino rivals fans of both sides will be eagerly awaiting these clashes. The Stags, reinvigorated by the arrival of Jermaine Pennant will be going up against Malaysia's fallen giant who last season lifted the Malaysia Cup for the first time in a decade. The last years have not been kind to the Red Giants as they have sees success spread around the country and new money in the form of JDT and Pahang usurp their place at the top of the pile, But their support will be hoping the Malaysia Cup triumph will be the spark that brings in a new era of glory.

23/02 - Tampines Rovers v Sheikh Jamal Dhanmondi, Ceres v Selangor, New Radiant v Balestier Khalsa
24/02 - JDT v Ayeyawady

UPDATE - It seems fans are excited about the start of Asian club competition with Kaya saying their match against Singaporean side Balestier Khalsa is a sell out and Dhanmondi's allocation for their game in Singapore against Tampines have all gone as well. Let us hope in the latter case there are more Stags fans then away fans!


Age Shall Not Weary Him

Cristian Gonzales turns 40 in August. The Uruguayan born barrel chested striker has been scoring goals for fun since arriving in Indonesia back in 2003 when he signed for PSM. He perhaps enjoyed his greatest success when he moved to Persik, helping them win the Liga Indonesia (before the Indoneia Super League was set up) in 2007 as one of the Three Amigos (Danilo Fernando and Ronald Fagundez made up the trimutive).

The unfancied Macan Putih played wonderfully attacking football that season under Daniel Roekito and followed their title success with an adventure in the AFC Champions League that saw them go toe to toe with the likes of Sydney and Urawa from Japan.

Of course football clubs such as they are in Indonesia are not built to last and the club soon faded as owners found themselves unable to raise any money to keep their title winning side. But while Persik have slid towards oblivion, they failed to meeting the licensing criteria for the 2015 season and faced another spell in the second tier before the leagues were suspended, Gonzales, or El Loco as he is nicknamed locally, went from strength to strength.

He left East Java in 2009 and moved to Persib where his two seasons saw him continue to rattle home games before a season in Eask Kalimantan with Persisam in 2012. By now a naturalised Indonesian international making his mark at the ASEAN Football Federation Championships in 2010, in 2013 he signed for Arema.

Many players in their late 30s joining a big club may do so with an eye on a coaching future. Not Gonzales. He wants to play and he wants to score goals. And while 2015 may have been a write off as far as domestic football was concerned he still played for Arema in the competitions that flowed thick and fast. He hit six as they reached the semi finals of the General Sudirman Cup and a further five in the President's Cup.

Now Arema are in the Island of the Gods supported by the usual large number of travelling Aremania and they have started the competition with a bang. In their first game they beat hosts Balis United in the Bali Island Cup 3-1 and that man Gonzales scored twice. Yesterday they thumped PSS 5-2 and he shows no sign of faing away peacefully into retirement; this time El Loco hit a hat trick!

It has not been a career without controversy and at times his frequent brushes with officialdom and officials threatened to end his career. There is something of the Mark Hughes, as a player, about him, short, powerful upper body strength which he uses to great effect and of course the ability to sniff out a chance inside the six yard area. Cliche time, he also is pretty nifty in the air for a little guy. If he may have lost a yard or two of pace it is obviously not proving too great a handicap in Indonesia's current landscape and while there has been talk of a move elsewhere in Asia he has stayed loyal to his adopted home, even being linked with political parties, hinting at a career path when he finally does hang up his boots.

Next up in the Bali Island Cup Arema meet Persib with El Loco coming up against one of his old clubs. Gonzales doesnt do sentiment, not when there is a chance of a goal and who would bet against the veteran predator adding to his tally when they meet later this week?

Sunday, February 21, 2016


Al Salmiya Leave It Late Against Al Shabab

As predicted ahead of the games there were three points all round for the Kuwait Premier League title challengers but while Qadsia were able to brush past Al Fahaheel  with teh relatively comfortable 3-1 margin their rivals made hard work of their opponents.

Kuwait SC must have thought Al Sahel were there to just roll over and die but they were much mistaken and the champions had to wait until the 69th minute to overcome their spirited opponents when Yassine Salhi, on loan from Moroccan side Raja Casablanca, broke the deadlock.

Al Salmiya had to wait even longer away to Al Shabab. The home side performed admirably and perhaps would have deserved a point but three minutes from the end Al Salmiya's giant striker who wears the 99 shirt did some fine work down the left and his cross was turned home by the onrushing Hamad Al Enezi much to the delight of the bench and the small number of travelling fans.

The win keeps them level on points with Qadsia but the team in yellow have a much superior goal difference.

In other games Khaitan kept their recent run going, holding out against Al Yarmouk for a 2-1 victory. Mubarak Al Nasser had given the away side the lead on seven minutes and Mohamed Al Enezi made it 2-0 early in the second half. Abdullah Dashti pulled one back just shy of the hour mark but Khaitan, despite coming under plenty of pressure held on for the three points.

Kazma failed to turn possession into goals and were almost made to pay the ultimate price as they travelled to Thamar Stadium to take on Al Sulaibikhat. Abdullah Dhofairi had given them the lead on 15 minutes but Kazma failed to build on that lead, missing two penalties and seeing the Al Sulaibikhat sent off. The sub keeper saved the second penalty with his first touch of the game and made two more crucial stops in teh dying embers of the first half to keep his side in contention and second half they more than held their own, deserving their equaliser by Adel Al Dwaihi on 69 minutes.

In last night's other game another of the struggling sides put on a good show. Al Nasr may have lost 3-0 against Al Jahra in another game at the Thamar Stadium but were beaten by two exquisite free kicks, the first by Faisal Zayed in teh first half. The game was pretty much over Rafael Simeone defelcted a team mate's shot home to make it 2-0 in the first minute of the second half and Tawandoba completed the scoring with another free kick over the wall.

Fair play to Al Nasr, they never stopped trying and in number 44 they had one of the best players on the pitch. I know I don't speak or read Arabic but when it comes to knowing player's names or who scored I am not at a disadvantage as there are no PA announcements before or during the game!


Kawata Hits Four In Young Lions Rout

Welcome to the tropics Jermaine Pennant. Six goals and two red cards on his debut, the ex Arsenal winger lined up for his first start for Tampines Rovers against Warriors on Friday and it pissed down. Big time. And the game was called off. So there.

Last night saw last season's Cup Double winners Albirex Niigata put five goals past Young Lions without reply. Atsushi Kawata hit four which by my reckoning, and I could be wrong, makes him top scorer in the SLeague this season. The Japanese side go top of the table after two rounds with a 100% record and eight goals to their name.

In last night's other game 10 man Geylang International drew 1-1 with SLeague champions DPMM at Bedok Stadium. Amy Rech was red carded on 70 minutes  but substitute Sahil Suhaimi gave the Eagles the lead within six minutes. However Steve Kean's men fought back and Rafael Ramazotti levelled within a minute.

Albirex apart there is an unfamiliar look to the SLeague table...

1 - Albirex Niigata 2 2 0 0 8-2 6
2 - Hougang United 1 1 0 0 1-0 3
3 - Young Lions  2 1 0 1 1-5 3

Geylang International travel to Jalan Besar on Thursday to take on Young Lions while Thursday sees Tampines Rovers host Hougang United and I hope to be at both those games...


Big Spending Penang Humbled By Kuantan

Ok so it looks like a cup competition and it feels like a cup competition but does it have the upsets like a cup competition? The second round of the Malaysia FA Cup was spread over Friday and Saturday and luckily for the old romantics out there, like me, there were one or two results of interest.

Big spending Penang were probably the biggest scalp to fall, losing 3-1 away to second tier Kuantan in an eventful tie. (Game played in Penang). Ahead of the tie all the talk had been about Faiz Subri's wonder free kick but he didn't stick around long enough to repeat the feat as he was replaced after about half an hour by more recognised goalscorer Osas Saha. Still it wasn't until the 80th minute the fans had anything to cheer when Mathias Cordoba gave the Penang support something to cheer about.

Not for long mind. Dao Bakary has started the season on fire and he carried on with his hot streak levelling the tie in the last minute to send the tie into extra time. Four goals followed in the first period but alas and alack for Penang three were for the underdogs with Bakary netting the fourth to finish the tie 4-2 and set up a 3rd Round tie with Perak.

Johor Darul Tazim showed they have no time for the romance of the cup thumping minnows UiTM 5-0 in Shah Alam. Amri Yahyah. Chanturu with two in four minutes, Amirul Hadi and Pereya Diaz finished the route. Kedah were another team with no soppy cup notions as they defeated Mega Murni 8-0 with one time Borussia Monchengladbach striker netting a hat trick along the way.

Selangor were forced to wait by Air Asia, must be a corporate policy (!) before two goals around the hour mark, including one by Liberian striker Patrick Wleh, were enough to ease passage into round three while Pahang were forced to dig deep and come from behind to overcome T Team 2-1.

One other top flight side did succumb to lower opposition as PKNS beat Terangganu 3-1 at Hang Jebat Stadium in Melaka. And talking Melaka, they were beaten by Kuala Lumpur on penalties. And given ATM's start to the season does a 3-2 win over Shazan Muda count as an upset? Two extra time goals by Faiz Ibrahim setting up a trip to Sabah in the next round.

3rd Round Draw

Kedah v Kelantan
JDT v Negeri Sembilan
Perak v Kuantan
Perlis v Kuala Lumpur
PKNS v Felda United
Sabah v ATM
Pahang v Sime Darby
PDRM v Selangor


East Kalimantan Governor's Cup Draw 2016

Friday, February 19, 2016


Goals Galore In Bali Island Cup


Hougang United v Home United 1-0 (Stipe Plazibat)

I do think the SLeague marketing egg heads have missed a trick. We are not fully into the second round of fixtures in the new season and we have already seen the Uniform Derby, The East Coast Derby and now they are trying to promote Tampines v Warriors as the East West Derby even though it is being played in the centre of Singapore. Ish. What about the Ho Derby? New signing Plazibat scored the only goal of the game in the first half to leave Home United with just a single point from their opening two games of the season.

Kuwait Premier League

Al Yarmouk v Khaitan 1-2

Nominally the home side, Al Yarmouk stayed anchored in 12th place after  gritty performance against a committed Khaitan at the Khaitan Stadium. The away side were 2-0 up at half time but  Al Yarmouk gave it a real go second half and fully deserved to pull a goal back ensuring a few nervy moments at the end.

Al Sulaibikhat v Kazma 1-1

Another interesting game played at Al Salmiya's Thamer Stadium, Kazma had the chances to win this comfortably but second half especially Al Sulaibikhat were dogged and determined in defence. Kazma had taken the lead and deserved it as well but then spurned further chances to extend their lead. They also missed two first half penalties and when the Al Sulaibikhat keeper was red carded for a reckless challenge that led to Kazma's second spot kick surely the team in orange were set fair for three points. Twas not to be as the first job of the sub keeper was to save the 2nd spot kick and he made three more vital saves in the dying embers of the first half to keep his side in the game.

Bali Island Cup

Bali United v Arema 1-3 (Gede Sukadana; Cristian Gonzales 2, Johan Ahmat Alfarizie)

Uruguayan born El Loco gave Arema the lead in the first half, showing age hasn't dulled the predatory instincts after the Bali keeper Diky Indriyana failed to clear the ball. The natrualised Indonesia striker made it 2-0 when he headed home an inch perfect free kick from Raphael Maitimo in the second half. Former Arema player Gede Sukadana pulled one back for the home side with a delightful chip from 20 yards out with 13 minutes remaining but Malang born Johan Ahmat Alfarizie restored the two goal cushion just minutes later to give new coach Milomir Seslija a winning start to his return to Arema

Bali United: 97 M. Diky Indriyana; 8 Ricky Fajrin, 22 Ganjar Mukti, 27 Agus Nova, 2 Putu Gede; 14 Fadil Sausu, 19 Hendra Sandi, 12 Zulfiandi; 17 Sukarja, 7 Miftahul Hamdi, 95 Martinus

Subs: 20 Ngurah Komang, 88 Komang Adi Parwa, 6 Felicianus, 10 Loudry, 44 Wayan Sukadana, 21 Irfandy Zein, 11 Yabes Roni Malaifani, 23 Ilham Udin Armaiyn, 13 Boby Satria

Arema: 21 I Made Wardana; 30 Kiko Insa, 23 Hamka Hamzah, 59 Hasyim Kipuw, 87 Alfarizie; 12 Hendro Siswanto, 8 Raphael Maitimo, 22 Srdan Lopicic; 11 Esteban Vizcarra, 41 Dendi Santoso, 10 Cristian Gonzales

Subs: 47 Ahmad Kurniawan, 7 Beny Wahyudi, 31 Junda Irawan, 77 Juan Revi, 6 Ryuji Utomo, 14 Arif Suyono, 94 Fery Aman Saragih, 18 Sunarto, 88 Antoni Putro Nugroho

Persib v PSS 4-2 (Rahmad Hidayat, Atep, David Laly, Samsul Arif; Wahyu Gunawan, Emile Mbamba)

Dejan Antonic was another coach to get off to a winning start with Persib edging PSS in a goal fest in Bali. Samsul Arif, who signed from Persib just ahead of the competition, marked his debut coming off the bench to score in the 89th minute while Emile Mbamba, who reportedly was set to stay with Surabaya United until evidently making the last minute switch, also netted a late spot kick.

Persib Bandung: 78 I Made Wirawan; 4 Dias Angga, 3 Vladimir Vujovic, 16 Hermawan, 6 Tony Sucipto; 24 Hariono, Marko Krasic, 17 Rahmad Hidayat; 7 Atep, 15 Yandi Sofyan, 82 Tantan

Subs: 1 M. Natshir, 18 Jajang Sukmara, 13 M. Agung Pribadi, 2 Purwaka Yudi, 8 Taufiq, 23 Kim Jeffry Kurniawan, 11 Rudiyana, 9 Samsul Arif, 91 David Laly

PSS Sleman: 21 Ali Barkah; 18 Rasmoyo, 19 Wahyu Gunawan, 23 Waluyo, 24 Kristian Adelmund; 15 Mahadirga Lasut, 8 A. Saputro, 91 Dicky Prayoga; 11 Mudah Yulianto, 17 Busari, 10 Emile Bertrand Mbamba

Subs: 27 Gratheo H, 31 Denny Rumba, 28 Ade Kristian Pratama, 14 Taji Prasetyo, 22 Candra L, 4 Eko Setiawan, 7 Andi S, 32 Tri Handoko, 9 Agung Suprayogi

Thursday, February 18, 2016


Coach Fabio Opens Up On Timor Leste Football

It was perhaps two or three years ago. I was sat in a restaurant in South Jakarta with a German and a Brazilian and an Indonesian. And I couldn't get a word in edge ways which was a bit of a surprise as you can imagine. It was a heated passionate conversation about local football but what was interesting is was solely conducted in Indonesian. Timo Scheunemann and Fabio D'Oliveria have of course been kicking around donkeys years and know the game, and the language, inside out. Little old me, I couldn't keep up with their patter and I really must get my act into gear and improve my language skills when I get back.

Fabio of course spent time working with the national team and also coached Persita for a spell among many other assignments in the country. But now he is coaching overseas in a nation that let us be honest is not widely considered a footballing hotspot. Malaysia and Thailand have a football tradition but Timor Leste? At least he is familiar with one of the languages for Timor Leste belies its colonial past with Portuguese as one of the official languages and Fabio of course...well, he is trilingual at least.

So how does a Brazilian coach end up in one of the newest countries in the world and perhaps just as importantly how does he persuade some of the biggest names in Indonesian football to join him there?

'I received the invitation from a friend to be coach of a team here in East Timor. The name of the team is Carsae FC,' said Fabio and like any good coach he was attracted as much by the club's focus on youth development as the first team. ' I accepted the invitation because the president of the team beyond participation in the championship, he also want building a development football program with young talents here in Timor Leste.'

 The eight team Liga Futbol Amadora De Timor Leste kicks off 25 February with all the games scheduled to be played atthe Municipal Stadium in the nation's capital Dili. The first game sees Academica play Aitana which will allow Fabio and his team the opportunity to at least get some idea of the standard.

Since being appointed coach Fabio has been busy recruiting players and has managed something of a coup with Immanuel Wanggi and Okta Maniani following him to Timor Leste. In 2010 hopes were high Okta would be at the spearhead of a thrilling young generation of Indonesian players but he, much like Indonesian football, has not built on that early promise and in recent years his career has somewhat stagnated and earlier this year a move to PKNS in Malaysia fell through.

Okta signed at the end of January and was immediately looking forward to the prospect of playing overseas but the Papuan born flyer was quick to point out playing in Timor was a bit like returning home. In a geographical sense perhaps, the island of Timor which is shared by Indonesian and Timor Leste is closer to Papua than Jakarta for example.

Given Indonesia's suspension from FIFA, Okta's move is unlikely to reignite his national team ambitions, he has not played for the merah putih since 2013, but perhaps playing far from the spotlight may allow him to play with less pressure and recapture some of that early promise.

Joining Carsae and Okta is Immanuel Wanggai. The Indonesian international played for Persipura for a decade and comes from a footballing family with cousin Patrich having recently enjoyed a spell in Malaysia with T Team after impressing at the 2013 SEA Games.

The experience of Okta and Wanggai could prove invaluable for Carsae in the season ahead and if coach Fabio has his way the duo could well be joined by an even more illustrious name, saying 'Maybe Boaz (Solossa) join with us also'.

How ironic if Boas should move to Timor Leste. For several years he has been one of the few Indonesian players considered adept enough to take his talents overseas and had he taken the plunge then surely he would have found suitors in Malaysia, Thailand or even Australia. He has previously resisted the urge but perhaps with no end in sight to Indonesian football woes perhaps now is the time for the pacy striker to dust off his passport and try his luck.

Coach Fabio has been impressed by the standard of local players he has seen. 'My first impression about the players was like a good potential with no football basic orientation.' Refering to his Indonesian contingent he added 'I think they can transfer knowledge for young local players here.'

It could be argued players like Okta and Immanuel are selling themselves short by moving to Timor Leste and perhaps they should have sought to really test themselves by trying their luck in more competitive leagues but as Okta said, it is like going home. And credit must be given to Carsae for being adventurous and taking the plunge on big name players.

For now though Fabio and his Indonesian internationals have a week or so to get to know their new team mates ahead of of their first game of the season against Dit FC. It may not attract much attention around the world but for Carsae and Timor Leste it is the first step on a new adventure.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016


Easy Pickings For Kuwait's Top Three

After the excitement of last weekend’s round of fixtures, which of course included the Al Classico won by Qadsia 2-0, the next round of games are perhaps slightly more mundane with the title challengers facing more humble opposition and a hodgepotch of mid table meets.

Leaders Qadsia travel south to Abu Halifa to take on Al Fahaheel and shouldn’t face too many problems. With 50 goals from their 16 games the Hawally based team boast the most lethal attack in the league and their scrooge like defence have just shipped nine goals. Al Fahaheel sit ninth in the league and can at least look back on their last game with some pride, defeating Al Shabab 2-0 but that was their first win since the middle of January when they overcame Yarmouk 2-1. They did defeat Al Shabab in the Emir Cup but that was on penalties. For all their woes they do boast a tight defence when compared to their cellar dweller rivals but won’t need reminding they lost 4-0 against Qadsia when they met earlier in the campaign.

Al Salmiya came from behind to beat Al Yarmouk last weekend and on Saturday they play Al Shabab away. The Students are 11th but do at least have three wins from their last eight having failed to secure three points in their first seven games to give a sheen of respectability and the illusion of pulling away from the relegation places. However they were soundly beaten 3-0 when they first met and it is difficult to see them getting anything from this game, especially if Al Salmiya play like they did in the second half against Al Yarmouk.

Champions Kuwait SC sit three points behind Qadsia and Al Salmiya but do have a game in hand. They are also a side in form with eight wins on the spin and while Al Sahel may cause them a few problems for an hour or so it is difficult to see Kuwait SC dropping points. All Al Sahel have to show for their last seven games is a couple of 0-0 draws against fellow strugglers Al Fahaheel and Al Shabab.

18/02 Al Yarmouk v Khaitan, Al Suliabikat v Kazma
19/02 Al Fahaheel v Qadsia, Kuwait SC v Al Sahel
20/02 Al Shabab v Al Salmiya, Al Nasr v Al Jahra


Indonesian Police To Organise Own Cup

Ok so with the General Sudirman Cup done and dusted now it is the turn of the police to get involved with the announcement of the Bhayangkara Cup. This will be held between 17 March and 3 April and it is proposed the Final will be held in Jakarta.

The blurb says this will be a premium tournament that will act as a pre season competition ahead of the Indonesia Super Competition and as such features 10 of the best teams in the country.

The invited teams are; Persija, Arema, Persib, Persipura, Mitar Kukar, Sriwijaya, Bali United, the winners of the Kaltim Governor's Cup, PS TNI and PS Polri. The latter two are the army and police sides respectively.

Interesting development for watchers of Indonesian politics. Football gets banned by FIFA 'cos of competitions organised by military and police...


Foreign Legion Keep Felda United's Perfect Record

Malaysia Super League

Sarawak v Felda United 1-2 (Junior Aparecido; Zah Raham, Francis Forkey Doe) 6,123

Two games into the new season and we have surprise leaders with Felda United the only team to have a 100% record though they needed a late win from Doe to secure the points. The one time Liberian international has been scoring goals for fun since arriving in Malaysia in 2012. Felda United are his fifth club in as many years, Terengganu, Selangor, Kelantan, Negeri Sembilan. Fellow Liberian Zah Rahan hit his second of the season.

T Team v Johor Darul Tazim 0-2 (Azamuddin Akil, Pereya Diaz) 2,126

Indonesian coach Rahmad Darmawan awaits his first win in Malaysia after seeing his T Team go down against the champions. I did read somewhere T  Team were to be rebranded Terangganu FC II so people would treat them as equals of Terengganu though muggins old me fails to see how any team with II in the title can be anything but a second rate version of the first. Ironically JDT started this particular ball rolling. Perhaps just give them a new name altogether?

Penang v Pahang 4-1 (Faiz Subri 2, Mathias Cordoba, Osas Saha Marvelous; Rizua Shafiqi) 4,704

A disappointing crowd witnessed a fine performance from newly promoted Penang as they put Pahang to the sword. The marvelously named Osas spent a number of years playing on the other side of the Melaka Strait for teams like PSAP, PSMS and Semen Padang among others and he played his part for his new club, netting his first of the season. All eyes though were on an outrageous free kick by Faiz Subri which quickly went viral. As for Pahang...pre season they lost a number of players who had been at  the heart of their recent successes, Damion Stewart, Ruben Conti, Dickson Nwakaeme and have been struggling under new coach Ahmad Shahruddin Rosdi. Still, early days and if anyone knows a thing or two about Pahang it is Rosdi, formerly a player and assistant coach with the football club.

Perak v Selangor 0-1 (Ronaldhino Wleh) 17,300

After prolific spells with Sime Darby and PKNS you cannot say Liberian striker Wleh has not deserved his chance at a truly big club and he repaid some of that trust last night with the only goal of the game.

Kelantan v PDRM 1-0 (Dramane Traore) 13,253

First win of the season for Kelantan...luckily no one seems to be calling them by their sponsors name. That was so convoluted I have already forgotten it.

Malaysia Premier League

Sime Darby v ATM 3-0 (Syed Sobri, Faizal Aziz, Mateo Roskam)

Oh dear...another heavy defeat for ATM. Could be a long season for them...
Syed Sobri Syed Mohamad in the 55th minute, Faizal Aziz (57th minute) and Mateo Roskam - See more at:
Syed Sobri Syed Mohamad in the 55th minute, Faizal Aziz (57th minute) and Mateo Roskam - See more at:

Tuesday, February 16, 2016


Geylang Crash Pennant's Stag Do

Can there have been stronger benches in recent years in the SLeague? The East Coast Derby may have been played on the west coast, a minor accident of geographical oversight by the FA who haven't quite grasped the community potential of football clubs, but just take a gander at the Tampines bench last night:

Joey Sim, Afiq Yunos, Mustafic Fahrudin, Christopher van Huizen, Jermaine Pennant, Fabian Kwok.

Mind you the Geylang bench wasn't particularly short on quality with Indra Daud Sahdan, Gabriel Quak and Stanley Ng awaiting their turn.

All eyes though were on Jermaine Pennant as perhaps the biggest foreign player to hit Singapore in years was expected to get a run out at some stage. And the fans turned out in numbers with one breathless reporting tweeting fans were even seen queuing up to get in! As it happens Pennant started in the dug out but nearly 3,000 (is that 3,000 ticket buying fans or FAS type fans including freebies, press and stewards?) supporters went home, hopefully, giddy with excitement at having seen a thoroughly competitive game between two ambitious teams keen to change perceptions of the local league.

It was advantage Tampines as first Jordan Webb and then Billy Mehmet marked their Stags debuts with first half goals. Who needed Pennant? However Geylang have also recruited smartly over the pre season, looking to build on a fine end to last season's campaign and they pulled one back through another highly rated youngster, Amy Recha on 35 minutes.

Argentinian striker Carlos Delgado levelled for the visitors on 55 minutes and Stanley Ng, on as a first half sub for Sahil Suhaimi made it 3-2 with just 11 minutes on the clock.

The home fans, I say home fans, I wonder how many needed telling what colour shiirt Tampines were wearing, went wild when Pennant was introduced in response to Delgado's effort but instead of providing his new team mates with an immediate boost Noh Rahman grabbed the headlines for the wrong reasons, receiving a red card.

Yasir Hanapi equalised for the Stags with just four minutes on the clock but three minutes later he was on the wrong end of a red card meaning Tampines had to end the game down to nine men but they held out for a point after a frantic game.

Seven yellow cards, six goals, two red cards. Certainly an exciting game, let's just hope all the SLeague clubs can build on the momentum and hype the Pennant signing has created and let's hope fans queuing to buy tickets to watch games catches on.


King Raja Top Of The Pile In Malaysia's Premier League

UiTM are one of those Malaysian sides that seem to operate below the radar. Nominally a university side based in Shah Alam but surely only the most optimistic of fans would suggest the odd game against Selangor would count as a local derby.

This season has seen Raja Isa take the reigns though you wouldn't know it by looking at the club website. There are times wikipedia is more current than 'official' media and this appears to be one of them.

They began their campaign with a 4-1 victory over Sabah with new signing Pavel Purishkin netting a hat trick on his debut and last night followed it up a narrow 1-0 victory away to Perlis with Purishkin making it four in his first two games for the Students. Perlis of course had mullered ATM 6-1 in their opening game with all the goals coming in a first half blitz.

As mentioned before, Raja Isa is one of four ex Persipura coaches to be working in Malaysia this season (Jacksen F Tiago, Rahmad Darmawan and Irfan Bhakti are the others) and he has also coached PSM, Persiram, PSMS and Persijap in Indonesia before, finally, taking over his first Malaysian side at the start of the current season. And now he is sitting pretty at the top of the table and unbeaten!

In other games Sabah made it two defeats from their opening two games as they lost 4-1 away to Kuantan with ex UiTM striker Dao Bakary scoring two.

Negeri Sembilan, coached by Aussie Gary Smith, picked up three points after they defeated DRB Hicom on Tanjung Malim and they did it the hard way, coming from 1-0 down to claim the three points with three goals in the last ten minutes. Ex Melbourne Victory striker Andrew Nabbout scored from the spot on 80 minutes before fellow Aussie Joel Chianese made it 2-1 four minutes later. There was still time for Englishman Alex Smith to make it 3-1 and finish off a remarkable recovery for the visitors.

Smith, by the way, maybe English but has spent his career playing overseas in places like USA, Canada, New Zealand and most latterly Australia.

Paolo Rangel playing for Johor Darul Tazim II? And odd one for sure but there he was last night getting subbed just shy of the hour mark as the sister club of the Super League champions lost 1-0 to Kuala Lumpur in Selayang. The side from the capital share top spot with UiTM but are second by dint of their goal difference. JDT II are one of four clubs, Sabah, ATM and PKNS without any points on the board.

In the remaining game 13,000 fans filled the Hang Jebat Stadium in Melaka to see local heroes Melaka United overcome 2-1. Ex Persib striker Ilija Spasojevic failed to get on the score sheet and was yellow carded on 65 minutes.

Monday, February 15, 2016


Jaffer Saves Warriors' Blushes In Uniform Derby

10 years ago when I started Jakarta Casual there was no bigger game in Singapore than the Uniform Derby. The clash brought together SAFFC, now of course known as Warriors, and Home United. On the one hand a club with its traditions formed in the armed forces and on the other the civil defence forces; the old bill, fireman sam and his cronies.

These days, with the exception perhaps of 2014 when Warriors were crowned champions, it has become just another SLeague game with Home United especially failing to recapture their days of past glory save for the odd Singapore Cup triumph.

Warriors reacted to a feeble title defence by replacing Alex Weaver initially with Karim Bencherifa but on the eve of the new campaign he was out of a job and in came Jorg Steinbrunner to take the reigns for the season.

There is some optimism surrounding Home for the season ahead but much of it surrounds the two sons of Fandi Ahmad, Irfan and Ikhsan and while they have both shown flashes of their potential they can not be expected to carry the team. For that coach Philippe Aw will be looking to 24 year old Khairul Nizram to stay injury free and finally deliver on the potential he showed back in his Young Lions days.

And it was Nizam who drew first blood last night for the Protectors, netting on the 18th minute at Bishan Stadium. Jonathon Behe, a French striker once of BEC Tero, equalised from the spot on 35 minutes and the two sides went in level at half time.

The pacy defender Sirina Camera made it 2-1 to Home United just five minutes from the end but any hopes Aw may have held for a win in the first game of the season were dashed when substitute Fazli Jaffer netted a last minute equaliser to send the Warriors fans at least home happy at a point salvaged at the death. The only dark cloud on the Warriors performance perhaps was the late red card for Madhu Mohana.

In the other SLeague game last night Young Lions, proud holders of a record SLeague sponsorship deal, defeated Balestier Khalsa 1-0 with Fareez Farhan scoring the only goal halfway through the first half.

Tonight sees big spenders Tampines Rovers take on Geylang International in the East Coast Derby which will be played in West Jurong. It makes sense in Singapore. Early reports suggest Jermaine Pennant will be on the bench as he recovers from injury. The Stags of course have already played one game, losing 3-1 to Mohan Bagun in the ACL Play Offs.

Sunday, February 14, 2016


Results 14/02

Malaysia Super League

Pahang v T Team 2-2 (Dalipor Volas, German Ezequiel; Mohammed Sapawi, Izzaq Faris) 9,912

An eventful game in Kuwantan which saw Rahmad Darmawan, formerly coach of Persipura, Sriwijaya and Persija among others, send out a team in Malaysia for the first time and it was nearly a perfect debut for the Indonesian coach. Only Ezequiel's last minute goal saving the home side's blushes.

Terengganu v Penang 1-0 (Gustavo Lopes) 15,700

Further up the east coast and Penang were making a welcome return to the top flight under the tutelage of another former Persipura coach, Jacksen F Tiago. Unfortunately it was a baptism of fire with the home side edging it with a first half effort from Gustavo Lopes, a familiar name to fans of Arema and Persela.

Felda United v Kedah 2-0 (Lutfulla Tuarev, Zah Rahan) 8,510

The Persipura connection shows no signing of ebbing as Felda United, playing in their new stadium, under Irfan Bakti, a one time coach of the Black Pearls, saw two second half goals overcome Kedah with Liberian international, and former Persipura of course, Zah Rahan netting the second and deciding goal of the encounter.

PDRM v Sarawak 1-0 (Ashfaq Ali) 750

A disappointing crowd in Melaka welcomed the Cops for their first game of the season with Maldives international striker Ashfaq scoring the only goal of the game with 13 minutes remaining.

Perak v Kelantan 0-0 21,000

All of Kelantan's headlines had been off the field in recent weeks and it seems not a whole lot happened on it first game of the season as they held hosts Perak to a blank tie in front of a large crowd in Ipoh. Ok so he never played for Persipura but Eric Weeks Lewis did make his debut for Perak and he of course had a productive few years with neighbours Persiwa.

Johor Darul Tazim v Selangor 1-1 (Hariss Harun; Hafiz Kamal)

In the traditional opener JDT lifted the first trophy of the season defeating Selangor on penalties in front of a large crowd at  the Larkin Stadium.


Albirex Niigata v DPMM 3-2 (Mikiya Yamada, Hiroyoshi Kamata, Kento Fujihara; OG, Azwan Rahman)

One Japanese side, one Brunei side, four Japanese goalscorers, one Brunei goalscorer, one Japanese coach, one English coach. At least the match officials and the venue were Singaporean. Fortunately the SLeague proper returns and for all the multi culture evident in this game nope, there was no Persipura connection!


Al Salmiya Come From Behind To Share Top Spot

For a few minutes under the setting sun at Thamer Stadium yesterday evening it looked like Al Salmiya's title challenge was also fading as well. Last time out they had let slip a two goal lead at home to Al Sulaibikhet and now, against struggling Al Yarmouk they had conceded an early goal. They may be sitting 12th in the 13th team league, it is not only Singapore that has an odd number of clubs competing in the top flight, but they were pressing well as a unit and knocking the  ball around well, looking especially lively on the break.

They were also not averse to flying in with the challenges and for a spell there in the first 45 minutes Al Salmiya were looking uncertain and that anxiety spread to the fans in the stand who resorted to yelling abuse at the ref at the visitor's perceived rough house tactics.

However a scrambled goal at the end of the first half helped lift some of the home side's despair and second half Al Salmiya came out rejuvenated. They needed to. Results elsewhere meant they needed three points to keep pace at the top of the table after Qadsia had won Al Classico 2-0 at Al Arabi and Kuwait SC had defeated Al Jahra 3-0.

Two goals in two minutes, the second a sumptuous effort from the corner of the penalty area, ensured normal service was resumed and while Al Yarmouk still caused problems on the break it was the home side who were in the ascendancy and the fourth goal when it came was not a surprise. Al Salmiya finishing the game 4-1 victors and returning to the top of the Kuwait Premier League with Qadsia.

1 - Qadsia 16 13 2 1 50-9 41
2 - Al Salmiya 16 3 2 1 41-13 41
3 - Kuwait SC 15 12 2 1 36-9 38

Friday, February 12, 2016


Cash Dries Up For Malaysia's ATM

It wasn't that long ago when people were calling ATM the Manchester City of Malaysian football as cash flowed into the football club. And sure as bears defecate in areas with many trees, when a football club does get its hand on dollops of cash with no business plan there will be people queuing up to stop that money burning a hole in the club's bank account.

The money went as easily as it came and 2015 was nothing short of a disaster as ATM saw themselves relegated after just three years in the top flight with talk of players salaries going unpaid.

Winning the Premier League and finishing runners up in the Malaysia Cup, when they lost 3-2 to Kelantan in extra time, was as good as it was going to be for the Armed Forces team and ahead of the 2016 season ambitions are much lower.

The foreign players, the likes of Jerry Palacious and Mario Karlovic, have moved on as have many of the experienced local pros leaving coach Azuan Zain, just a week into the job, to make do with a relatively inexperienced local side made up of military men.

The season didn't begin too well. They lost 6-1 away to ambitious Perlis, newly promoted from the FAM League and with a new gaffer of their own in place...Malaysian legend Dollah Salleh. Still, at least Azuan doesn't have to worry about getting back in the top flight at the first attempt. ATMs target is to stay out of the bottom two and  avoid successive relegations.


This Train Is Bound For The SLeague

I have been critical of the SLeague administration and marketing for so long it has become my default mode. The babble of business school speak has just become background noise hiding the lack of any meaningful deeds when it comes to promoting local football to a football mad populace.

All that now it seems must end. One announcement has turned on its head the whole notion of suits in an ivory tower playing chunes on their iphones while the game of football slowly dies an ignoble death amid a plethora of replica shirts and whiney letters to the local paper.

To quote the official, relatively jargon free blurb...

The S. League and SMRT Commercial today announced a landmark partnership to promote Singapore's only professional sports league.
This unique collaboration will bring Singapore football and clubs closer to over two million passengers across the SMRT transport network – in formats such as S. League concept trains, video contents showing goals and highlights on the screens, as well as localised club advertisements in strategic MRT stations.

Like, bloody hell. This takes the SLeague from near famine to near feast in one fail swoop when it comes to spreading the word. Yes, the TNP gives the local game good coverage as does increasingly 442 but they are speaking to the gallery. Now, with SMRT as a partner people will be getting to know a bit more about their local club...surely the first step to building a local pride in the local side.

Yes we have the internet, Singapore Pools etc but fixture information does take some tracking down for the uninitiated. Now commuters will roll up at their local station in the morning and will be greeted with the latest news and views from their local club and, crucially, when their next game will be. There can be no excuse for not knowing when a game will be played because the news will be there, right in front of their eyes.

The arrival of ex Arsenal and Liverpool winger Jermaine Pennant at Tampines Rovers was an event of tsunami proportions on the local football scene. This move now to promote the game to a wider audience is a good step forward in building on that momentum and hopefully more will be done, especially by the clubs, to build on this increased awareness in their area.

The SLeague kicks off tomorrow with champions DPMM meeting Singapore Cup winners Albirex Niigata in the traditional season opener...a reminder the last campaign saw a clean sweep of the trophies by foreign sides. The likes of Tampines Rovers, Warriors and Geylang International have responded with some canny signings of their own and now with a visible, and hopefully viable, marketing programme in place hopefully fans can rediscover their local side and bring a bit of passion to the terraces from Hougang to Jurong via Toa Payoh and Jalan Besar.


Qadsia Looking To Extend Lead In Kuwait's Al Classico

As the Kuwait Branch of the Rochdale Supporters Club called it, today sees Kuwait's very own Al Classico. Al Arabia hosting Qadsia in Mansouriya, a game with two clubs big on tradition and also pretty close neigbhours, just a few stops on the number 15 bus separating the rivals.

The early days of football in the state saw Al Arabi most definitely rule the roost winning the title in six of the first seven seasons from 1961/62. Qadsia weren't to lift their first title until 1968/69 by which time Kuwait SC were also becoming a force to reckon with. In recent years Al Arabi have been somewhat starved of success with their last title success coming back in 2001/02 while Kuwait SC (5 successes) and Qadsia (8) have exerted their own private cartel on the Premier League.

For all their lack of success my impression is Al Arabi remain a more popular club than Kuwait SC but it is Qadsia the locals talk about with pride. Even so the history books show both have 16 titles to their name while Kuwait SC have 12 including last seasons.

The corresponding game towards the end of last season saw both sides with title ambitions and a large crowd started milling around the stadium hours before the kick off, fans in Al Arabi's green and white on that occasion at least outnumbering their yellow neighbours for a short while at least. More than 20,000 saw both sides cancel each other out with local pride trumping any meaningful title title and Kuwait SC were able to take advantage of the stalemate to go on and lift the title a couple of weeks later.

In the Emir Cup the gap is narrower with Qadsia boasting 16 victories against Al Arabi's 15 while Qadsia have eight Crown Prince Cups to their name against Al Arabi's seven.

The head to heads between the two sides are dominated by Qadsia who boast something like 82 victories from their 180 meetings over the years. In fact the only competition where Al Arabi have the upper hand is the AFC Cup with three success from their three meetings over the years.

This season saw the two sides play out an exciting 2-2 draw in Hawally in front of a reasonably large and appreciative crowd and the hopes are high for more of the same though perhaps with a larger crowd as Qadsia are expected to take a fair few with them as they seek to expand the gap between the two sides to 10 points.

Adding to the atmosphere will the sight of Congolese Doris Fuakumputu lining up for the Mansouriya side having made the switch during the recent transfer window and he certainly impressed the Al Arabi support last weekend, coming off to a standing ovation in the second half of their game against Al Sahel having played a bit deeper than he had for Qadsia.

This evening's game has all the makings of a classic in its own right and while it not make many headlines outside of Kuwait's borders for a couple of hours at least interest in the Spanish, French, Italian and English giants will be put on hold as Kuwait hosts its very own Al Classico.

Thursday, February 11, 2016


Al Salmiya Hoping For Three Points In Tight Title Race

I don't know if there is an Arabic equivalent for setting a cat among the pigeons but surely that is the effect of Al Sulaibikhat's surprise 2-2 draw against leaders Al Salmiya last weekend. Nominally an away game for the mid table side, the game was shifted to Salmiya's Tamer Stadium and they took full advantage, racing into a 2-0 lead over their 'hosts' with first half goals from Mohammed Swedan and Odai Al Saify and surely they were set fair for a fifth consecutive victory.

But Al Sulaibikhat refused to roll over and played dead and played with a stubborness that should not have surprised their high flying hosts. I had seen them limit Qadsia to a 1-0 victory earlier in the season on an evening when we had gone along expecting a goal feast but left marvelling at the unfancied side's determination and organisation.

So it was in Salmiya with a penalty from Abdullah Kolibali and an injury time equaliser from Abdulla Al Awadi depriving the team in sky blue a quick return to the top of the Kuwait Premier League.

The other challenging sides had emerged triumphant from their games with Kuwait SC, 2015 KPL Champions, narrowly overcoming Al Nasr 2-1 with a brace from Hamza Dardour while Qadsia defeated Al Yarmouk 2-0. With Al Arabi defeating Al Sahel 5-2 at home, and having two goals chalked off, the table has a familiar look about it going into this weekend's fixtures.

1 - Qadsia 15 12 2 1 48-9 38
2 - Al Salmiya 15 12 2 1 37-12 38
3 - Kuwait SC 14 11 2 1 33-9 35
4 - Al Arabi 15 9 4 2 39-15 31

This week sees Al Arabi, with five straight wins under their belt, hosting leaders Qadsia at their Mansouriya arena and while the crowd may not reach last season's sell out when both were still challenging for the title there should still be a healthy turn out and if the match is anything like the 2-2 draw when they first met earlier in the season it promises to be a cracker.

To add spice to the game it will be an early opportunity for recent Al Arabi signing Doris  Fuakumputu to come up against his old club.

Champions Kuwait SC host Al Jahra this evening. This season has not reached the heights of their last campaign for the out of town side when they finished fourth. They recently got thumped 10-0 by Qadsia and have been forced to play their home games elsewhere as punishment for incidents at an earlier home game that saw match officials attacked.

Al Salmiya have surprised many by keeping their title challenge going so long, a bit like Leicester City but without the clappers, and they will be hoping the lost points last time out will prove to be a mere blip on their campaign as they entertain Al Yarmouk on Saturday night.


Kelantan's New Shirt Goes Beyond The Pale

For decades Kelantan were nothing more than also rans in Malaysian football. For all their potential in Kota Bahru and their vast state neighbouring Thailand they had made little impact on the football conciousness and it wasn't until the 21st century that they started making ripples.

In 2000 they lifted their first honour, the second tier title but it wasn't until nine years later they started turning those ripples into something stronger. 2009 saw them compete in the top flight for the first time in their history and they finished runners up in the FA Cup and the Malaysia Cup.

Twelve months later and they lifted the Malaysia Cup for the first time in their history and suddenly Kelantan was on the football map. In 2011 they won the Malaysian Super League for the first time and a year later won all three trophies as well as reaching the Quarter Finals of the AFC Cup. The glory days didn't last for ever though as the likes of Johor Darul Tazim and Pahang responded to the challenge thrown down by the noisy north easterners with more cash and, just as important, more professionalism. There was a runners up in last season's FA Cup Final but that was set against a backdrop of a relegation battle and allegations of players and coaches going unpaid as the club patently failed to build on its glory years.

And here we are hours before the 2016 season kicks off yet already Kelantan have been making the headlines for all the wrong reasons.

The blunders started last month when club president Tan Sri Datuk Seri Panglima Haji Annuar Musa (the first five words are titles he has acquired) announced on his Facebook page new signings the club had made.

'It seems that the search for three foreign players has reached it’s target. Research after research was conducted to fit the needs of K. Devan. 2 strikers, 1 midfielder… BLACK-WHITE-WHITE… 6’1″-6’2″-6’3″… 33th-27th-22th…it’s quite expensive..hopefully they are able to be in Kota Bharu before the 25th, to be introduced to the fans' (translation from the original comes from Fourth Official)

Now he probably felt he was being quite helpful and jumping the gun by showing how active the club had been in he transfer market but while he did not disclose the players' names he was happy to reveal the position they played, their skin colour, their height and their ages. Yeap, their skin colour. You read that bit right.

Unfortunately race continues to play an important role in Malaysian political life, with the Kelantan president once telling a rally it was ok to be racist, despite FIFA's stance on the issue,and according the Fourth Official there was little reaction to Annuar's colour coded news but he did later remove the post.

As if that was not enough we now have a rebranded Kelantan, known for sponsorship purposes as  Pamoga Qu Puteh The Red Warriors, yeap, give me a P, back in the news days ahead of their opening game of the season away to Perak with the owner of their new sponsor extolling the virtues of the clubs new shirt.

Hazmiza Othman is the lady behind the new sponsorship deal and she has been keen to big up her company as you would expect. And as you would expect in these increasingly corporate times a football shirt is no longer something you wear when you kick a ball around. It has gone from sports wear to fashion to, in Kelantan's case, a skin whitener!

'The thread of the jerseys is created using the latest technology and the shirts are manufactured in three countries – China, Thailand and Vietnam.
'The jerseys are capable of absorbing sweat and can whiten skin. I’m a visionary and when I do something, I make sure it benefits everyone
'The subsequent drying of the absorbed sweat will whiten the wearers’ skin, as if the person had just stepped out of a sauna.  

'I have been wanting to implement the technology behind this jersey in my beauty products for some time now. But now that I have to design football jerseys, I thought I might as well marry the two.' (translation comes from here)

From a marketing point of view of course it is brilliant. I had never heard of her before and a mention on this here blog will ensure at least five other people will have at least come across her name for a first time. But a skin whitener? I know there is an unhealthy obsession with such products in this part of the world and I know football does need outside sponsorship but isn't a shirt that claims to make skin whiter just a bit beyond the pale?

I wonder how one time Mali international Dramane Traore feels going into his debut season in the North East of Malaysia?

Wednesday, February 10, 2016


Choirul Huda - Lamongan Legend

Indonesian football is a fickle mistress. Players rarely spend more than a season or two with the same club...given the current turmoil some are appearing for three or four in a short period of time. So when one player has played for the same club since 1999 that is surely worthy of recognition.

In other countries yes. Just look at the fuss and carry on recently when it was announced John Terry would leave Chelsea. Or the build up to Steven Gerrard's departure from Liverpool. Every time it happens we are told we will never see the like of him again but of course we do though perhaps not as frequently in days of yore.

But in Indonesia it just doesn't happen. And that is what makes Choirul Huda so special. He was born in Lamongan, East Java in 1979 and has been with his local side since 1999. He even seems to have another job in the city. You get the impression he gets jet lag just leaving the city limits so attached is he to his home town.

I once described Persela as Middlesbrough on this blog. Always there with a passionate local support but never really achieving much. They have a reputation for being a well run if not spectacular football club with every game at their compact Surajaya Stadium a near sell out. Players like Marcio Souza spent a number of seasons with a club while current Tampines Rovers skipper Mustafic Fahrudin still enthuses about his season in East Java.

Huda typifies Persela. Loyal, efficient and consistent without ever attracting the headlines he perhaps deserves. It's not as if Lamongan is a backwater of any kind. It is about an hour from Surabaya but while Indonesia's second city and nearby Malang attract the headlines and the glamour Lamongan seems to waft along at its own serene pace.

It is perhaps this lack of intensity which has seen Huda overlooked when it comes to the national team. There was a call up a couple of years back but by then he was in his mid 30s and was more like an embarrassed 'oh yeah, Choirul, let's give him a call' rather than any recognition of his consistency.

Indonesian Chelsea fans were blubbing into their teh botol when it was announced John Terry could be leaving. Man U fans wailed themselves senseless when Sir Alex Ferguson left. But when Choirul Huda finally hangs up his gloves you can be sure there will be no ripples outside of Lamongan. And maybe that is the way he wants it. Quiet, unassuming. But that is to do him  a disservice. His 17 years at one club deserves recognition and god knows Indonesian football needs some good news these days.

I hope someone, somewhere can see fit to give him the recognition and credit he deserves.


Tampines Rovers - SLeague's Glamour Club?

One thing the SLeague has failed to do over recent years has been to market itself. It seems those at the very top have next to no idea how to sell the most popular game in the world to people in their very own backyard. Given such inertia perhaps it is time the clubs took up the mantle and heading into 2016 season perhaps Tampines Rovers are the side best equipped to do so.

It all starts with the coach. Sundram Moorthy is a familiar name to most if not all fans of Singapore football, both as a player and a coach. He played during a time which many old fogies consider to be the Lions' golden age, 1994, and even had a short spell in Switzerland with FC Basel. Before joining the Stags in 2014 he coached in Malaysia and has also worked with Young Lions and LionsXII, further burnishing his impeccable qualifications.

At the back Tampines will have a certain Izwan Mahbud. After a stellar 2015 which included almost single handedly earning Singapore a point in a World Cup Qualifier against Japan and impressing for LionsXII in Malaysia there was much talk of this exciting goalkeeper heading to the Land of the Rising Sun where in fact he did have trials. Alas and alack it was not to be and Tampines swooped to sign him up for the coming season.

One player who has been around donkeys years is Mustafic Fahrudin. The move from midfield into a more defensively role seems to have added a couple of years to his career and he has even been spotted adding his name to the score sheet more often in recent seasons. With so many young recruits coming in this season from LionsXII bringing their own wealth of experience, Mustafic will be seen as a wise old head, slowing the game down when needs must.

Up front can there be a finer front four than Jermaine Pennant, Fazrul Nawaz, Jordan Webb and Billy Mehmet? It may take time for them to bed in but what football fan cannot be drooling at the prospect of seeing them in action and how Sundram uses them will be followed with interest. Fazrul of course overcame the disappointment of seeing his move to Sabah fall apart last year by joining the Warriors and becoming their top scorer while Jordan Webb impressed as an overage player at Young Lions and surely deserves his chance at one of the country's bigger clubs.

One name missing from the squad though is Noh Alam Shah who retired at the end of last season, saying he had lost the desire to train and play anymore. Hopefully though he is  not totally lost to the game and the club can see a role for him going forward, perhaps as an ambassador? 

Throw into the mix the likes of Shahdan Sulaiman, Fabian Kwok and Christoper van Huizen and who can't be drooling at the prospect of catching Sundram's Stags at some stage during the season? All it needs for the club, still playing on the opposite side of the island to their home base, to get out there and connect with people. And with their star filled squad they are surely well equipped to do just that.


Malaysia FA Cup Draw

 I do enjoy the Malaysian FA Cup, especially the early rounds. It has the look and feel of a Cup competition with a mixture of banana skins, romance and big team ties adding to the aroma. UKM v Kelantan for starters! Or Malaysia Super League champions and AFC Cup winners JDT taking on UiTM, now coached by former Persipura gaffer Raja Isa. And what about Air Asia v Selangor?

Another ex Persipura coach, Rahmad Darmawan, will get his first taste of cup football in Malaysia when he takes his T Team south to take on Pahang while a third one time Persipura coach, Jacksen F Tiago will know his Penang side face a tricky tie at Kuantan. Oh yes, great fun...

UPDATE - another ex Persipura coach Irfan Bakti will be pitting his Felda United side  against Ipoh! That is four coaches who have worked with the Black Pearls...a pretty remarkable statistic!

19 February 

UKM v Kelantan
DRB Hicom v PDRM
UiTM v Johor Darul Tazim
Perlis v Felcra
PKNS v Terengganu
Air Asia v Selangor
Sime Darby v JDT II
Pahang v T Team
Kedah v Mega Murni/MISC

20 February 

Sungai Ara v Negeri Sembilan
Sabah v MOF FC
Perak v Sarawak
Kuantan v Penang
Kuala Lumpur v Malacca United
Felda United v Ipoh
Shahzan Muda v ATM


Bali Island Cup 2016


Bali United v Arema
PSS v Persib


PSS v Arema
Bali United v Persib


Bali United v PSS
Arema v Persib

This could be worth making an effort for, especially if fans travel in large numbers.


ASEAN Clubs Lose Out In ACL Qualifiers

Tonight has not been the best night for ASEAN clubs in the AFC Champions League. The three representatives all went out conceding 15 goals without causing the opponent keeper to pick the ball out of his own net.

Pohang Steelers v Ha Noi T&T 3-0
Tokyo FC v Chonburi 9-0
Shanghai SIPG v Muang Thong United 3-0

Tampines Rovers, Yangon United, Johor Darul Tazim never got this far!

It's not fair really, is it? I mean poor Ha Noi, Chonburi and Muang Thong were forced to play away from home and so had to face long travel times, dodgy food and people speaking funny languages. When they played at home, as they did in the previous qualifying round, they won. Go away and they lose. It's simple the interests of fairness ASEAN teams must not play games away from home.

Buriram United and Binh Duong of course do remain in the ACL without having to go through the rigmorale of a lengthy qualifying process and the Thais at least will be hoping they can take their fine form on the road when they travel to Sanfreece Hiroshima, FC Seoul and Shandong Luneng. At least they are developing some kind of ACL pedigree...last season they more than held their own, finishing level on points with Gamba Osaka and Seongnam before going out because of one of them new rules that weren't invented when I used to buy football annuals.

Binh Duong struggled last year, their second season in t he ACL, finishing bottom but picking up a credible win over Kashiwa Reysol, and drawing with Jeonbuk Hyundai. However this time around they have been drawn alongside perhaps the best known Chinese club in the world, Jiangsu Suning. Coached by Dan Petrescu, formerly of Sheffield Wednesday and some south west London side that play in blue, the club from Nianjing made headlines when they signed Brazilians Ramires, Jo and Alex Teixiera for large sums. They probably have a few well known local players in their ranks but they won't attract hits so you won't be hearing much about them.

Jeonbuk Hyundai and FC Tokyo complete Binh Duong's group.

What's that you say? Indonesia? Very funny...

Tuesday, February 09, 2016


Back Among Friends

It may have no functioning league and it may still be suspended by FIFA but Indonesian football, defying logic, continues to extend a mystic that attracts and embraces people.

With no end in sight to the suspension and no sign the Indonesia Super League will return any time soon two of the biggest clubs in the country, Persib and Arema, have appointed familiar names as coach for whatever may lie ahead.

Milomir Seslija has returned to Arema. I say returned. He had a stint with the IPL version back in 2011 in what was then the rebel league. The former Kuala Lumpur and Sabah defender also played for Sembawang Rangers in Singapore before hanging up his boots and turning to coaching.

Dejan Antonic's name was widely tipped as national team coach ahead of the FIFA suspension. he had impressed many in his time with Pelita Bandung Raya, turning the unfashionable club into an attractive side, easy on the eye and a thorn in the side of the more traditional powers in the ISL.

Antonic is no stranger to Indonesia as a player either. In the mid 1990s he played for Persebaya, Persita and Persema before heading to Hong Kong where he finished his career as a player before taking up coaching.

He followed in Seslija's footsteps in Malang for a short spell in 2012/13 before heading to Pro Duta. He signed up with PBR the same year and helped mould a team around the talents of Bambang Pamungkas, Kim Kurniawan and David Laly as well as promoting young Indonesian players like Rachmad Hidayat and Ghozali Siregar who he had worked with at Pro Duta.

At a time when Indonesian football seems to be at the very best standing still it is telling that two such well respected coaches should be pledging their future to the game here. Perhaps they know something we don't!?

Sunday, February 07, 2016


Mehmet Joins Tampines' Stag Do

While Jermaine Pennant's signature on a Tampines Rovers contract has quite rightly attracted the headlines in recent years it is perhaps the acquisition of Billy Mehmet that might prove the more astute piece of business by the Stags as they seek to mount a sustained SLeague title challenge.

Pennant may boast the likes of Arsenal and Liverpool on his resume but is limited in his knowledge of football in Asian. Mehmet on the other hand brings local experience to the table since heading to the region in 2012.

After a productive time in Australia with Perth Glory where he netted an impressive 18 goals in 42 games, the 31 year old striker had short stops with Bangkok Glass and Dempo before enjoying two productive seasons in Malaysia with Kedah (23 goals in 26 games) and Sarawak (15 in 25).

As well as Pennant, Mehmet joins Fazrul Nawaz and Jordan Webb at Tampines as well as the addition of several members of the LionsXII squad. Let's hope that investment pays off with fans turning up at the stadium and getting behind the team for the new season.


Kiko's Five Year Arema Deal

Forget all those players heading to China for hefty transfer fees, have you heard about the Spaniard who has penned a five year deal for an Indonesian club?

Kiko Insa is a 28 year old defender who signed for Arema last year after a colourful career that has seen him play for 12 Spanish teams, plus stints in Belguim, Germany, Iceland, Latvia and Oxford City in the English non-league. And so enamoured has become by the country and the city he has oft declared his love affair with the nation on social media.

It seems the love isn't all one way. Kiko has just signed a five year deal with unheard of notion in a country where typically clubs only offer players season by season deals. And that was when there was a league.

Now of course there isn't so it remains to be seen how Kiko's new contract stands with FIFA and whether Arema have the necessary documents to register the player considering the current suspension.

Kiko has declared he would love to become an Indonesian citizen and play for the national team. He has a long wait before he can reach that particular target and if someone once said a week is a long time in politics, how about half a decade in Indonesian football!

Wednesday, February 03, 2016


ASEAN Football's New Money

When I started Jakarta Casual 10 years and a bit ago there was no such thing as Muang Thong United or Johor Darul Takzim. They existed as Nong Jork and Johor FC and were nonentities on their domestic football maps, just two more clubs in aimless, drifting leagues low on cash and support.

Last night they went head to head in the AFC Champions League Qualifier in Thailand in front of some 11,500 fans including an estimated 200 travelling fans. I think it is fair to say there weren't many at the game last night who could recall the adventures of Nong Jork or Johor FC...if there were they must have been rubbing their eyes in disbelief for their clubs have been on quite a journey.

Cash helps of course. And not just on players. Both have developed or are developing an infrastructure that should allow them to continue to be successful for years to come. As long as their ionvestors don't tire of pumping money into them.

Muang Thong United have the funds of a media company behind them while JDT look to the state royal family for their cash. Both parties are used to getting their own way and both are used to success.

JDT of course lifted the AFC Cup last year, the first ASEAN side to lift the trophy and while Muang Thong have fallen behind Buriram United domestically in recent years, another wealthy investor who only knows success, they have continued to challenge for trophies and make an imprint on Asian club football.

In my cynical moments I look back on the last 10 years and think what a load of old bollocks it has been. Look at Malaysia's national team over the last 18 months, Singapore's struggling league, Indonesia and, um, yeah, Indonesia, while recent bickering in Thailand has seen a powerplay between the clubs and the FA.

Last night's tie however suggests that at least two clubs are getting things right off and on the pitch and in spite of the cack handed folks at their respective FAs. For those two clubs at least the last 10 years have seen massive changes. Their success perhaps can even, as the French say, encourage les autres to raise their game and strong clubs can of course have an impact on their FAs.

In some corners of South East Asia the last 10 years have been pretty stellar...who knows what the nnext 10 years will bring?!

Muang Thong won 3-0 on penalties...

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