Monday, April 04, 2016


Arema Lift Bhayangkara Cup Amid Controversy

Jakarta turned blue yesterday as convoys of Persib and Arema fans converged on the city for the final of the Bhayangkara Cup. The middle class families who normally claim the centre of the capital city their own on Sundays when they head to the malls were forced to cede ownership as hundreds of buses from East and West Java filled the city streets. In the absence of an Indonesia Super League thanks to the ongoing conflict between the PSSI the government and FIFA football has been proceeding in Indonesia under the guise of numerous competitions like Independence Cup, President's Cup, Sudirman Cup, Bali Island Cup and the Kaltim Cup and the fans still believe.

As far as the rest of the world is concerned these competitions, and by extension Indonesian football, don't exist. They are banned by FIFA right? But as far as football fans are concerned it is business as usual. The Bali Island Cup for example saw large numbers of fans from Persija and Arema descend on the island for a week of football. Ask Pusamania fans what it meant to win the Kaltim Cup, their first ever trophy. And yesterday saw more than 70,000 fans fill the Bung Karno Stadium for the final of the latest competition though if you live outside of Indonesia and take your news from the English language media you could be forgiven for thinking nothing happened.

It was a battle between two of the biggest clubs in the country with some of the best players. Keepers Megia Kurnia and I Made Wirwan for example. Naturalised players like Cristian Gonzales, Kim Jeffrey Kurniawan and Raphael Maitimo. Big import players like Vladimir Vujovic and Juan Belencoso. Plus names like Hamka Hamzah, Atep, Samsul Arif and Hariono. In all respects it was the perfect final.

Just a couple of weeks ago Arema coach Milomir Seslija was under fire for letting fan favourite Kiko Insa leave to be replaced by Goran Gancev. The fans weren't happy and neither was Kiko who fired off some unseemly tweets in the direction of his one time coach, gleefully picked up on by the Arema support. A different song is being sung now as Arema celebrate lifting a trophy in the Bung Karno Stadium bringing back memories of their ISL title triumph in 2009/2010. The Bhayangkara Cup may lack the prestige of the ISL of course but tell that to the tens of thousands to headed to Jakarta from all over the country yesterday.

Arema took the lead in the first half through Dutch born Raphael Maitimo. Remember how the world, led by a hysterical English language media, drooled over that goal by Jamie Vardy for England against Germany? That outrageous back flick? Now check out Raphael's goal against Persib yesterday and ask yourself where the headlines are. You could even ask why the local English language media is ignoring the story.

Sunarto, who had only come on as an 81st minute substitute, made it safe for Arema, netting a second to end the jitters and allow the Aremania claim one part of Jakarta as their own for a couple of hours at least.

The game hadn't started well for Persib when they were forced to lose the inspirational Atep early on to an injury and things got worse when Yanto Basna was given a second yellow in the 69th minute. As Arema winger Esteban Vizcarra lay on the ground Yatno kicked a plastic water bottle which seemed to make minimal contact with his head. Of course Vizcarra reacted like he had been hit by a rock and Yatno was told to walk.

After the game Yatno protested his innocence saying he was just moving the water bottle off the pitch. He also went on to say it is a problem with the game in Indonesia, poor match officials.  Maybe, but there is a sense of deflection here. If he just wanted to move the bottle off the pitch why didn't he aim for the nearest touch line and not go for the a line that was further away and had the injured player lying in the way? Ugly scenes followed which included Persib coach Dejan Antonic entering the field of playing and gesticulating wildly at the ref with his own players forced to push him away.

After the game Antonic said his players were a spent force after Yatno had walked but believes the team will be back stronger than ever for the upcoming ISC while Seslija says the result proves Arema are the best team in the country at this moment in time. A big crowd, a pulsating affair, a classy goal and controversy...what more do you want from football?

Arema: Kurnia Meiga; Ryuji Utomo (Junda 81'), Goran Ganchev, Hamka Hamzah, Ahmad Alfarizie; Raphael Maitimo, Hendro Siswanto, Srdjan Lopicic (Sunarto 81'); Dendi Santoso (Antoni 88'), Cristian Gonzales, Esteban Vizcarra.
Persib: I Made Wirawan; Yanto Basna, Purwaka Yudhi, Vladimir Vujovic, Tony Sucipto; Taufiq (Febri 70'), Kim Jeffrey Kurniawan, Hariono; Samsul Arif (David 53'), Juan Belencoso, Atep (Tantan 12').

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