Friday, April 22, 2016


From Super League To Soccer Championship

The first season of the Indonesia Super League back in 2008/2009 already has a touch of retro about it. The ISL was supposed to drag domestic football into the 21st century with improved standards on and off the field and an attention to professionalism that had been long absent from the game.

Eighteen teams joined that first season:

Arema, Bontang PKT, Deltras, Pelita Jaya, Persela, Persib, Persiba, Persija, Persijap, Persik, Persipura, Persita, Persitara, Persiwa, PSIS, PSM, PSMS, Sriwijaya.

Consider now the Indonesia Soccer Championship that kicks off at the end of this month and the 18 teams that have entered:

Arema, Bali United, Barito Putera, Gresik United, Madura United, Mitra Kukar, Persela, Perseru, Persib, Persiba, Persija, Persipura, PSM, PS TNI, Pusamania Borneo, Semen Padang, Surabaya United Bhayangkara and Sriwijaya.

The eagle eyed out there will have noticed how few of that original 18 remain at the top table; Arema, Persela, Persib, Persiba, Persija, Persipura and Sriwijaya in fact. Plus Madura United who can trace their roots back to Pelita Jaya.

There is something else. Back in 2008 there were 13 teams which included some form or Persi or Perse, denoting football association, in their name. The ISC has just eight.

No fewer than five of the clubs starting the ISC have come about as a result of mergers and acquisitions in the last three years; six if you include Gresik United whose own identity was forged through Persegres and Petrokimia getting together.

From that debut ISL season a number of clubs will not have a presence in ISC B that kicks off in May. Bontang, Persitara and Persiwa don't seem to exist in any form at the moment beyond entries in Wikipedia and in the collective memory of their support.

Other sides like Persik, PSIS and PSMS who were challenging for honours in the years up to the introduction of the ISL have suffered through a combination of lack of management and cash and are now second tier sides living off their own recent memories of success.

Somethings haven't changed. Boas Solossa and Cristian Gonzales were rattling in the goals then and they are expected to continue to do so this new campaign.

Indonesian football is a movable, fluid construct that has gone through many changes since I started following it 10 years ago. We have gone from Liga Indonesia to ISL to suspension and now, hopefully, the ISC. We have seen a rebel league and a season cancelled after three rounds of fixtures. What will happen next? Buggered if I know but it is fun, isn't it?

I have just one question...where is Boy Jati now?!

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