Sunday, December 18, 2016


No Post Mortem But Planning For The Future Must Start Now

So at the end it was just a game to far. Indonesia's journey to the final of the AFF Suzuki Cup 2016 was an achievement in itself. Finally, when that final push was needed, they were unable to come from behind for a third time against the best team in ASEAN and had to make do with a runners up place; for the fifth time. Heartbreak? Perhaps but with honour intact.

The national team fly home to Jakarta and while a heroes welcome may not be awaiting them at Soerkano Hatta Airport the players and the coaching staff deserve a moment or two to bask in the moment of what they did achieve against the odds. This time there may be no post mortem but there certainly needs to be an inquest of sorts in to what the future holds for the national team.

We have been here before. Alfred Riedl's side in 2010 thrilled many in their opening games against Laos and Malaysia before going on to reach the final against Malaysia, ultimately being undone in the 1st leg in Kuala Lumpur. But the arrival of players like Cristian Gonzales, Irfan Bachdim and yes even Okta Maniani, had fans buzzing and rushing to snap up replica shirts. Indonesian football was cool, what could go wrong?

Plenty of course. Within months there were two leagues and a new PSSI claimed they couldn't find Riedl's contract. The years of plenty saw the Garuda slide down the rankings with the ultimate farce coming in 2012 with two national teams preparing for the AFF Suzuki Cup!

Are we likely to see a repetition of t hose years? Who knows. The future is unwritten! However that there will be no Indonesian sides competing in the AFC Cup next year suggests not a whole lot will change when it comes to forward planning.

But it is forward planning that is needed to build on the momentum brought about by those stirring performances against the Thais and Vietnamese especially. Some leadership is needed to work with the Indonesia Super League to make sure FIFA dates are kept free and some quality opponents can be lined up to test this thrilling young squad. And I don't mean games against Malaysia ad infinutum. A decision will also need to be made over the future of Alfred Riedl, either by the man himself or the PSSI. 

Stopping the ISL so the country's young players can take part in the SEA Games is not a good idea. The SEA Games is an age group competition. Fine, stop the Under 21 competition buut there is no reason why the national league should grind to a lengthy halt.

Next year the Thais are playing Japan, Saudi Arabia, UAE and Australia in Asian Qualifiers with a view to get to the AFC Asian Cup and or the World Cup. That is where their lofty ambitions lie. Indonesia, without any such dreams, need to look around for quality opposition among the nations who do think big. They could also do with appointing a coach and letting him get on with his job.

One untold story of Indonesia's success at the AFF Suzuki Cup lies in the young players who spent time playing in Uruguay as part of the SAD project initiated by a previous PSSI head Nurdin Halid. The likes of Abduh Lestaluhu (red carded towards the end of the final in Bangkok), Hansamu Yama, Rudolf Basna, third choice keeper Teja Paku Alam and Manahati Lestusen all had stints in the side that competed in the Uruguayan pyramid and interestingly enough they are all, apart from Teja, defenders!

With the players from SAD and the youngsters who did so well at Under 19 level in recent years there does for once seem to be a nucleus of talent coming through. Of course the PSSI needs to make sure this generation doesn't go the same way as the 1994 lot (including Bima Sakti) who went to Sampdoria. Steps need to be put in place to ensure similar projects are planned and funded. Many may have mocked the Uruguay project but surely the biggest compliment came from Thai coach Zico when he had his players get at the experienced Beny Wahyudi at right back rather than exploit the relative youth and inexperience of Lestalahu on the left.

The future may be bright but the hard work begins now to ensure losing to Thailand isn't the pinnacle of the players' journey but just the first step.

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