Monday, April 24, 2017


Bobotoh Don't Do Honeymoons

Michael Essien and Carlton Cole may have pretty impressive playing careers between them but nothing, nothing will have prepared them for life at Persib Bandung. Essien won the Premier League twice at Chelsea, also won the title with Lyon, played for Real Madrid and Milan in his glittering career. Been there, done that. Now he is in Indonesia and to be fair on a personal level his career has started well enough, netting his first goal against PS TNI at the weekend.

Carlton Cole may not have reached the same heights but he hasn't done too badly for himself during his career picking up seven England caps along the way as well as playing for Chelsea and West Ham United. Both maybe north of 30 now and in the twilight of their careers but football never ceases to amaze and for both these players Indonesia will be offering new unlikely new experiences.

Persib haven't started the season badly. Two draws from their opening games isn't necessarily the start of a relegation candidate. But the fans, the Bobotoh, aren't happy and following the 2-2 draw away to PS TNI at the weekend social media went into meltdown. Persib were leading 2-0 thanks to goals from Essien and local hero Atep before the home side scored two late goals to earn the unlikely point.

Fans were quick to blame coach Djadjang Nurdjaman for the late capitulation and #DjanurOut was soon trending on Twitter where Persib have almost three million followers. The supporters blamed the coach, who in 2014 led the team to their first Indonesia Super League title, for his lack of coaching acumen and his decision to replace the exciting debutant Billy Keraf in the second half. Now Keraf himself had only come on in the 36th minute but the decision to replace him after a 38 minute cameo left fans fuming even though the 20 year old was replaced by one time England international Cole with sixteen minutes on the clock and Persib seemingly cruising.

Keraf had been a surprise late addition to the squad for the West Java derby as Djadjang sought to accommodate the absence of a number of players away with the national Under 22 squad but the impact the youngster made had the Bobotoh drooling for more. Seeing their new hero replaced upset them, conceding two late goals raised the hackles even further and it was Djadjang and perhaps unfairly the sub Cole who received much of the flack.

As a local lad who played for the club and later led them to the ISL Djadjang is looked at affectionately by the Persib support but there have long been questions about his coaching and tactics. He won the ISL without possessing an A license, supposedly a must for any coach in Indonesia, and spent the start of 2016 in Italy adding to his education with Inter. Going into the new season many fans were not convinced by the team in their pre season friendlies despite the hype surrounding Cole and Essien and the failure to hold onto a lead against a supposedly weaker PS TNI side has just added to the doubts surrounding the football club.

Persib fans don't do honeymoons. They expect results yesterday and if they aren't forthcoming they expect to read about the changes in the morning. The club itself are more patient. For example while Djadjang was in Italy they appointed the respected Dejan Antonic to guide the first team through the Indonesia Soccer Championship. 

The season didn't start well, drawing 1-1 at home to Sriwijaya and even then they needed an injury time equaliser to save their blushes, Fans were not happy and some even tried to place an advertisement in a local paper criticising the efforts of one particular player. It was an appointment that didn't work and the fans soon turned. The club stuck by their coach until it was clear things weren't going to improve and finally the inevitable happened with Djadjang returning. By the way the player who attracted the negative criticisim at the start of the campaign knuckled down and earned the respect of the fans.

The fixture list has been kind to Persib with two home games and the away trip to Cibinong in their opening three games. But this Saturday Persib come up against Sriwijaya and the Bobotoh will be demanding their first three points of the season. 

Persib have lost two of their last 20 games in all competitions so Cole and Essien may be wondering what all the fuss is about but that means little to the demanding faithful. The last result matters and in their eyes the draw away to PS TNI was as bad as a defeat. Failure to beat Sriwijaya would not be well received on the terraces and leave Djadjang in a perilous position. 

As for the expensive imports; welcome to Persib Bandung.

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