Friday, August 25, 2017


Culling Time Looms Closer For Liga 2

We are now at the business end of the Liga 2 season with perhaps the biggest relegation in the history of football looming. This season's Liga 2 of course started with 61 teams, there are now 59 after Persifa and Pro Duta withdrew, but next season will see just 24 teams competing in the second tier. The teams that don't make the cut will find themselves in next season's Liga 3 while this season's Liga 3 will be next season's Liga 4!

While the likes of PSS, Persebaya, Martapura and PSIS are already planning for the second round a number of teams are contemplating life in Liga 3 next season including a number of sides which traditionally boast a large following.

From Group 1 we have already seen Pro Duta withdraw, they changed their name and their city and are now competing in Liga 3 for this season. Don't ask how, I just can't be bothered to work it out. Persih, who have lost every game they have played this season, have minus 6 points because they never turned up for two games, will not be surprised to find themselves thinking about Liga 3 next season as will PSBL from the northern Sumatran province of Aceh.

Group 2 is looking very tight with Persikabo already relegated but with four teams looking to escape the drop in the last couple of rounds of fixtures separated by four points. With each team facing games home and away it is going to be squeaky bum time for Persikad, Persika, Lampung Sakti and PS Bengkulu

4 - Persika 12 4 4 4 11-12 16
5 - PS Bengkulu 12 4 2 6 11-12 14
6 - Lampung Sakti 12 4 1 7 12-16 13
7 - Persikad 12 3 3 6 12-15 12
8 - Persikabo 12 1 2 9 10-24 5

PSS have walked away with Group 3, they are the only team so far assured of winning their group, and the only question that concerns them will be whether they are joined by PSGC, PSCS or Persibat. We have already seen Persip and Persibangga relegated with Persijap and Persibas looking to avoid the drop. Persijap host Persibat Sunday in a crucial must win game for both teams.

Group 4 has seen hapless Persiba Bantul relegated having scored just three goals in their 12 games. Persipon, PPSM, Sragen United and Persipur face a nervous couple of weeks as they seek to avoid the drop.

Persebaya and Martapura have managed to get promotion from Group 5 leaving the other six sides, including PSIM, fighting to escape the ignominy of relegation. PSBI are already relegated.

Group 6 is wide open with PSMP, Persik, Persewangi and Kalteng Putra harbouring promotions of a play off place. Persida are already down.

Group 7 features teams from five different islands but so far only Persekap's fate has been confirmed, they will be in Liga 3 next season. Everything else remains up in the air.

As for Group 8 featuring the teams from the eastern most part of the country their games were played in Sidoarjo. Persibuol had no points from their opening seven games which suggests they have a bit of a mountain to climb if they want to stay in Liga 2 next season.

The tension is already palpable among players and supporters at Liga 2 clubs with ill discipline and instances of crowd misbehaviour and there are likely to be more in the last couple of weeks as the reality dawns. Expect some interesting happenings!

Wednesday, August 23, 2017


PSMS Away Form Allows Rivals To Catch Up

Not too long ago I was discussing Liga 2 with a few people and talk soon turned to which teams would be promoted to Liga 1 out of the 16 which would go through to the knock out rounds. The general consensus seemed to be PSMS had one promotion spot sewn up thanks to their blistering start to the campaign which had seen them win their first five games.

Historically PSMS are one of the big names in Indonesian football, six times winners of the Perserikatan, and traditionalists say it is their clash with Persib that is rightly known as the local Classico. However recent years haven't been kind to the football club as they have suffered from ownership issues and dualism. The team that featured the likes of Markus Horison, Saktiawan Sinaga finished runners up in 2007, competing in the AFC Cup in 2009 against the likes of Johor FC and Chonburi. The Malaysian side went on to become Johor Darul Ta'zim while PSMS fell from sight.

Their first hiccup came when they travelled to Pekanbaru to take on PSPS, another big club fallen on hard times but with ambitions to return to the top flight. That game ended 0-0, PSMS dropping points for the first time in the season but keeping a clean sheet for the sixth game on the spin. 

The Medan side returned to winning ways in their next game, defeating Persih 3-0 at home. Rather, the record books show they won. In fact Persih didn't travel to the game and PSMS were awarded the walkover. 

In the four games since the hollow victory over Persih PSMS have struggled to find the consistency that so marked the  beginning of the season. They were held 0-0 away to Kelpri 757 before losing for the first time this season, 2-0 away to Persiraja. A week later PSMS returned to winning ways, defeating PSBL 2-0 on the road but came unstuck in their next away game losing 1-0 to PS Timah (formerly known as PS Bangka).

The eagle eyed will have noticed a pattern. PSMS started the season playing five home games in their opening seven ties giving them the perfect opportunity to build up a good head of steam. Now the Medan team are being forced to play games on the road and they are struggling to replicate that home form in more hostile environments, something many Indonesian teams can identify with.

Today PSMS have the opportunity to get their season back on track when they host PSPS and a look at the table will show you just how important three points are. From a conversation where all assured my PSMS were a shoo in we now see them looking over their shoulder at their rivals. However when push comes to shove I still think they will be there or thereabouts when it comes to Liga 1 next season. After all in Indonesian football sometimes what is most important is not what happens on the pitch.

1 - PSPS 12 7 4 1 22-8 25
2 - PSMS 12 7 2 3 19-6 23
3 - Persiraja 12 6 4 2 19-9 22
4 - PS Bangka 12 6 1 5 18-17 19

There is some good news for PSMS mind. Their last game of the season comes away to Persih, the team that no showed in the middle of last month. The team that are bottom of the group and have conceded 24 goals in their last four games

UPDATE - In a thrilling top of the table clash in Medan it was PSPS who took the points coming from behind to defeat PSMS 3-1. Zulfikar gave the home team the lead on 28 minutes and when the players trooped off at half time it looked like PSMS had refound their mojo. However a second half brace by ex Persija and Persipura midfielder Victor Pae bookending a strike by naturalised striker Herman Dzumafo ensured a surprise victory for the visitors and sees them leapfrog PSMS back to the top of the group with a two point cushion.

With PSPS, PSMS and Persiraja all having played 12 games and just three points separating them these are their remaining fixtures.

26/08 - Persiraja v Kelpri 757
10/09 - Persih v PSMS
10/09 - PS Bangka v PSPS

*Table includes first game played against Pro Duta who have subsequently withdrawn from the league. 

Tuesday, August 15, 2017


Sylvano Hat Trick Crushes Madura But Persipura Still Set Pace

Mitra Kukar v Barito Putera 3-2 (Hendra Bayauw, Marclei Santos, Jorge Gotor; Rizky Pora, Willian Lira) 1,123

An exciting Kalimantan Derby saw Barito Putera lose their third away game in their last four travels despite new import Lira netting a late penalty, his first for the team, to set up a nerve wracking finale. 

Sriwijaya v Semen Padang 0-0 8,125

Sriwijaya have now gone seven games without a loss but you can't help feeling this will be seen as two points dropped especially after they had won away to Borneo last time out. Still, at least they can draw a morsel of comfort from the knowledge they have gone 274 minutes without conceding a goal. As for Semen Padang, a rare away point and they are one point ahead of their Sumatran rivals.

Persija v Persiba 2-0 (Reinaldo, Bruno Lopes) 28,949

Another large crowd at the Patriot Stadium saw Persija return to winning ways following their loss to Barito Putera in the last round. A goal on his debut by Reinaldo in first half injury time set up the home side and Bruno converted from the spot on the hour mark, sixth of the season, to make the points safe. Persiba, without coach Milo on the bench after he walked out on the club earlier in the week, struggled to build on their recent good form and relegation is looming ever closer.

Arema v Persib 0-0 27,610

Arema's first decent home crowd of the season but they were unable to go home with three points against a Persib side also struggling for consistency. The home side gave a debut to Turkmenistan international Ahmet Atayew while Persib put their new striker Ezechiel N'Douassel on the bench for the first 72 minutes. Arema had been challenging the top places just a few weeks back even if they were not performing at their best. How they must pine for those days, they are 10 points off the pace, winless in their last five games and have just one goal to show for their last seven and a half hours football.

Persela v PSM 0-1 (Wiljan Pluim) 11,013

Finally PSM got to enjoy a rare away win, only their second of the season as Dutch master Pluim netted with just five minutes, his fifth of the season,  on the clock to end plucky Persela's resistance. With Persipura finding their form this was a much needed win for Robert Alberts team and keeps them within touching distance of the league leaders.

Perseru v Bhayangkara 1-1 (Mariando Djonak Uropmabin; Antoni Putro) 531

The records will show a first draw of the season for Bhayangkara but while there may be disappointment at what might have been they came away with a point from the toughest away game of the season. 

Borneo v PS TNI 1-0 (Sultan Samma) 4,128

Samma's first goal of the season coming in the 90th minute saw the home side return to winning ways after losing their 100% home record against Sriwijaya. After the game caretaker coach Ricky Nelson was returned to Under 19 duty as Borneo appointed Iwan Setiwan as their new coach. As for PS TNI this was their sixth loss in their last seven games and the team which had started the season so well are now finding themselves in the wrong half of the table.

Bali United v Madura United 5-2 (Sylvano Comvalius 3, Nick van der Velden, Gede Sukadana; Fabiano Beltrame, Bayu Gatra) 21,517

Indonesian football is changing and here is the proof. These two teams didn't exist three years ago yet here they are challenging Persipura for the title. Comvalius now has 11 goals in his last 11 games following his hat trick against fellow high flyers Madura United. The visitors may say they were missing their own on fire striker Peter Odemwingie but that would be to belittle their team which saw new signing Thiago Furtuoso make his debut after coming in from Bhayangkara. Two teams which have come from nowhere are showing what can be done with some professional management and sensibly invested money. 

Gresik United v Persipura 0-4 (Yohanes Pahabol 2, Immanuel Wanggai, Prisca Womsiwor) 212

The Black Pearls ended the game with 10 men, prolific striker Addison had one of his quieter games and Boas Solossa was replaced with seven minutes remaining as they coasted to victory against hapless Gresik United. Shall we just hand the Liga 1 trophy to Persipura now? When they get in to their stride they are like a relentless machine, nothing is going to get in their way. Rather than talk too  much about Persipura's dominance let's spare a though for the Gresik United fans. In trouble earlier in the season for a pitch invasion that saw their club cop a heft fine the supporters boycotted this game in protest at club management which has allegedly not paid players' salaries for a few months. Rather than stay home and sen off angry tweets many supporters still turned up at the stadium but rather than buy tickets they used their money to go into a collection which was used to give to the players. A lovely gesture from all concerned!

1 - Persipura 19 11 4 4 37-22 37
2 - Bali United 19 11 2 6 38-23 35
3 - Madura United 19 10 5 4 34-23 35
4 - PSM 19 10 4 5 26-19 34
5 - Bhayangkara 11 1 7 30-24 34

17 - Sylvano Comvalius (Bali United)
13 - Peter Odemwingie (Madura United)
11 - Addison Alves (Persipura), Alberto Goncalves (Sriwijaya)
10 - Marclei Santos (Mitra Kukar), Reinaldo (PSM 9/Persija 1)

Saturday, August 12, 2017


Persib Look To N'Douassel For Goals And Salvation

After a tempestuous first half to the season which has seen fan protests help convince coach Djadjang Nurdjaman to step down, a one time English international struggle to earn game time and enough cash paid in fines to support a couple of Liga 3 teams, Persib will be hoping for a quieter run in to the end of the season where the news is focused on the eleven players on the pitch and their results.

To say they have underperformed is an understatement. The 2014 Indonesia Super League champions are currently 14th in the rebranded Liga 1 standings, a precarious looking position safeguarded for now by a nine point cushion. A 3-1 home win over PS TNI last time out, ending a run of five games without a win, has bought some breathing space to West Java but such has the inconsistency been this season Maung Bandung now they are just another draw away from yet more dramatic, apocalyptic headlines.

Persib have struggled for goals all season, just 19 in 19 games and their leading scorer is Raphael Maitimo whose brace against PS TNI gives him four for the season. Carlton Cole, a victim of circumstances beyond his control and behind the scenes power plays that would make a Game of Thrones series seem tame, has finally gone while Sergio van Dijk has suffered from injury which has minimised his chances leaving Persib short of options up front.

The club are looking to plug that gap with  the recruitment of Chadian international Ezechiel N'Douassel from Hapoel Tel Aviv. The 29 year old striker has certainly been around the block having played in Chad, Algeria, Tunisia, Russia, Turkey before moving to Israel in 2014. A well thumbed passport indeed and as is the way with journeyman strikers a career where he never stays in one place for any length of time but this will be his first time in Asia and the club, as well as the supporters, will be hoping, nay expecting, he can settle down as quickly as possible.

Whether that means he will line up for Persib against Arema later today remains to be seen. But the fact is Persib are expecting someone to come along, take their place in the team and score the goals that will see the team climb the table without any kind of bedding in period. Big  things are expected of N'Douassel, maybe bigger than even he imagines. Only time will tell whether the tall striker is the answer to the prayers of the Persib faithful.

Friday, August 11, 2017


Persiba Report 'Missing' Coach To Police

Last week Persib came out and announced they would be appointing Milomir Seslija as their new coach and he would start working on the fifth of August. Milomir came out and said that no he would not be joining the West Java club, he was under contract with Persiba and of course the club was quick to issue denials forcing Persib to backtrack. He even took to Twitter and said any stories linking him with Persib were just rumours. 

Earlier this week Milomir announced he would in fact be quitting Persiba after all and promptly left. Many put two and two together and concluded the Bosnian coach would indeed be taking over Persib. His decision to quit though seems to have caught his current employers by surprise and they came out and said they weren't sure why Milo wanted out and they refused to accept his resignation saying his was under contract till the end of the season.

At first glance it seemed a rare scenario where a coach was spurning the offer of a big club and showing loyalty to his club and their fans. Persiba have struggled all season and despite a recent uptick in form, one defeat in their last five games, they are still second bottom of Liga 1 and are 14 points from safety. Despite the low ranking the fans and the club seemed happy to stick with Milo as I witnessed when I saw the Honey Bears play PSM last month, ending with a point when their efforts deserved all three.

However Milo's abrupt resignation and departure from Balikpapan seems to have ended the mutual love in. The football club have reported him missing to the police and have also written to the PSSI saying as far as they are concerned Milo is still under contract with them and no other club should seek to appoint him.

Well, I have found the coach. It wasn't hard! Less than an hour ago a picture was posted on an instagram linked to the coach showing him relaxing on a beach in Bali!

Persiba have been busy during the transfer window, releasing some players and adding new signings including Srdan Lopicic and Sunarto from Arema, both influential in their win over Perseru last time out. Now this sorry saga could have a negative impact on the team's efforts as they try to escape the releagtion zone. Things have obviously come to a pretty pass when a club reports its coach as a missing person; there is a lot more to this story that remains untold but for me it's just a shame that the partnership between Persiba and Milo has come to an end like this.


Foreign Referees Are Little More Than Window Dressing

Remember when you were at school and you would often play up in class, especially when there was a particular Maths teacher who you knew you could manipulate or get around? Yeah, you would still get in trouble after but any punishment was only a slap on the wrist and as such could be brushed away quickly 'cos you knew this teacher would not/could not catch you every time you played up.

What stopped you playing up was when you knew there would be the head of year in the class for the duration of the lesson. You knew he would take no shit from anyone, anytime. His tolerance level was nine below zero. You knew it, your mates knew it so at least when the head of year was standing in front of the class you were on your best behaviour, your desk was neat and tidy and you even did your homework.

You knew what you were doing in the classroom was wrong but that was never gonna stop you because it was so much fun playing up and let's face it, you earned a reputation as being a bit of a lad, someone who didn't take no shit from authority.

But sometimes you were content to let authority win because you knew there was only one head of year. He could not be in every class every lesson of the school year. One set of eyes was never enough to compensate for the incompetent, hapless teacher who was being tasked to teach you and other classes algebra.

And the thing is you always knew in advance when the stricter teacher was going to be in the classroom and you could prepare yourself accordingly. Hell, you even got your mum to buy you yet another ruler because you had broken the last one on the back of Spotty Smithers' head.

This is what is happening with foreign refs. Players and officials who take the piss week in, week out know they can take the piss because they can get away with it. Referees aren't always the final judge and jury on the football field we would like them to be and players know this. It is one reason why they can act so shocked when decisions blatantly go against them but act like they have seen nothing when their team is the beneficiary of those decisions. 

Who wants  to be a ref?
But when a foreign ref takes the field players will be suddenly on their best behaviour. They know that for once the rules become the rules and their petulant play acting and prissy fits will count for nothing. The game for once becomes a level playing field. So they bite the bullet and go out there and play football. Yes, they may whinge and moan, who doesn't in football, but they will know they are less able to con the match officials like they are able to do week in, week out, at least for one game.

PSM coach Robert Alberts has not been in favour of foreign match officials since the idea was first mooted. He believes if refs could call on video assistance that should be enough. I'm not so sure. How can we be sure any official charged with monitoring the video will be in a sterile area free from outside interference? We saw one referee use video technology during a game earlier in the season and the decision seemed to have been widely accepted but would that work across the whole country?

In an ideal world match officials should be parachuted in on match day, do their game and escorted away without coming into contact with local officials but that is never going to happen. In a country the size of Indonesia the logistics involved in moving people around the country are enormous and expensive, news will soon leak out.

Each game has a referee assessor but we have no idea what they say in the reports they produce after each game or how much pressure they are put under to provide a 'favourable' report about a performance even though any neutrals in the stadium will know there were elements of the display that were just plainly wrong.

I guess what I'm saying is that there is no quick fix to improve match officials until we have football clubs, and football club officials, who are willing to accept being beaten over 90 minutes home and away. In sport there are winners and losers and football is no different. Sadly there are some people who are unwilling to accept losing and will go to extremes to ensure their team does not lose. This short term thinking acts as a massive brake on local football and ensures local players will never be able to compete overseas because foreign refs have different ideas regarding the rules of the game.

Foreign refs are I fear an honest attempt to try and change things but they are ultimately window dressing. More professional match officials are needed but who wants to be a professional ref when you know any team that takes offence at a decision that goes against them would be quite happy to attack you, slap you and beat you?

Thursday, August 10, 2017


Madura United Stay Top But Beware The Black Pearls

Madura United v Persela 2-1 (Slamet Nurcahyo, Fandi Eko Utomo; Kousuke Uchida) 4,429

Persela continue to show what a tough team they are to break down after traveling to the island of Madura and almost coming away with a point. They managed to keep the home side's strike force of Peter Odemwingie and Greg Nwokolo quiet, no mean achievement for a partnership that has produced 20 goals between them, but Madura still had enough in the tank to come up with an 82nd minute winner by Fandi Utomo, on at half time for new signing Cameron Watson.

Bhayangkara v Arema 2-1 (Dendi Sulistyono, Ilham Uddin; Cristian Gonzales) 2,600

It's been quite a season for Ilham Uddin Armaiyn, Bhayangkara's 21 year old striker. He came on as a substitute for Sulistiyono and scored the winner, his sixth goal of an exciting start to his career. And when he scores the goals count. This goal came when his side were drawing 1-1. His last goal against Madura United gave his team a 2-1 lead. He also scored the decisive second goal when Bhayangkara defeated Persiba 2-1. All goals count of course but for this young lad his goals earn Simon McMenemys team valuable points as they bid for the title. He can only get better, especially with the news Bhayangkara have signed Ilija Spasojevic.

Semen Padang v Gresik United 4-1 (Vendry Mofu, Marcel Sacremento, Irsyad Maulana, Tambun Naibaho; Yusuf Effendi) 2,250

Borneo v Sriwijaya 0-1 (Alberto Goncalves) 8,075

That man Beto, with his 11th goal of the season in the 89th minute, ended Borneo's 100% home record and ensured only a second away win for Sriwijaya in what has been a disappointing campaign for the ambitious South Sumatra side. The late win also ended a run of four consecutive draws. While Sriwijaya can breath at last pressure is mounting on Borneo caretaker coach Ricky Nelson. Management have told him he needs to win their next game, at home to PS TNI, to stay in a job.

Persib v PS TNI 3-1 (Raphael Maitimo 2, Michael Essien; Sunsun Husaeni) 3,160

Persib ended their own poor run of five games without a win with a comfortable win over a PS TNI side which has fallen away after a good start to the season. Persib, apparently playing behind closed doors but with fans allowed, went into the game without a recognised striker, Carlton Cole finally released and Sergio van Dijk injured, but with Maitimo pushed further forward did enough to win the points. With a new striker on the way has a corner been turned by Persib? Their next two games are at Arema and Sriwijaya!

Persiba v Perseru 2-1 (Anmar Al Mubaraki, Sunarto; Arthur Bonai) 3,577

When Arthur Bonai gave Perseru the lead on four minutes surely we were not going to witness that rarest of rarities; a Perseru away win? The record books show they haven't celebrated three points on their travels since they defeated Persela 3-1 back in November 2014 but alas and alack the drought was not to be ended here. New signing Srdan Lopicic had a hand in both goals as Persiba came from behind to earn maximum points with the winner coming from another new signing, ex Arema man Sunarto. It was only Persiba's second win of the season but don't get too excited. They are still 14 points from safety.

Barito Putera v Persija 1-0 (M Rifki) 5,909

Persija's impressive 12 game unbeaten run came to an end in Banjarmasin with Rifki's goal early in the second half enough to send the Macan Kemayoran home empty handed. The result ended Barito Putera's four game winless streak but coach Jacksen F Thiago won't be getting too excited. His team face back to back away games against Mitra Kukar and Prseru. As for Persija they have new signing Reinaldo to welcome to their ranks and hope he can provide the goals their approach play deserves.

PSM v Mitra Kukar 1-0 (Ferdinand Sinaga) 12,875

With a foreign ref taking charge of this game PSM needed a late winner from Sinaga, only his second of the season, to overcome a dogged Mitra Kukar side which chose to go with veteran goalkeeper Joice Sarangan. PSM gave new signing Zulham Zamrun a run out in the first half and can look forward to the presence of Uzbek striker Pavel Purishkin in future games. Robert Alberts will be hoping he won't need to long to adapt, he formerly played in Malaysia with UiTM.

Persipura v Bali United 3-1 (Addison Alves 3; Sylvano Comvalius) 16,128

There is such a familiarity about Indonesian football. The season starts, clubs jockey for position and consistency before Persipura are crowned champions. Is it happening again? Addison is on a hot streak now, 10 goals in nine games after a slow start to the season, and the Black Pearls seem unstoppable right now. Bali United have been in good form themselves recently winning five out of their last six games and coach Widodo Cahyono Putro will be hoping his team can put this result behind them quickly as they look forward to back to back home games. Problem is, one is against Madura United!

1 - Madura United 18 10 5 3 32-18 35
2 - Persipura 18 10 4 4 33-22 34
3 - Bhayangkara 18 11 0 7 29-23 33
4 - Bali United 18 10 2 6 33-21 32
5 - PSM Makassar 18 9 4 5 25-19 31

15 - Persib 18 6 6 6 19-19 24
16 - Perseru 18 3 6 9 12-23 15
17 - Persiba 18 2 4 12 16-30 10
18 - Gresik United 18 1 4 13 16-37 7

14 - Sylvano Comvalius (Bali United)
13 - Peter Odemwingie (Madura United)
11 - Alberto Goncalves (Sriwijaya), Addison Alves (Persipura)

Wednesday, August 09, 2017


Bhayangkara Exchange Thiago For Spasogol

Thiago Furtuoso is a more than competent striker. In the first half of the season for Bhayangkara he scored seven goals and three assists as the police side have maintained an unlikely title bid in the face of more fancied sides. The 30 year old Brazilian striker's experience has also proved invaluable in bringing on younger players like Ilham Uddin Armaiyn (seven goals in fifteen games) and Dendi Sulistyawan. But rather like PSM and their somewhat surprising decision to release their leading scorer Reinaldo, Bhayangkara coach Simon McMenemy has decided Thiago is surplus to requirements and has been allowed to move to Mitra Kukar.

Back in 1990 Arsenal had a very good goalkeeper in John Lukic. He had won the title with us and the League Cup and as fans we were happy with him. The manager at the time, George Graham, knew Lukic was a top keeper. So he signed David Seaman from Queens Park Rangers in the pre season. Yes, Lukic was good, but Seaman was better was the manager's logic, a logic sadly evading Wenger over the last few years, and Graham was proved right as we won the league in Spunky's debut season conceding just 18 goals along the way. 

With Thiago gone McMenemy has moved quickly to sign free agent Ilija Spasojevic (pictured left playing for Pusam (orange)). The Montenegran striker is no stranger to Indonesia having played for Bali Dewata, PSM, Mitra Kukar, Pusam and Persib before moving to Malaysia to join Melaka United where he scored 30 goals in 35 games before being released earlier this season. 

The first time I saw Spasojevic play was with PSM in the old IPL and he was up against Kim Jeffrey Kurniawan and his Persema team. By then of course the IPL was dead on its feet and the fans that had once filled Persema's Gajayana Stadium had long since departed. I liked the look of Spaso though. There were elements of Zlatan Ibrahimovic in his style, similar body build, good on the ground, skillful and intelligent. Since then I have followed his career with interest and wasn't surprised when he was signed by Persib back in 2015. Sadly the Bobotoh never got to see the best of him as the league was suspended when FIFA banned PSSI and Spaso was signed by Melaka United, then in the Malaysia Premier League.

Spaso will had to an already healthy spine that has Otavio Dutra and Firman Utina as well as several promising young players like Evan Dimas, Putu Gede and the aforementioned Ilham Uddin and Dendi. Their 2-1 victory over Arema last time out was their fourth win in five games and saw them sitting second two points behind leaders Madura United. No team has more more games than Bhayangkara this season, they have 11 so far, while only Bali United, Madura United and Persipura have scored more than their 29 goals. Away from home only Bali United and Persipura have picked up more points. 

As the numbers show Bhayangkara are great fun to watch and with Spaso up front they are likely to score even more goals. While McMenemy will be delighted with his striking riches going forward he will know if his team has a weakness it is at the back. Their only loss in their last five games came against Persija when Bruno Lopes scored in injury time to deprive Bhayangkara of their first draw of the season. Likewise, defensive carelessness cost the team points at home to Barito Putera when the visitors scored from a cross. McMenemy's team haven't kept a clean sheet since early June when they defeated Persib 2-0.

The fixture list isn't kind to Bhayangkara. They are away to Perseru this Sunday and next Wednesday they travel to Cibinong to face PS TNI, a bruising encounter there is likely following a gruelling journey home from the far east of the country. No one said it was gonna be easy!

Tuesday, August 08, 2017


Reinaldo's Move To Persija Highlight Of Quiet Transfer Win

As far as transfer windows go it hasn't been the busiest in Liga 1 with a number of clubs making very few, if any at all, changes to their squads. 

Arema have struggled for goals all season, despite sitting in eighth place only relegation threatened Perseru have scored fewer, but with Aji Santoso stepping down last week it appears his replacement Joko Susilo is happy with his options. The only addition the Crazy Lions have made is bringing in Turkmenistan international Ahmet Atayew from Altyn Asyr. As new signings go it is certainly an odd one but only time will tell whether it will be a success or not. I have my doubts. Many foreigners arriving in this country tend to find organic support systems already in place from fellow countrymen who have been round the block. That can go a long way to helping a player overcome the shock of a new country, a new language, a new diet. There haven't been that many Turkmen play here before as far as I'm aware and Atayew will have to reinvent the wheel off the field while expected to find his groove on it quickly/

Steven Imbiri's Malaysian adventure has ended. He started the year signing for MISC-MOFA who play in the Premier League but things haven't worked out, the club were involved in some allegations earlier in the season, and now he is back in Indonesia with title chasing Bali United.

Borneo have welcomed back Jefri Kurniawan. He started the season leaving the Samarinda club and moving to Persija but that hasn't worked out and now he has returned to East Kalimantan. Making the opposite journey is defender Michael Orah

Struggling Gresik United have diteched quite a few players including Dave Musatine (PSS) and Fitra Ridwan (Persija) while adding the experienced Ade Suhendra and Ahmad Sembiring to their ranks.

Some high profile imports have been released by their clubs with Persib finally announcing Carlton Cole would be leaving after weeks of rumours. Semen Padang have also released their marquee player Didier Zakora while Barito Putera decided they no longer required Thiago Cunha, he has returned to Chonburi in Thailand where he managed to disgrace himself soon after arriving.

Madura United have signed Cameron Watson to replace Dale Milovanovic while their striker Boubacar Sanogo has also found himself surplus to requirements. 

Perhaps the most eye catching deal has seen Reinaldo Elias move from PSM to Persija. The Australian striker had scored nine goals for his team in the first half of the season but obviously coach Robert Alberts feels he has better options available to him as well as bringing in Zulham Zamrun. Meanwhile Reinaldo, who was born in Brazilian, can look forward to a samba dressing room in Jakarta as he teams up with Teco, Bruno Lopes and Willian Pacheco.

Persiba have replied positively to coach Milomir Seslija spurning Persib's efforts to hire him by bringing in a number of players as they bid to crawl out of the relegation zone where they have been camped all season. In have come Maldini Pali and Hendra Sandi (Sriwijaya), Srdan Lopicic, Sunarto and Oke Derry while defender Dirkir Kohn Glay is among a number of departures that also include Dedi Haryanto and Ismail Haris.

UPDATE - Persib have signed 29 year old Chad international Ezecheil N'Douassel from Hapoel Tel Aviv to replace Cole

Friday, August 04, 2017


Empty Seats At Liga 1 Games Highlights Football's Strength In Depth

I have been the first to sing the praises of Indonesian football supporters and their passion for their clubs but a graphic currently doing the rounds on the excellent @PengamatSepakbola Instagram account suggest the numbers are not what they could be. Yes, I like to write down the crowd figures as released and yes we can go ooh and aah accordingly but when we look at the attendances as a percentage of stadium capacity we can see that in fact much more should be done to attract fans to games than is currently being done.

The one team that has no problem filling a stadium is the one team that lacks its own stadium. With Persija not being able to use the 88,000 seater Bung Karno Stadium they are being forced to use Patriot Stadium in Bekasi but that doesn't seem to be damaging their fan base with their temporary home showing an 88% occupancy for their home games over the first half of the season. And don't forget one of their games was played in front of an empty stadium after disturbances at an earlier game.

The only other team that is able to fill their stadium to such an extent is PSM. Robert Alberts' men of course led the table for much of the first half of the season so it could be argued the fans have been flocking to see an attractive, winning team but we should bear in mind PSM have their own history and heritage and even during the darker times were capable of pulling decent crowds to their home games.

Only two other teams can boast a more than half full stadium; Persela and Persib. Persela may be a surprise only to people who are not regulars to this here blog. They may not be the most fashionable club in Indonesia, nor indeed East Java, but they are without doubt one of the friendliest and even though success evades them the fans continue to come out in large numbers to support 'their local side'. 

That Persela should be above the mighty Persib is a surprise. The Blue Princes have not enjoyed the best of campaigns and rumblings of unrest off the field and poor performances on it have seen numbers stay away. Be sure though, a good run and they will be playing in front of full houses again but the current numbers should still be of concern.

Another four teams are playing in front of a stadium filled to between 40 and 49% full; Barito Putera, Borneo, Persipura and Sriwijaya and none of these clubs boast the lengthy traditions the likes of Persib, PSM and Persija can call upon. Persipura and Sriwijaya have been two of the most successful clubs in recent years but they are still unable to attract large numbers on regular occasions. Indeed Sriwijaya have only pulled just over 8,000 for each of their last two games while Persipura's dominance over the last few years rarely sees the Sold Out signs go up at their Mandala Stadium.

A look at the top of the Liga 1 table shows some unfamiliar names with Madura United and Bali United sharing top spot yet their on field success isn't translating to the turnstiles clicking over with their stadiums being 25% and 38% full respectively. Neither team come from traditional football hotbeds and both are new to the national scene with Madura United only taking over from Pelita Bekasi Raya in 2016 and Bali United replacing Persisam in 2015, not long enough to lay down roots in new territories despite their best efforts.

I have discussed Arema's woes a few times recently. Simply put the team that once took more than 50,000 to Bung Karno to see them win the old Indonesia Super League back in 2009/10 are now struggling to attract crowds of more than 10,000 to their Kanjuruhan Stadium. Persiba started the season in Malang playing their home games at the Gajayana Stadium which goes some way to explaining why their hone games are witness by slightly over a quarter full stadium. That number could get worse when, or if they move to the new Batakan Stadium later this year.

Bhayangkara and PS TNI are never going to play in front of large crowds no matter how well they do, their close association with the police and the military will see to that, hence they are happy when the likes of Persija or Persib come to town to boost their coffers. 

With crowd violence being in the news so much recently, the sports ministry recently held a meeting between fans of different teams in a bid to stop the violence, as ever Indonesian football is reacting to circumstances and not being proactive but it would do itself no harm to look at why fans are staying away. The new general secretary of the PSSI, Ratu Tisha, has a grounding in statistics, she founded the excellent website and data crunching outfit Labbola, and she will be aware of the empty seats in the stadiums across the country. What to do is not so easy.

Fans are critical of the way TV gets to dictate kick off times but that is nothing new. There have been afternoon games on work/school days going back to before I started this here blog. Perhaps the biggest influencer on attendances is the large number of newer clubs in newer towns and cities that lack any kind of history or shared experiences upon which a fan culture are built. Half of the 18 teams in Liga 1 are less than 30 years old, we are only now seeing a third generation of supporter move on to the terrace, but as mentioned earlier some clubs will always struggle for a fan base beyond their natural constituency. 

The fans are still out there and they are still going to games. But with so many new, unfancied sides in the top flight much of the excitement is taking place in Liga 2 where clubs like Persebaya, PSS, Persis, PSIS, PSIM, Persijap, PSMS, Persik and so on are fighting for promotion. Despite the official reticence over releasing crowd figures for Liga 2 anecdotal evidence, me going to games, suggest interest in more than a few clubs remains high. While nine Liga 1 teams have a history that can be written on the back of a postage stamp Persebaya, Persik and PSIS have won the title in the last 20 years. The history we pine for in PS TNI and Perseru is present in Persebaya and Persik.

Football in this country is changing and newer, more professional clubs have come along at the expense of those old school clubs which have been allowed to fall into decay by mismanagement and lack of funds. Perversely it is the strength in depth of Indonesian football that sees so many empty spaces in the stands in Liga 1. The newer clubs are here by merit but it is in the interests of Indonesian football that those historic old clubs get their own houses in order if they want to take their place at the top table. Let's face it. What would you rather watch? PS TNI v Perseru or Persebaya v PSMS? 


Mixed Messages Damage Persib's Image

Persib are never far from the headlines. They are Indonesia's Barcelona, Bayern Munchen, Newcastle United. Whatever comes out from Bandung makes for good copy. I've said it before and I'll say it again. If ever an Indonesian team is to conquer South East Asia it is Persib. Just don't hold your breath.

Persib finally, reluctantly, allowed coach Djadjang Nurdjaman to step down recently after the coach, for the second time, had asked to quit. The first time his request was refused and Persib were left with a coach who didn't want to be there. But you have to ask yourself how much power the coach really has.

Earlier in the season, when Persib were struggling for results, the manager Umuh Muchtar announced he would be getting more involved in team selection. Former England international Carlton Cole recently gave an interview to an English media outlet where he claimed the reason he wasn't getting game time was because Umuh didn't fancy him and preferred to have his 'own' players involved.

Umuh had in fact once declared Cole was finished at the club until a meeting with top management forced him to recant those words and say the striker would be given another chance.

This week Umuh was at it again telling the local media that Milomir Seslija, currently with relegation threatened Persiba, would be the next Persib coach and would start work by the end of this week. The media of course went with the story as they would be expected to when a leading club official makes such a pronouncement. 

The problem with the announcement was that no one had told Milomir or Persiba and of course they were quick to come out with statements saying that in fact he was happy to stay in Balikpapan.

The way Djadjang has been handled and the allegations over interference in team selection means that whoever takes over the Persib hot seat will be inheriting something of a poisoned chalice. A squad filled with big names, big egos, promising youngsters and a manager who wants his share of the attention. 

Persib are massive in a way no other South East Asian side can dream of. Muang Thong United and Johor Darul Ta'zim for example are much better managed football clubs but lack the stardust quality Persib and their millions of followers bring to the table. I compared Persib with three European clubs earlier deliberately because they share similar qualities not least a powerful regional identity that sets them apart from other clubs in the country. Catalonia, Bavaria, Geordie. Add Sunda to that mix. 

Persib have been getting so much right in recent years. They were light years ahead of other Indonesian clubs in sales and marketing of their football club for example. They have facilities other local sides can only dream of. To conquer South East Asia they need to get the football side of things right and if they can do it there is nothing to stop them. But the best football clubs have everyone singing from the same songbook and recent events seem to be showing that is not quite happening at Persib yet.


Liga 1 Clubs Quick To Axe Coaches Despite Contrary Evidence

We are at the halfway point of the Liga 1 season and 10 coaches who began the campaign are no longer in the hot seat as clubs have reacted to poor results with the ultimate sanction. Yet for all those clubs who acted quickly arguably only one has seen their performances improve measurably.

Like many I was surprised when Sriwijaya announced before the season even began they would not be renewing the contract of coach Widodo Cahyo Putro. They then compounded that surprise by appointing Brazilian Osvaldo Lessa, someone with plenty of experience in Indonesia but not as the main man.

One door closes, another opens and Bali United who had lost their first two games of the season under Hans Peter Schaller moved quickly to replace the Austrian with the promising WCP. Now of course Bali United are second in Liga 1, level on points with leaders Madura United while Sriwijaya have drawn their last four games, including a 0-0 against Perseru last time out, and sit in 14th position.

Relegation threatened sides Persiba and Perseru have also changed their coaches but they have seen no change in fortunes as they remain in the same position now as when their original coach was shown the door.

Rather than focus on the clubs who have been quick to swing the axe let's spare a moment to praise those who didn't bow to pressure from the fans or a quick look at the league table not least Persija. Following the 1-0 loss at Persela earlier in the season there were large calls for Teco to step down from the Persija fans. A week later they let slip a 1-0 over Mitra Kukar in the last minute and it looked like the club would revert to type and end the Brazilian's reign.

Persija gave out the obligatory 'lose your next two games and you're gone' warning' but Teco didn't need it. The team were playing well if not getting the results and just needed a striker to convert chances rather than waste them. The Kemayoran Tigers are now 12 games unbeaten and boast the best defence in the league.

Four of the teams in the top six at the end of the first half of the season, Madura United, Bhayangkara, PSM and Persija have stuck by their coach. Who'd a thunk it? Continuity off the field can lead to consistency on it. Meanwhile at the bottom end of the table four of the bottom five have changed coaches and seem to be paying the price for it.

Obviously there are exceptions, Gresik United have stayed loyal but remain rooted to the bottom of the table and of course there are instances where a coach do not gel with a club and its culture. That happens. But if we are looking at trends then keeping with the coach could provide more gains than reacting in haste under pressure from outside influences.

Tuesday, August 01, 2017


Persib's Stadium Ban Eased

It must be nice to have friends in high places.

Just days after reporting Persib supporters had been banned from attending their team's next five games following the violence at their game which saw one fan die of his injuries it was announced today the ban had been lifted. Instead Persib fans will now be allowed to watch the games after all. Why? I don't know. No one knows. Indonesian football moves in mysterious ways which could of course be one reason why it is not very successful.

There is one condition though. For the next five games Persib fans will not be allowed to wear club colours. This is quite a common reaction to fan misbehaviour and the way it is announced by the PSSI it is almost as if the supporters are being punished. Really?What different does it make if the fans wear club colours or not? Are they less likely to get violent? Remember, the poor lad who was beaten up so badly he never recovered was not wearing Persib colours.

Persib have had to pay several hundred million rupiah in fines because their fans had broken one rule or another but here we have the PSSI handing down a punishment only to cave in and dilute it at the first protest. Of course it does help if you have friends in high places doesn't it.

Other clubs who have been told to play games behind closed doors have been less fortunate. Persija's game with Persipura saw an attendance of zero. No appeal. No change of heart. Gresik United were forced to play their game with Bali United last night in Lamongan after a pitch invasion earlier in the season. 

Liga 2 sides Persis and PSS must now be hoping they too can receive some favourable treatment after their fans were banned from attending games following disturbances but I don't think they will be holding their breath. 

Countries in this region like to say they want to hire foreigners who understand the local culture. At the same time many qualified people will have no interest in working in this part of the world because they know their efforts can ultimately count for nothing if someone feels slighted and they have the ear of powerful friends. 


Bali United & Madura United Share Top Spot Halfway Through Season

Persela v Barito Putera 3-2 (Jose Coehlo, Samsul Arif, Fahmi Al Ayyubi; Gavin Kwan, Rizky Pora) 8,730

Persela returned to winning ways after two draws and a loss with this narrow win over Jacksen F Thiago's men. The home side raced into a two goal lead with midfielder Coehlo getting his first of the season on 25 minutes and Samsul Arif making it 2-0 six minutes later. Rizky Pora almost saved the game for the visitors laying on a goal for Kwan and scoring the equaliser, his sixth of the season, with nine minutes. Sadly for Barito Putera there was still time enough for the exciting Fahmi to score his first goal since May to secure the three points for Persela

Mitra Kukar v Persiba 2-2 (Marclei Santos, M Sissoko; Yudi Khoirudin, Bijahil Chalwa) 2,560

This was only the second time this season Mitra Kukar have dropped points at their Aji Imbut Stadium but it wasn't enough to keep coach Jafri Sastra in a job. He stepped down of the team from East Kalimantan even though they are comfortably mid table. A disappointing crowd for the derby which saw Persiba come from behind twice to secure the points after Marclei had given the home side the lead after 55 minutes. Milomir Seslija is moulding a tenacious side together, this was their third draw in their last four games and with a transfer window now hoping he will be looking to bring in some experience to help the side turn the draws into victories.

Perseru v Persib 2-1 (Arthur Bonai 2; Shohei Matsunaga) 2,417

A rare outing for Carlton Cole but Persib came away from Serui with nothing, much like most teams. Djadjang may have gone as coach, finally, but Persib are still struggling to turn those draws into victories and they are now just two places above the relegation places. Arthu Bonai did the damage with two goals for the home side while Matsunaga scored a last minute penalty for the visitors. When you consider that was the Japanese midfielder's third goal of the season and he is the club's joint top scorer with Atep, you have a sense of where Persib are falling short.

Madura United v PSM 1-0 (Greg Nwokolo) 5,265

Four games without a win now for PSM as coach Robert Alberts must be wondering what has happened to his team's title challenge. Five losses on the road will need to be addressed somehow and if the rumours are true PSM could also be in for a new striker with Reinaldo being linked with a move away. But take nothing away from Madura United, I have been cooing about them for some time now and when it comes to home form they seem unbeatable with eight wins and two draws in the first half of the season and 25 goals netted in front of their own supporters. Their achilles heel, like PSM and so many other teams, comes on their travels and they face 10 more away games before they can think about being crowned champions. They have just one win on the road.

Persija v Bhayangkara 1-0 (Bruno Lopes) 29,640

What's this, 12 games unbeaten for Persija? For a team whose fans were baying for coach Tecco to step down after they had lost 1-0 away to Persela there is a much more confident feel, especially in their defence where goalkeeper Andritany must be a contender for player of the season so far. They needed a last minute goal from Lopes to earn three points in this game but Tecco must be concerned about the lack of goals; they have scored one goal in each of their last seven games and cannot always rely on Andritany to perform heroics every game. Heartbreak for Bhayangkara and their coach losing this game so late on and they remain without a draw all season. How coach Simon McMenemy must be wishing for a couple of old fashioned 0-0s once in a while.

Sriwijaya v Persipura 2-2 (Alberto Goncalves 2; Addison Alves, Yohannes Pahabol) 8,470

Sriwijaya are one point above the relegation. Yeap, I find that hard to believe that a team so used to success is just six points off the bottom three albeit with a game in hand. Against Perseru. And things could be so much worse if they were to be without the evergreen Brazilian striker Beto who has now scored 10 for the season after this brace against the Black Pearls. His goal 11 minutes from the end of this game looked to have secured a rare win for Sriwijaya but with four minutes remaining Pahabol struck with his first goal since the end of May to make it 2-2 and a third consecutive draw. Failure to defeat Perseru tomorrow could see coach Osvaldo Lessa coming under intense pressure. Persipura? Yeah, they're Persipura!

Arema v Borneo 0-0 5,375


PS TNI v Semen Padang 2-1 (Erwin Ramdani 2; Marcel Sacremento) 1,200

Gresik United v Bali United 1-3 (Arsyad Yusgiantoro; OG, Fadil Sausu, Sylvano Comvalius) 1,015

Slowly but surely Bali United have been hanging around the top places in Liga 1 waiting for their rivals to slip up. If you wanna have a chance of winning the title in Indonesia it is no good just having a good home record. Plenty of teams are near unbeatable on their own turf but they travel badly. Bali United don't. This was their fourth away win of the season and their fifth win in their last six games. It also helps if you have a striker who is on fire as Camvalius is, his 89th minute goal here was his 13th of the season and his 10th in nine games. It's difficult not to feel sorry for Gresik United.  This game was played in Lamongan after as they serve a suspension for a pitch invasion earlier this season and they have been struggling all season, just one win to show for their efforts, and they started this game by gifting the visitors an own goal. Arsyad levelled with 21 minutes left on the clock and Gresik must have thought they had done enough to earn a rare win but two goals in the last six minutes dashed their hopes.

1 - Bali United 17 10 2 5 32-18 32
2 - Madura United 17 9 5 3 30-17 32
3 - Persipura 17 9 4 4 30-21 31
4 - Bhayangkara 19 10 0 7 27-22 30

*Some sources have Madura United in top spot based on head to head.

13 - Peter Odemwingie (Madura United), Sylvano Comvalius (Bali United)
10 - Alberto Goncalves (Sriwijaya)
9 - Reinaldo Elias (PSM), Lerby Eliandry (Borneo), Marclei Santos (Mitra Kukar)

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