Thursday, March 05, 2020


Religious Organization Buys Liga 2 Club

After having the police and military get involved in football in recent years I guess it should come as no surprise a third pillar of Indonesia has fallen for the charms of the beautiful game.

Persigo Gorantolo started life on the northern tip of Sulawesi. A few years back their license was bought by the town of Lumajang in East Java and renamed Semeru Lumajang.

The 'new' club did little of note and people soon forgot about Persigo except for the odd media report which would insert the name into the new club's name, a habit that continues to this day with other mergers.

With the 2020 season approaching it was assumed, even by seasoned football observers, clubs across the country were busy preparing for the new season and yes most were. Except for Persigo Semeru Lumajang.

Then towards the end of February it was announced a large religious organization, Muhammadiya, had taken over the club and renamed them PS Hizbul Wathan. The new owners also said they would be moving the club to Sidoarjo, also in East Java.

One of two large organizations, both boast membership in the tens of millions, Muhammadiya have used the Hizbul Wathan name before some 100 years ago and also were instrumental in the founding of PSSI.

'After preaching through education and hospitals we now want to do missionary work through football,' says club CEO Dhimam Abror.

For now the new owners are setting humble targets, hoping to just survive in Liga 2. Coach Yusuf Ekodono isn't getting a large budget to play with and will be calling upon a number of players who were with Semeru Lumajang last season as well as a few youngsters from Persebaya. Whoever the players are they are expected to have a 'positive attitude, discipline and sportsmanship'. Which I guess means they won't be attacking match officials or opponents.

PS Hizbul Wathan are hoping to attract decent crowds to their games at Delta Stadium as Muhammadiya members are expected to be enthusiastic followers but that will depend on results like most other clubs. PS TNI and Bhayangkara aren't exactly known for turnstile queues before kickoff.

Tuesday, March 03, 2020


Bambang Responds To Sute's Dissent

One of the more intriguing moves during the close season was Persija's appointment of their former striker Bambang Pamungkas as club manager. Bepe of course bowed out at the end of last season bringing the curtain down on a 20 year career that saw him established as Indonesia's most lived player.

Now wearing a suit on matchday rather than the famous number 20 Bepe took his seat in the dug out on Sunday as Persija hosted Borneo in their opening Liga 1 game of the season and he wasted no time making his presence.

New coach Sergio Farias hooked Sandi Sute early in the first half replacing him with Evan Dimas. Sute wasn't impressed by the decision showing his frustration with a show of petulance in front of the bench.

Bepe responded by announcing Sute would miss the next two games as a punishment, a move that many Persija fans have applauded.

It's always a tricky situation when a player expresses such displeasure. No one wants to be subbed, especially so early but Bepe has taken Sute's action as a public show of disrespect to the new coach, something he is not willing to accept.

As a player Bambang tried to play the game the right way with fairness and respect and it is clear he wants to impose these values on the first team squad now he has the position to go with the respect he had as a player.

To be fair to the player Sute has apologised to the fans through his Instagram account.

Monday, March 02, 2020


Liga 2 Runners Up Persita Hold Champions Bali

Football's back and we can now look forward to another season of joy unbounded, tears unlimited and dreams unrealised as Liga 1 seeks to take us on another rollercoaster ride of chaos, violence and yes some romance we hope.

For a start we have three promoted teams in the top flight. Persik were crowned Liga 2 champions last season and make a welcome return to the top table. For me they will always be associated with the three amigos, Gonzalez, Fagundez and Fernando but those days are long gone. The swagger of the 2006 champions will probably be replaced by a more pragmatic approach as staying up will be there main target.

With the exception of Atjeh United in the short lived, nonlamented LPI there has been no side from Bander Aceh at the top table since I took an active interest in the local football scene so it's good to see Persiraja promoted. Over 26000 saw them hold Bhayangkara in their opening home game... let's hope they can maintain that interest for the season.

Closer to home for me a least and welcome back Persita. They've had a torrid time of late being forced to play home games anywhere from Banten to West Java but now they have their own new ground to go with their promotion and a 0-0 draw away to Bali United was an encouraging start to life back at the top.

Actually there is a fourth new name in Liga 1 this season. Tira Persikabo have dropped any pretence of being an army team and will be henceforth known as Persikabo 1973. Whether they have any connection with the Persikabo which played in Liga 3 last season or if they're just the latest Incarnation of Persiram I don't know. I do know I have just returned from Pakansari Stadium having seen Persikabo lose 2-0 at home to Arena and there seemed to be a fair few Kabomania and Persikabo Ultras in attendance which I hope bodes well for the future.

What that future will be remains to be seen. Today Indonesia announced its first coronavirus victims and there are suggestions upcoming games could be cancelled or played behind closed doors. Which is a shame really because I was looking forward to catching Persita take on PSM on Friday!

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