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Thursday, July 30, 2015

 

Hassan Sunny Earns Recognition. Overseas.

I loved this quote in the Guardian. A Liverpool fan in Malaysia was asked the crowd for the recent circus game, sorry high profile friendly against a genuinely world class football brand, sorry club, attracted such a pants support.

This football genius said Malaysian Liverpool football fans stayed away because 'Liverpool fans are annoyed with the organisers who did not organise the event properly. The fans could not even meet the players.'

I have been going to football for over 40 years and I don't get to meet the players either. But then you have to wonder do they support the club or the players? This next quote, from one of the organisers, is telling. ' After Steven Gerrard’s departure, the attendance certainly dropped as most fans wanted to see him and Sterling as well.'

This is not a dig at EPL teams and their half tired tours of Asia. This time. But rather the role players play in promoting the game and their club.

Take a tweet from Hassan Sunny, the Singapore goalie playing for Army United in the Thai Premier League. He said there is 'so much love from the fans/people here. Unbelievable! Me or football players will never get all this in Singapore'.

Why is this? Why does a country with such a passion for football not have its own heroes? Why aren't the likes of Sahimi, Hassan and Safuwan praised to the hilt, promoted and turned into role models for young Singaporeans? Kids love stars and Singaporean kids are no different, just check out the wannabes on the metro there with their Liverpool/Man Utd replica shirts boasting names like Gerrard and Rooney.

Why isn't anyone doing their bit to develop a generation of stars? What are the clubs doing? And the FAS?  It is almost as if the people who run football don't want players to become bigger than the organisers are. Keep the players in their place, players are after all just workers.

There seems to be talks about turning the SLeague semi professional as no one seems to have a clue about marketing the game. Perhaps those suits should ponder the quotes in this piece and ask themselves the hardest question of all. Why?

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

 

End Of The Road For Green Fingered Coaches?

The last couple of years has seen a spate of coaches being given 'gardening leave' by clubs. This extra time allocated to pottering around the shrubbery usually follows a poor sequence of results and is not to be construed as some CSR commitment by charitably minded football clubs.

As a fully qualified football coach there can surely be nothing worse than a limbo land where you leave your whistle, stopwatch, bibs and cones in the garden shed and pick up the shears and trowel in the full knowledge the team you spent months, or even weeks, preparing are off being courted by another man with his own whistle and stopwatch.

Among the big names it has happened to in recent times are George Boateng at Kelantan, Sathianathan at ATM and, just to prove cuckolded coaches ain't a purely Malaysian thing, Gary Stevens at Army United.

Being a sensitive soul at heart I have yet to ask a coach how they see this extra time working on their marrows but as an outsider looking in it does appear to be the sack...without the pay off.

Now, any coach will tell you the sack, and not the one used for gathering up the leaves, is part and parcel of their job along with win bonuses and that ego centric centre forward who can't score on the pitch but has tattooed the names of his other conquests in Hindi on the back of his neck.

But gardening leave stinks, not just of compost and apple peel, of the sack via the back door. What the club is hoping for is the coach will tire of watering his azaleas everyday and hand in his notice therefore freeing the club from that messy 'obligation' of paying off his contract.

Anyway it appears a ruling by the Football Association of Malaysia could well put an end to the practise.

PETALING JAYA: Coach B. Sathianathan believes that “justice has been served”.
The Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) have declared the “rest” status issued by his employers, the Armed Forces, to be “null and void”.

And Sathianathan hailed FAM’s ruling on Monday as “the right moral judgement.”

FAM player status committee chairman Datuk Takiyuddin Hassan explained that Armed Forces did not follow the right procedures and added that to “rest” Sathianathan from his duties was a vague decision. 

“The decision by Armed Forces to ‘rest’ Sathianathan has been ruled as void,” said Takiyuddin on Tuesday. 

“Sathianathan must now return to his former position as head coach of Armed Forces and he is entitled to all the allowances and benefits stated in the contract.”

Armed Forces have 14 days to appeal against the decision.

Takiyuddin said that a coach’s contract can only be terminated if he did not meet the Key Performance Indicators (KPI) stipulated in the contract. 

Armed Forces, he added, failed to follow that procedure. 

Sathianathan was ordered to “rest” on April 14 – two days after his team lost 3-1 to Selangor in the Super League. At that time, they only won one game out of seven and were in 11th spot in the 12-team standings with four points. 

Sathianathan, who is also the Football Coaches Association of Malaysia (FCAM) president, is relieved to be vindicated and hopes that FAM’s decision will serve as a lesson to others teams.

“The important thing is that teams cannot simply ‘rest’ coaches without a valid reason,” he said.

“I’m happy because morally the right decision has been made. If they (Armed Forces) are not happy with my performance, they should have just terminated my services. They (Armed Forces) said they have yet to receive a letter from FAM. I can’t do anything now. It’s now up to them.”

Whether this decision will act as a precedent remains to be seen. Sathianathan at least can return to work, not that ATM have received a letter yet (what is it with clubs in this region who refuse to take any action that may affect them negatively until they receive a letter. A letter? Don't these people have email?).

As one coach can at least pick up his little magnetic board and return to the training field once more, an interesting experience that will be, what about the garden I hear you cry?

Sod it!

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

 

Who Really Needs An ASEAN Super League?

So the old ASEAN Super League has raised it head again, with organisers suggesting a start date of August 2016...plenty of time for local fans to watch the Euro 2016 and of course which ever big European sides deign to visit the region.

Apparently FIFA have agreed to the ASL even though no one, least of all the organisers, seems to have a scooby what the league will look like. I imagine this would be a rather important detail what with sponsors needed and of course fans to whip into shape ahead of the season.

So what will the league look like and what teams will be involved. Is it me or are the only stories I ever see about this ASL are in Singapore papers? It's almost as if they are the only ones interested! And why not as word seeps out they are considering taking the ever decreasing SLeague semi professional, in effect holding their hands up and saying they have no idea how to market or run a full time, professional league in an affluent country of 5 million football fans.

Indonesia? From this distance there is no guarantee they will be back in FIFA's good books by then and anyway, they can't even organise their own competitions, let alone pay salaries or stick to a fixture list; surely pre requisites in a pan ASEAN league...one would hope.

But even if the Indonesian domestic football scene was running as normal what would they gain by joining an ASL? They already boast, on a good day, the most vibrant league in the region with clubs that have identity and history as well as a football culture other nations can only look at with great jealousy.

Persija in an ASL? Do me a favour! They are serial non payers of salaries and in any one season up to half their home games are played outside of Jakarta due to various reasons like political rallies or crowd trouble or some airhead had previously booked the stadium for a concert of airheads to be witnessed by 50,000 screaming airheads waving camera phones in the air and swooning on demand.

Other contenders would be Persib and Arema perhaps while as for Persebaya...well, which one?

Franchising could be an option but then who would be the franchise holder? Indonesia isn't India where famous celebrities bid for teams in their Indian Super League last year. Indonesian money tends to be congregated in the hands of a few political/commercial dynasties who, shall we say, don't usually do PR. A football club backed by a company that makes its billions chopping down trees? Or would it just be a football club backed by the ruling family of Indonesian football in which case we had all better hope the FIFA suspension stays in place.

Wouldn't Singapore look funny in an ASL if they force the SLeague to go semi pro? LionsXII seem to do fine in Malaysia, they enter a team in the ASL but no one gives a shit about a local league beyond the pools company who look to Uncle Joo and his mates to keep blindly handing over their dosh no questions asked.

With a lack of leadership coming from the FAS beyond the usual business school spin and the string of strategic reviews you would think they should be focussing on getting their own house in order before contemplating another team playing outside the country.

Malaysia is kind of like Indonesia. A long, well established football tradition with some well known clubs. Would Selangor want to take time out to compete outside their comfort zone? As for franchises, well why not? Vincent Tan and Tony Fernandez have done such sterling work with their teams while raising the profile of Malaysia in West London and South Wales.

But given Malaysia's ideas of football club names, MyTeam (RIP), Sime Darby, ATM, PDRM, MISC-MOFA etc you hate to think what they would try and call a team. You may know my feelings about a certain team in North London but at least they have an identity. MISC-MOFA?

The Thais are an interesting one. The likes of Buriram United and Muang Thong United seem content to hoover up the competitions domestically, Buriram have been doing well in the AFC Champions League and that national team ain't too bad within ASEAN is it? Basically, have the Thais outgrown ASEAN?

There is always politics of course and would the FAT, or the boss of the FAT, known as FAT head (?), see an ASL as an opportunity to flex some muscle which they are not always able to do in the domestic league what with all them puu yai flexing their muscle and amassing lashes of face.

An ASL without Indonesia, Malaysia and or Thailand seems inconceivable. Rather like a war without the Americans involved, it would like headlines and oomph.

For now of course it is all supposition. Until more details are announced I guess the only thing we can confirm about any ASL is that face painters will have a blast and we will see Mexican waves from Myanmar to Manila...

Saturday, July 25, 2015

 

Much Maligned Young Lions Humble Champions Warriors

The SLeague returned a few days ago after a near two month break. And what  break. The premier league in Singapore was put on ice so more important matters could be attended to. Like the SEA Games for example, a competition for Under 23 sides in South East Asia. Or the League Cup, a worthless pot of interest only to the gamblers who don't even step foot in the stadium...I'm looking at you Uncle Joo! And then we had the Arsenal, Everton and Stoke City hitting town of course.

Yep, them's the reasons why the SLeague was stopped for two months. And the sad thing is I had forgotten when it was due to restart. I have spent the last two months in blissful ignorance of the game in Singapore and you know what? You soon get used to life. If I lost interest then what about the fans closer to home? With the local papers creaming themselves over Cop America or David Beckham catching tennis balls at Wimbledon or Ian Wright bigging up three unfit Premier League sides was there any news of the SLeague? Or was just a case of out of sight, out of mind? Marvellous marketing whatever.

Anyways, the SLeague is back with no doubt its horrendously loud PA, its inappropriate music and its anal security guards and has already delivered one shock or earthquake proportions with Young Lions defeating reigning champions Warriors 2-0. Yep, them same Young Lions so widely mocked after their feeble efforts at the SEA Games.

Warriors remain top of the table, a point ahead of Albirex Niigata though with a game in hand and, intriguingly, they still boast the worst defence in the league having shipped 20 goals in their 12 games!For Young Lions they remain bottom of the table despite the win, only the second of the season.

Only one Singaporean has scored more than three goals this season, Fazrul Nawaz who has netted 8, but even he failed to spark the Warriors in their shock loss to the cellar dwellers.

For Warriors it looks to be their last game at Woodlands Stadium. The fixture list has them hosting Home United, the one time Uniform Derby, back at their Choa Chu Kang Stadium. As for Young Lions, they have the opportunity to secure another top scalp when they take on Steve Kean's DPMM tomorrow.

On the same evening second place Albirex Niigata lost at home to Balestier Khalsa 0-1 while 24 hours earlier DPMM were held 0-0 by Home United. The dropped points for the top three were good news for Tampines Rovers who defeated Hougang United 3-0 to move within seven points of the leaders.

 

AS Roma Players Not Allowed Into Indonesia

First it was Pahang, now it is the turn of AS Roma.

A number of Pahang players were refused entry to Indonesia a couple of months back because someone somewhere had not realised they were not allowed to enter the country without a visa. Peeved, Pahang, who were in Indonesia to compete in an AFC Cup tie against Persipura, turned around and straight back home.

Now it is the turn of Italian side AS Roma. They are in Jakarta for some kind of flying visit and the chance to pose with some wildly excited local fans who will be guaranteed to smile and scream on cue. There is also some kind of game at Bung Karno but not sure what form this #CircusGame will be.

Anyways, five Roma players never left the airport. Former Arsenal player Gervinho, Seydou Doumbia, Victor Ibarbo, Adem Ljajic and Pablo Sarabia have passports from countries that are not on the list of those that get visa on arrival. And it seems, especially in the wake of the Pahang incident, no one checked.

 

All Quiet On The Indonesian Front

I just spent a week in Indonesia and can be seen by the total absence of any posts during that time nothing is happening football wise. Oh yes, there are stories circulating so here is a brief wrap of what sports editors are doing in a vacuum of silence.

Player X hopes football can start soon
1 Indonesia Cup/Independence Cup may go ahead
Player Z selling shirts/food
Persepam MU are being linked with everyone with the possible exception of Sergio Ramos
PSSI won a court case
Despite being entered in  1 Indonesia Cup/Independence Cup Club A/B/C et all still don't have a full team
Independence Cup has no one to organise it

Repeat ad nauseam


Thursday, July 16, 2015

 

Malaysian Clubs Say No To Liverpool 'Circus Game'

First it was the fans who were upset by Malaysia's proposed friendlies against Spurs and Liverpool. Now it seems the clubs are less than happy. When coach Dollah Salleh announced the squad that would be used against Liverpool there were no players from Johor Darul Tazim called up.

JDT are in the race for the Super League and their rivals have been perhaps a bit miffed at the perceived special treatment they have received. Selangor have since announced they may not be releasing three of their players, winger Ahmad Hazwan Bakri, striker Afiq Azmi and Australian centreback Robert Cornthwaite, claiming they are 'are tired and need to rest' following the Super League clash with, um, JDT on Monday which the Southern Tigers won 3-1.

The team from the southern tip of Malaysia are involved in a tight two horse race for title with Pahang with both sides matching points in their recent games. And now Pahang have withdrawn striker Dickson Nwakaeme from the squad while keeping mum about the fate of three other players called up; defender Razman Roslan, goalkeeper Mohd Khairul Azhan and winger Mohd Azamuddin Akil.

Pahang manager Fahrizal Hassan says Nwakaeme is carrying a knock and the club were 'we are keeping him home so that he will be fresh for the final stretch of the Super League campaign next month. We want Nwakaeme to rest. Pahang are at a crucial stage of the Super League competition and we want our best players available.'

The Malaysian Football Association, FAM, have responded by saying all players called u must attend training unless they have permission from the coach.

It is a joke that Malaysian football has to drop everything just 'cos an English teams wants to 'connect' with its fans and sell some shirts. These sorts of games are of of no benefit to anyone and just bending over backwards to accommodate them is demeaning to the local league, the local clubs and the local fans. If so called Liverpool fans love football so much they are perfectly entitled to start following their local team.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

 

1 Indonesia Cup Treatened After Withdrawls

Surprised? Of course. I mean when it comes to organising things...get on with it.

The 1 Indonesia Cup, being organised for ISL teams by the PSSI, is under threat apparently after Barito Putera and Persiram withdrew. Persija have been barred because they still haven't paid any salaries to their players for this year.

Apparently the withdrawals mean just nine clubs are left and the organisers had been hoping for a minimum of 12.

Of course even if the 1 Indonesia Cup does go ahead there is no guarantee it will go ahead if you understand my verbal gymnastics. If a draw takes place it still needs those lovely, cuddly folks at BOPI to give their approval.

It would leave the PSSI with a bit of egg on their faces if their competition is dropped while the government's Independence Cup goes ahead. The latter has attracted interest from Divisi Utama sides; should the 1 Indonesia Cup be ditched will ISL clubs start considering their options going forward?

 

Hull's Asian Ambitions Need More Than Name Change

So for the second time Hull City's bid to conquer Asia has failed after the FA refused to sanction their name change. Club owner Assem Allam has been hoping calling the club Hull Tigers would enable it to cash in on the Asian markets but it seems the FA don't like the idea and anyway where is the evidence?

Assem has been quoted as saying 'Hull City' is irrelevant...it is common. I want the club to be special. It is about identity. 'City' is a lousy identity. 'Hull City Association Football Club' is so long...I have always used short names in business. It gives you power in the science in marketing. The shorter, the more powerful the message. In Tigers, we have a really strong brand.'

There is no doubt Assem has done a wonderful job with Hull City in a city he has lived for several decades but he does seem to have a blind spot regarding the name of the football club.

His son has talked about improving the brand for the international market but will that happen?

The Chinese revere the tiger but will a football club called Hull Tigers see an increase in flights to East Yorkshire? It is highly unlikely. Paris St Germain, Barcelona and Manchester United have not become 'brands' with a tiger.

Then there is South East Asia. Harimau (Tigers) Malaya is a development project carried out by the Football Association and has teams playing in the Malaysian and Singapore leagues. Are the fans turning up in big numbers to see their games? Are there plane loads of chartered flights from Shanghai and Beijing converging on Melaka or Singapore to catch their home games?

Indonesia has two team major sides with tiger connections. Persija are known as Macan (Tiger) Kemayoran while Persik are nicknamed Macan Putih (White Tigers). Is anyone even aware of this fact outside of Indonesia?

While Assem's desire to widen Hull City's fan base is laudable I fear just changing a name will do little. What is needed is an injection of cash that would see Hull City become the biggest club in the country. And we are talking the kind of cash that can attract players like Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Team those three together. Add the likes of Wayne Rooney and Thomas Muller, win a few trophies and then you may find a few people in Asia wearing Hull City shirts. But they will be following the club because of the big name players and the success, not because they are nicknamed Tigers.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

 

Young Coaches Helping Phnom Penh Crown's Goals

Managing in England can appear to be a closed shop. Every time a vacancy becomes available, and given owners’ penchant for swinging axes that is pretty bloody often, the same old names get linked. Like for example Martin O’Neill, now being mentioned for the Leicester City job as was Sam Allardyce. Should a club look beyond the usual tired names the reaction is usually along the lines of who? And should who actually do a pretty good job, think Eddie Howe or Gary Monk, the reaction is one of surprise as if how dare an interloper, and a little known one at that, be doing so well? Given the difficulty of breaking into even middling clubs, many young coaches have taken their skills overseas.

Think Simon McMenemy who went from Ascot United, I used to get pissed in Ascot once a week and never knew they had a team, to the Philippines without passing go and built the foundations of a football enlightenment in a land more familiar with daft games adopted from their former colonial power the USA.

Then there is Gary White who was a youngster with Southampton in the second half of the 1980s, a fact that will have me dipping into my programme collection next time I am home looking for a mention, at the same time Alan Shearer and Matthew Le Tissier were there. White left England after a short stint with mighty Bognor Regis Town and after playing for Fremantle City in Australia ended up coaching the British Virgin Islands.

The guy must love islands, next up was the Bahamas and now he is with Guam. Now earlier in the year Guam held Singapore to a draw in a friendly, a result that had Singaporeans whining about how for their team had fallen but they were looking the wrong way. They, and the rest of us, were unaware of the work White was doing on that hard to find island and wins over India and Turkmenistan have left them top of their World Cup Qualifying Group at this early stage.

So, what other coaches are out there doing sterling work in unfashionable places to acquire the skills and knowledge to improve players under tough circumstances? Well, Cambodia is a good place to start looking. Phnom Penh Crown have long been an anomaly. Fairly well run with a professional looking website, media office and even a smattering of club merchandise available, PPC are the Manchester City of Cambodia I guess but instead of being owned by an oil rich sheikh, they look to a man who made his money in gambling. And he he is now putting something back.

Despite the limitations of the CLeague, PPC have long looked overseas and not just for their coaching staff (former Kelantan and Johor Darul Tazim coach Bojan Hodak had a spell their). I recall being in Singapore one time and there was a PPC side competing in a youth competition on the Padang. In other years the club have competed in the Singapore Cup. Cambodian yes and proud but their ambitions lie beyond the borders of their small country. It was little surprise then to hear that a couple of young coaches who I had been in contact with over recent years vis Twitter had both ended up in Cambodia, naturally with PPC.

Aussie Ryan Steele and English man Tom Legg have two things in common with me. None of us set the world alight playing football and all of us moved overseas in search of pastures new. Steele for example decided he was better off with bibs, balls and cones after coming to the conclusion ‘my brain was a lot more effective than either foot’ while Legg reached a similar conclusion at the age of 15 when he ‘accepted I wouldn’t be able to reach the levels I aspired to as a player.’

Legg’s travels took him first to the US in 2006 where he worked as youth development coach in Connecticut where he was keen to ‘spend as many hours on the pitch as possible’. After six months he was packing his tooth brush when he was offered the chance to run an academy in Bangalore, India. ‘It was a fantastic opportunity for me to have such responsibility at such a young age’ he recalls.

Steele started his overseas adventures three years after Legg. ‘My first real full-time paid coaching job was in the Maldives and I went there primarily for the experience. As it was based around local clubs, NGOs and schools, I had a wealth of variety and coached ages anywhere between six and 25, so it was one of those "sink or swim" moments for me.

‘I more or less landed into the job with dumb luck, hearing about a development tournament that was being run by one of the local clubs and putting my hand up to help out. I stayed longer than the tournament and found myself acting in a sort of "head coach/technical director" capacity for the island. ‘It was a fantastic experience that I still look back on with fond memories.’

It is at moments like this as a writer when I add little comments about how the tuk tuk we were travelling in on our journey through Phnom Penh bounced along the pot holed roads as I sat with the two coaches but that would be a lie. I am sat typing this on a Saturday morning in the Middle East and have relied on email for the interviews. So sorry, no tales of sharing a beer with the fair at the majestic Foreign Correspondents Club overlooking the Mekong.

After something like 18 months overseas Legg returned to England where he spent time with Plymouth Argyle Ladies and Exeter City but you get the impression, even by the soulless medium of the internet, he was keeping his passport upto date. Sure enough in 2012 he made what he was to describe as ‘one of the most important moves’ of his career when he joined the Craig Bellamy Academy in Sierra Leone.

In the same way Steele has an affinity with Asia having learnt Japanese Legg was attracted to Africa having lived in Kenya as a youngster. ‘... when the opportunity came up to move out to Sierra Leone I jumped at the chance. At the time I knew very little about Sierra Leone, but my dad worked there on and off for a few years before the civil war in the early 90’s so his guidance and excitement about the opportunity convinced me that this was the best move for me personally and professionally.

‘The proceeding three years were the best years I’ve had as a coach to date. The players had an incredible appetite for learning, this dedication to self-improvement is like something you’ll never experience elsewhere in the world. I would go back to the UK on term breaks and speak to fellow coaching friends and they’d constantly complain about how distracted and disinterested their players were at times, I never experienced this Sierra Leone.’

Legg threw himself into his work and the players responded. He helped started a performance analysis department at the Academy to give the players another outlet to tap into and had huge success with the program, when I left the Academy in 2014 the department was one of the leading performance analysis department in Africa.

 In 2013 Academy Manager, Johnny McKinstry was appointed the Head Coach of the Sierra Leone national team and he offered Legg the opportunity to take on a performance role with the national team.  Now, the passion cascades off the screen of my laptop.

‘I’ll never forget the buildup, excitement and drama of the first game. It was a World Cup Qualifier at home to African footballing powerhouses Tunisia. The drive from the team hotel to the stadium was incredible, what started as a convoy of three vehicles; police car, one 4v4 and the team bus, ended up swelling to a convoy of around twenty by the time we arrived at the National Stadium in Freetown. Bikes, cars and supporters jogging along the side of the convoy followed us into the stadium carpark where we were eventually led into the dressing room by the local police.’

Unfortunately the ebola outbreak in the second half of 2014 brought a premature end to Legg’s Sierra Leone adventure. Tapping into his rapidly growing list of contacts, he heard about a vacancy in Cambodia with PPC as the Technical Director of their Academy. After eight years experience, Legg knew what he was looking for and he feels in PPC he has found the right mixture of ambition and the means to chase that ambition. ‘It was important for me to find a project that offered real potential for growth, and I believe I’ve found that here in Cambodia. The level of investment and commitment shown by the clubs President, Rithy Samnang is unbelievable.’

Steele arrived in Cambodia earlier this year. ‘Earlier in the year, the GM of the now-defunct C-League side Albirex Niigata Phnom Penh told me that he wanted to recommend me for the first team position at Phnom Penh Crown, as the head coach (Sam Schweingruber) was looking for an assistant coach for his first team staff. I had heard about Sam through his various activities over the years and we started emailing each other back and forth to discuss the possibility.

Despite only being on the ground a short time it s clear the Australian coach is excited by what he is seeing.‘Once everything came together, it all happened very fast and I found myself flying out of Australia within a matter of days. I've been in the country for just one week and have seen a total of three games as an observer and on the technical bench, but what I've seen so far has shown that it's an interesting mix of levels. There are some positives, with a range of tactical variety from the teams and some players that could make it in other SEA nations.’

For now both Legg and Steele are focused on making a difference in Cambodia. Young and ambitious, it will be interesting to see just where their careers take them. One thing is sure. They both feel they are being given opportunities they would never have had had they stayed home.

‘If I had stayed or started my career in Australia, without wanting to put down the country or myself, I would likely be going nowhere fast. The jobs for locals are still very much "for the boys" and not available unless you've played at a high level, have a recognisable name or know all the right people,’ says Steele while Legg feels ‘I doubt I’d have been given the freedom to develop the way I have done by working abroad.’

Both recognise the path taken by the likes of McMenemy and White before them with Legg saying ‘their stories of success should offer as inspiration to any aspiring coaches that taking the plunge out of your comfort zone...working abroad can offer really interesting opportunities for growth as a coach.’ As for the future, who knows? They are coaches, about the only thing guaranteed is the sack at some stage! Like all young coaches they have ambitions and those ambitions may well be realised by working overseas or by returning to their home country.

They are also keen to credit those who have helped them and ispired them. Who knows, in a few years time there may be other young coaches pointing to Tom Legg and Ryan Steele as their inspiration!

It is going to be an interesting time following their careers and you can do so on Twitter @steelinho and @tomlegg.

Friday, July 10, 2015

 

EPL Visits Need To Add To Local Football, Not Ignore It

It's that time of the year folks. You know the one when them rich English clubs decide to travel halfway round the world to connect with their fans in distant shores, but not Laos or Cambodia as veteran coach Steve Darby pointed out on Twitter. Just the ones where the average salary is enough to indulge in buying overpriced sandwich boards made out of recycled plastic water bottles.

Fans turn up at the airport clad in their regulation replica gear, not all of which is the real deal, they camp outside the hotel, they turn up at the training session and of course they buy a ticket to watch their half fit heroes plod around for 45 minutes before giving way to some unknown reserve who won his seat on the trip through a lucky draw.

The clubs then leave a couple of days later with coffers full, effusively thanking everyone for being so wonderful and counting the credits on the PR balance sheet.

Once upon a time the clubs at least paid lip service to supporting football in the host country; they don't even do that anymore. Now the trips are little more than a smash and grab raid designed to inspire a million selfies and bore the pants off the rest of us who take more than a passing interest in the local football scene.

Look what's coming up over the next few days in Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand.

14/07 - Thai All Stars v Liverpool
15/07 - Everton v Stoke, Singapore Select v Arsenal
18/07 - Everton/Stoke v Singapore Select/Arsenal
24/07 - Malaysia XI v Liverpool

Liverpool's visit to Malaysia is already the target of supporters who are protesting at the way that game and another played earlier against Spurs which were allowed to disrupt the local programme for the benefit of no one apart from a few suits.

You know what would be nice? It would be nice if the domestic football associations grew some balls and told these premier league clubs 'yeah, you come come and play a game or two here but you do it on our terms or not at all. We ain't bending over backwards any more...'

And what would those terms be? Well, for a start there must be some benefit for the local game. So why not have a local game played on the same day at the same stadium? For example when Liverpool are in Bangkok why not have Bangkok United play a Thai Premier League game? Bangkok United because they are sponsored by the people who are sponsoring the all stars.

There is in fact a full round of TPL fixtures set for the day after the Liverpool game with Bangkok United's postponed. Why not have them play and create a meaningful double header? Of course there is the small issue of the Bangkok United players called up for the select squad but these select things are a crock of crap anyway. The Thai FA's priority is the local game, not appeasing some second rate English side.

Surely it cannot be beyond the whit of these people to try and do something where they put the interests of the game they are charged with developing first...And if they moan about the fixtures? Nah, they don't do irony!

Singapore? Again, forget those bloody stupid select sides. Get two SLeague sides to enter and have them play each other on the first day as a normal SLeague fixture. Only with fans.

By playing a competitive game FAs would be being seen to do something about the domestic game, piggy backing it on the back of a highly publicised visit from highly paid players who could be photoed watching the game, complete with oversized headphones of course before giving quotes like 'I was surprised by the standard...'

As things stand these tours totally overlook, nay ignore, the local game. It is seen as an embarrassment to be shunted out of sight while the big boys are in town. Change the mindset. Promote the local game and use the big boys to help achieve that aim.

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

 

Rolff's The Man For Al Salmiyah

Scoring was never an issue for Al Salmiyah in last season's Kuwait Premier League, there are enough cannon fodder teams to boost anyone's goal difference in the 14 team league. However for all their goals there was never any likelihood the team from an area brimming with posh malls would seriously mount a challenge for the title.

Will this season be any better? The club are hoping so and have recruited Wolfgang Rolff as the man to lead them to title success. Rolff played 37 times for the German national side in the 1980s and also played for Hamburg SV, Bayer Leverkusen and Karlsruhe among others.

Since hanging up his boots Rolff has worked with the likes of SV Meppen, Hamburg SV and more recently Eintracht Frankfurt. He will also be no stranger to Kuwait having worked with the national team back in 2001, 2002.

Monday, July 06, 2015

 

Crowd Trouble Halts Final In Semarang

With no league at the moment and an ongoing dispute between the government and the PSSI there is little in the way of football going on Indonesia. Except that is the Central Java Police District Cup.

Despite the heady title it has not been short of controversy with players attacking match officials when they perceive things don't go their way.

Anyway the competition has reached the final with Persis and PSIS going toe to toe in a home and away two legged affair.

The first leg was played on Saturday in Semarang, home of PSIS and finished, um, in a riot. The second leg is due to be played next weekend in Solo...but under what conditions is not clear.

As can be seen in the video crowd control seems to consist of a few guys casually waving their arms in the air.

Sunday, July 05, 2015

 

Whistleblower Website Set Up In Indonesia

The Transition Team set up by the Ministry of Youth and Sports to change Indonesian football has come up with a website to encourage whistleblowers to report anything fishy they have encountered in the world of football.

The website www.laporsepakbola.com encourages people to report suspicious happenings on the field, rumours of match fixing, players waiting for salaries to be paid, dodgy performances by match officials and other stuff.

The folks behind the website they have been inundated with people providing information about misdeeds...it remains to be seen whether any information gets released to the general public though the site does claim summaries may well be released once in a while.

It will be interesting to see how this pans out. Does match fixing exist in Indonesian football? Has there been instances where match officials have been intimidated to provide the correct result? Will we ever find out or will any tales just be used as leverage in the future?

On paper a good idea and one long overdue. It is a shame it had to come from the government...

 

Sir Alex Ferguson To Get Involved In Indonesia Tournament?

The Independence Cup is slated to start in August and the organisers are getting very excited. So much so one of them has suggested they are trying to get Sir Alex Ferguson involved. Yep, you read that right. The wine loving Scot is apparently being wooed via his agent to help with the running of the cup being organised by a transition team on behalf of the government.

Apparently one member has been to Old Trafford to watch Manchester United play. What this means is not really made clear in the original story beyond the 'look at me' factor.

The organisers would also like Fergie to give a coaching clinic.

Now far be it for me, a mere blogger, to pour cold water on this wonderful idea but a couple of things cling to mind. The English Premier League kicks off early August. Do these people really think Fergie is going to give up his box seat at Old Trafford to fly halfway round the world to get in involved in this competition. And the second thing? FIFA, it will be recalled has banned Indonesia from international football. You think Fergie will overlook that?

Mind you there would be one attraction for Fergie in coming to Indonesia. The local culture of Jam karet gels nicely with his own idea of Fergie time!

Will it happen? The story is on a par with Minangkabu from the short lived IPL trying to sign Dennis Bergkamp!

So far the following teams have been roped into the competition that may or may not happen.

Grup A: PSMS Medan, PSPS Pekanbaru, Persires Kuningan, Lampung FC, Kalteng Putra, Martapura FC
Grup B: Perserang, Cilegon United, Persika Karawang, PSIR Rembang, Persip Pekalongan, Persidago Gorontalo
Grup C: Persepam MU, Persebo Jaya Bondowoso, Madiun Putra, Persekap Pasuruan Jaya, Persatu Tuban, Persinga Ngawi. - See more at: http://ongisnade.co.id/2015/07/03/piala-kemerdekaan-diikuti-18-tim#sthash.FympuKEJ.dpuf
Group A - PSMS, PSPS, Lampung, Kalteng Putra, Martapura, Persires
Group B - Perserang, Cilegon United, Persika Karawang, PSIR, Persip Pekalongan, Persidago
Group C - Persepam MU, Persebo, Bondowoso, Madiun Putra, Persekap Pasuruan, Persatu Tuban, Persinga Ngawi


Saturday, July 04, 2015

 

Tsunami Boy's Tale Is A Tale Of Indonesian Football

Back in 2004 an eight year old lad was playing football in Aceh. Then came a tsunami that wiped out most of his family along with nearly 240,000 other people and he was pictured wearing a fake Portugal football shirt looking lost and forlorn. That was when the world first heard of Martunis.

The image of this tsunami survivor spread around the world even without Twitter and came to the attention of the Portugal football team. Cristiano Ronaldo and co flew to Aceh to meet the youngster still coming to terms with the tragedy he had narrowly survived.

More than a decade later and Martunis has signed for Portuguese side Sporting Lisbon's academy.

It is a heartwarming story but it is also the tale of Indonesian football and perhaps even South East Asian football. Martinus' wiki page suggests he spent some time with PSAP Sligi but how long and how many games he played for them is less clear.

Indra Sjafri, former coach of Indonesia U19, has posted an image on Twitter showing the young lad at trials for the national side in 2013...trials Martinus ultimately failed. It was probably just as well. Alumni from that side now have no professional career to look forward to thanks to the piss fest between the government and the PSSI that has resulted in Indonesian football being suspended.

Imagine Martinus had qualified and gone on to represent Indonesia at Under 19 level. His career would now be at a brick wall with little hope of going anywhere anytime soon. Indra Sjafri, while not recognising his talent, has done him a favour. If Martinus is going to develop as player he is better off away from the stifling atmosphere of a domestic game where some players pay the coach to play and some clubs don't even pay the players to pay.

Reading between the lines it seems Ronaldo has kept an eye on that young tsunami survivor and kept his interest quiet. We may never know the true story of the help one of the world's best players has provided, along with his team mates, but young lads from the boonies of Indonesia don't get picked up by European clubs willy nilly. Arthur Irawan made the move because his parents believed in him and had the wherewithall to help make his dream come true.

Too many talented players will never have that fortune. They are condemned to spend their career as mere chattel for others. And for all the potential people like to talk about in Indonesian football that is the bare truth. Evan Dimas' career has stalled, hostage to the bickering blighting the game.To develop a player must look beyond the teh botol and bakso of his kampung and look overseas.

As news broke of Martunis' Portuguese adventure the sports minister was mocking FIFA. 'Where is FIFA now?' he asked. 'This is Indonesia' as if Indonesia sits astride a football legacy second to none. Yes, this is Indonesia where a player is not considered good enough for local teams, even if there were any, or their country but is good enough to move to one of the biggest clubs in Europe.

Thursday, July 02, 2015

 

Bangladesh Go Down Naturalisation Road

The Bangladesh Football Federation (BFF) yesterday started the official procedure of naturalising three African footballers in order to make them eligible for the Bangladesh national team.

The federation held talks with the three booters -- Ghana's Samad Yussif, Guina's Ismael Bangoura and Nigeria's Kingsley Chigozie – heard their demands and acquired their signatures on the provided forms, which will be forwarded to the home ministry within a couple of days to expedite the process.

The three booters in question are already eligible to apply for Bangladeshi citizenship since each of them has already spent more than four years continuously in this country. If the home ministry is convinced, the procedure of naturalisation may take one month in the least and six months at most. If citizenship is awarded, the federation will then apply to the FIFA Status Committee to make them eligible to represent Bangladesh national team.

BFF general secretary Abu Nayeem Shohag, who was present in the meeting, reiterated that acquiring citizenship will not necessarily mean these three players will walk into the national team.

“As per earlier talks between head coach Lodewijk de Kruif and the three players, we sat today and took their consent. However, awarding nationality doesn't mean they will get chance to play directly in the national team. They will be included in preliminary squad and then they will have to prove themselves to be included in the final squad,” Shohag said.

The players themselves were very positive about the prospect of getting Bangladeshi citizenship and representing this country at the international stage.

“We have seen something positive in the meeting and requested them (BFF) to start the process of the naturalisation,” said Chigozie, who currently plays for Sheikh Russel KC.

Yussif, who has been playing for Abahani for the past seven seasons, said he feels at home in Bangladesh and will give his full effort if given the opportunity.

“Bangladesh is like my second home. I stay here seven to eight months while spending rest of the time in Spain. As a professional player, I give full effort on the pitch for my club and there will be no shortage of effort when I play for the national team,” said the centre-back, who is the oldest of the three at 31 years of age.

Bangoura, who is currently playing for Mohammedan and has already scored nine goals in the ongoing premier league, said he is eager to play for Bangladesh.

“We have had a good interaction with the BFF officials about the nationality. I have agreed because I want to play for Bangladesh national team and want to stay with Bangladesh football,” said the Guinean.

However, the booters stated their queries regarding the nature of nationality, the incentives that they might receive from BFF, their status in the next domestic league and whether they will be provided with air tickets to travel to their native countries.

The BFF officials promised to provide them the same facilities that the local players of the national team receive when they are with the national team while promising that they might get extra benefits provided that they produce some good performances for the team.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

 

Ex Young Lion Gets JLeague Chance?

SINGAPORE — If he goes on to eventually secure a contract with J-League club Matsumoto Yamaga, Izwan Mahbud would become the first Singaporean footballer to feature in top-flight Japanese football.

But the Singapore national goalkeeper knows if he succeeds, he could also be paving the way for more of the Republic’s best players to ply their trade in Asia’s top leagues in what would be a huge boost for the sport’s flagging fortunes here.

Yesterday, it was reported Matsumoto Yamaga vice-president Yoshiyuki Kato had invited the 24-year-old for a trial. Izwan knows a lot more is at stake than him trying to secure a deal.

“If I do go for trials, I’m sure many people in Singapore will be hoping to see me succeed because they want to see Singaporean footballers playing in top leagues overseas,” Izwan told TODAY. “We were proud to see (Singapore national team-mate) Safuwan (Baharudin) playing for Melbourne City in the (Australian) A-League, and his stint inspired us to want to be like him and make it overseas.”

Izwan pulled off 18 saves to secure Singapore a shock 0-0 draw against four-time Asian champions Japan — widely regarded as Asia’s best footballing nation for the past two decades — in a 2018 World Cup qualifier in Saitama last Tuesday. His performance also piqued interest in Japan about him and Singapore football.

But while he denied the likes of AC Milan’s Keisuke Honda and Borussia Dortmund’s Shinji Kagawa, Izwan, who plays his club football for Singapore-based Malaysian Super League side LionsXII, admits Yamaga’s offer caught him off guard. “I did a short online search after the (LionsXII’s) match (against ATM on Tuesday) and found out more about the club. Their climb from the lower tiers into the J-League over the past few years is impressive,” said Izwan.

The Football Association of Singapore (FAS), which has been working to set up playing stints and trials for top Singapore players in the J-League, has not heard officially from Matsumoto Yamaga regarding the trials for Izwan. But the FAS wants further discussions with the club and the association’s relevant stakeholders, including sponsor Epson, on it. (No, no, please do not get involved. Why the hell does the FA need to talk to the sponsor? Perhaps they wanna look at KPIs and leverage on the hub to beccome a bespoke practioner of bullshit).

Fandi Ahmad and V Sundramoorthy — they played for Dutch side FC Groningen (1983 to 1985) and Swiss club FC Basel (1987 to 1988), respectively — remain arguably Singapore’s most successful footballing exports.

Others who have tried to secure deals outside of South-east Asia include former Singapore forwards Indra Sahdan, who had trials with United States Major League Soccer side Real Salt Lake in 2007, and Noh Alam Shah with Latvia’s Skonto Riga and England’s Notts County in 2005. Earlier this year, Safuwan secured a three-month deal with Melbourne City, while goalkeeper Hassan Sunny is now playing for Thailand’s Army FC.

 

Full Steam Ahead For Independence Cup

Ok, so the headline is a bit tongue in cheek but someone has come out and talked about the Independence Cup, a competition much trumpeted by the Transition Team as how Indonesian football will be cleaned up in the future.

Ok so not many teams have entered so far. Apparently organisers wanted 30. At the moment? No one is saying for now though if just 12 or 14 fulfill the conditions the competition will proceed.

Ok so what are the criteria? Well, you will be relieved to know those fine fellows at BOPI will be the ones who decide who can enter and who can't, oh how they must enjoy all this power that has fallen in their laps. And yes, with all this responsibility they now have a new website explaining what they do...the website is all in Indonesian but comes complete with an English motivational sentence from some guy I had to google.

Ok one of the clubs being rumoured to enter are Persibo. They were kicked out of professional football a couple of years back once the old PSSI returned and replaced the new PSSI to become the latest PSSI before the PSSI were unrecognised by the government. Get all that? Anyways, you may recall Persibo from their AFC Cup adventures but if you have forgotten here you can recall their humiliating adventures.

Ok so how will it work? No one knows yet but it seems the idea is the competition will be based in a number of cities; Lampung, Medan, Serang, Bangkalan and Bali. And, umm, that is probably about it. A start date is 24 July but don't go booking any flights or hotels just yet.

Ok, with the competition being backed by the government it is unlikely there will be any issues with releasing the necessary permits and security clearances, unlike the Java Sunrise Cup which was cancelled because the security officials would not release the permits.

 

Eric Djemba Djemba, Crabs & One Month

My latest column for ESPNFC looks at how FIFA's suspension of Indonesia is impacting football there.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

 

Ref Attacked In Indonesia. Again.

Have a good look at this picture and take into account the following.

1 - The image comes from a friendly tournament being held in Indonesia
2 - The tournament is being organised by the police in Central Java
3 - Indonesian football is currently suspended by FIFA

4 - Indonesian football frets and worries about match fixing or a referee mafia at the heart of the problems that plague the game

Do you get the impression anything will change anytime soon?

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