Saturday, March 31, 2012
Plight Of Persija
The name is the same as is the club crest and they both have had difficulties playing in their home city of Jakarta but that’s where the similarities end. In the eyes of the fans Persija (Indonesia Premier League (official league)) and Persija (Indonesia Super League (unofficial league)) are two very different entities. Born out of an ownership struggle within Persija at the start of the season, Persija IPL opted for the official status offered by the IPL but the fans were having none of it. They emphatically stood behind Persija ISL and from day one the IPL version were doomed.
The Persija fans, known as Jakmania, are used to travelling round the country following their team. Difficulties in obtaining the necessary permits to hold games in Jakarta have seen them take their road show to places like Semarang, Solo and Malang but each time they have been followed by a hard core of fans desperate to see their team at any cost.
Persija IPL have enjoyed no such luck. With the Jakmania firmly against them, they have been forced to take to the highways and byways of Java to play their home games, most recently in the east Javan city of Madiun, normally famous for sugar and steam railways! Before that it was Bantul or Solo.
Quite why the club owners decided to stick with the Persija brand even though the support had said they would not support them is just one of many mysteries that plagues/lights up football in this part of the world.
The IPL, not unreasonably, would have been keen for a team from Jakarta to be represented in their league. There was one last year, called Jakarta 1928 FC but they struggled to attract any kind of support. Instead of trying to build a new team and a new brand they just copied the Persija imaging and it hasn’t worked.
What the IPL is left with is a team with no home and no fans. And in the world of football that is a distinct disadvantage. Footballers thrive on security and routine. They need to know who they’re playing, when and where. For Persija the first two are usually fine; one thing the IPL has brought to the table is regular weekend games and not spreading ties over the week. The where is the problem and given the distances involved it can be quite a large problem.
The season started well enough for Persija IPL with two wins and three draws in their opening five games putting them at the business end of the table. However they couldn’t sustain that run and their next five games has seen them lose four, draw one and score just one goal leaving them 9th in the 12 team league.
Goalkeeper Aleksander Vrteski suggests that the team have missed the skills of Portuguese playmaker Jaime Braganca who started the season but moved to Rumanian side FC Vaslui.
Despite the loss of Braganca there is still plenty of experience in the team and the signing of Indonesian defender Diego Michels from Pelita Jaya in the ISL showed they have the ability to pull in big name players.
Emmanuel de Porras has earned a big reputation in Indonesia having played for teams like Persija (ISL) and PSIS Semarang, but his return of three goals this season, the last in the first week of January means the team are struggling to worry opponents too much.
Vrteski recognizes the uncertainty of where the team will play their home games is a factor in the poor run of results but says it is a part of the job players need to put to the back of their minds. ‘It's difficult physically with the extra travel involved (but) self motivation comes from yourself. Being a professional footballer you shouldn't need extra motivation playing away or home.’
To be fair to the players they do seem to be getting somethings right despite the difficult circumstances. Their poor form of late has ironically coincided with a much tighter defence; the goal they conceded away to Persijap in their last game was the sixth in their last five games. In their first five games, when they were unbeaten, they conceded nine goals!
The beauty of a 12 team league is there are only 12 teams in the league! And while the table may look none too pleasant for the players when they wake up in the morning and read the local papers, they will also recognize the fact that they are only seven points behind the IPL leaders, Persibo. With a mid season break round the corner and the possibility of fresh faces in the transfer window the players know that a couple of wins can totally change the mood around the club and send them up the table.
The long term viability of the club is a totally different matter. Having two teams called Persija isn’t the way to build a strong league and if, or when, common sense returns to Indonesian football it’s hard to see Persija IPL continuing in its current format.
(First appeared in Jakarta Globe)
(First appeared in Jakarta Globe)
Thursday, March 29, 2012
New FA, Same Mess
Monday, March 26, 2012
Reporting For Duty
Tuesday, March 20, 2012
Thai Port Season Tickets
Malaysians Bemoan Lack Of Fairness
Malaysia FA Cup Quarter Final Draw
Monday, March 19, 2012
Thai Premier League 2012 Kick Off
Phnom Penh Crown Press Release
Crown welcome new midfielder Emmanuel Frimpong (22), who played under head coach David Booth at Sisaket in the Thai Premier League last season. Frimpong was born in Accra, Ghana and progressed via Gawara Babies and Goldfields Academy before spending five years with Ghanaian Premier League club Liberty Professionals, prior to joining Sisaket. Joining Frimpong in midfield is Henry Asonibe (20), who is no stranger to the C-League having played for Spark and Wat Phnom in 2009 and 2010. Asonibe hails from Oguto in Nigeria and spent two years with Orashi United in his home country before coming to Cambodia.
Adding to Crown’s goalscoring options is striker Melvin Tarley (29), who has two international caps for his nation, Liberia and who has spent more than a decade in United States football. Born in Monrovia, the capital city of the West African nation of Liberia, he escaped the civil war in his country and moved from a refugee camp to live in Minnesota at the age of 17. He played for Alliance and a brief stint in Hungary with Chaspel before joining Major League Soccer with Minnesota Thunder, Real Salt Lake and Colorado Rapids. He enjoyed spells at Puerto Rico Islanders and Miami and more time at Minnesota Thunder before they changed their name to NSC Minnesota Stars, his final club before joining Crown.
A new face in defence is Cambodian national team full-back Pheak Rady(23), who has spent the last three years with the National Defense Ministry team. Born in Ponhea Leu in Kandal, he represented both Kandal and Kompong Speu province before a season with Phnom Penh Empire and a few games for Khemara Keila.
Two players who were an important part of Crown’s successful C-League championship team last season, Chan Chaya (25) and Kingsley Njoku (25) have also re-joined the club. Both players are currently serving suspensions as a result of the AFC President’s Cup Final defeat in Taiwan and are not yet eligible to play in the C-League. Njoku scored 15 goals last season, with Chaya netting 9 goals. Crown have accepted the players’ remorse for their actions in the AFC President’s Cup Final and we welcome them back into the club’s playing squad for the new season.
The Slow Pace Of Reform
Ok so we have had two gobfests over the weekend about Indonesian football. One involving the PSSI or the football association that is recognized by FIFA and as such is the official body. The other was held by a counter organization that claims it iis part of the official PSSI; they just won’t talk to them! They held their own meeting and appointed their own officials.
This whole nonsense has gotten tiresome. Surely there is no one out there who still believes this is about football? Never has been and never will be.
A strong FIFA could have nipped this in the bud years ago. The previous head of the PSSI spent some time behind bars yet carried on running the game, holding meetings, dictating policy despite this being in contravention of FIFA’s own statutes.
Had they taken action then, either to suspend Indonesia from international football or disband the FA then maybe we wouldn’t quite be in this mess. There would still be a mess but perhaps a different kind of mess.
But the dinosaurs at FIFA who don’t recognize corruption under their noses did nothing despite this flagrant breach of their rules. They allowed the wound to fester and we all know what happens to festering wounds.
To expect any kind of reconciliation is naïve. The rival camps aren’t in the mood for parley. Indeed, they seem to be in the mood for little else than awarding each other plum jobs and showing off their latest batik shirts at the latest conference.
Football is never mentioned and of course it won’t be. Like I’ve said before, this ain’t about football.
Football is an extension of the host society. Germany; is wonderously effiecient, England’s is expensive and regulated while Indonesia’s is a vibrant mix of ugliness and moments of supreme beauty.
To attempt to understand the crisis in football it helps to understand the host country and where it is. Indonesia is a new country with sprawling borders encompassing a large number of ethnic groups and languages. For the first 50 years of its history, a history achieved after a bloody fight with the Dutch and their proxies, the country has been ruled by dictators; first Sukarno then Suharto.
Other countries suffered under dictators or even ‘indifferent’ elected leaders but in those countries corruption was seen as a game everyone could play. In Indonesia, especially under Suharto, everything was funneled towards the centre. Nothing happened without the say so of the ruling family. And they were a ruling family in all senses of the word.
Democracy is less than 15 years old. Figures from the old guard are still in key positions as are, more importantly their family members and acolytes and they don’t want reform. Turkeys rarely vote for Christmas. Then we have the generation who went did their education during those years. They were taught a certain way and having been believers all their lives, they are not about to squander what they see as their legitimacy for the sake of loony western ideas of fairness and freedom.
Look at the pictures of those at the conferences. You won’t see many young faces there. Instead you see the remnants of the old guard brought up to do things a certain way and they sure as hell aren’t going to change their ways any time soon.
Democracy is a new concept. Parties are defined by personalities more than policies and the electorate, used to being told what to think, is only just starting to try and hold their elected officials accountable. The elites are aware of this of course and every once in a while throw the masses a morsel; usually a minion involved in a corruption case while circling the wagons round the top brass.
Civil society is only just starting to make its voice heard in a number of areas from bicycle paths in Jakarta to anti corruption campaigners.
Politics is more stable now than it has been since the end of the dictatorship but that is a relative word. Parties ebb and flow depending on their funding while political marriages of convenience are the norm as they seek to maximize their support at elections and after when the deal making is done for who gets what cabinet seat.
For centuries shadow puppet plays were the major source of entertainment for the masses and Sukarno, Indonesia’s first post independence leader with his Javanese background understood this. He knew politics would be unfathomable for much of the country so he would litter his speeches with metaphors from the Mahabharata and the Ramayana which he knew his audiences would understand. In return the people saw a leader who could speak their language and they flocked to him.
The shadow play sees one dimensional puppets acting out stories against a backdrop of a single sheet. It’s hardly Wallace and Gromit and the whole point of the play was that although you could see what the puppets were saying and doing the audience knew they were being controlled by an invisible hand whose motives may not always be explicit. Perhaps this form of entertainment explains much of the cynicism that permeates the Indonesian soul today. They know they’re being taken for a ride, they just often don’t know who is riding the horse.
The current political deadlock in many ways reflects a shadow play. Many of the characters involved are linked to their own puppet master and very often a story that becomes headline news is little more than a thinly disguised attack on a major player who is never referred to. The players of course know.
It’s much like how China watchers used to try and understand the Byzantine world of Communist Party politics especially under Chairman Mao Tse Tung. Stories were pored over for what wasn’t mentioned, pictures examined for who wasn’t there.
Against this backdrop, the crisis in Indonesian football looks daunting; an almost impossible task to manage. And for outsiders unaware of all the nuances and the subtleties it probably is. Reform will come but will come at a slow, slow pace and nothing any outsider can do will speed that process.
Sunday, March 18, 2012
Call Yourself A Professional Footballer?
Lions Grow Up
Saturday, March 17, 2012
Raja Takes It On The Chin
Indonesia Cup Draw
The Future's Bright, The Future's Persib
Persib Bandung are one of arguably four Indonesian football clubs, (Persija Jakarta, Arema Malang and Persebaya Surabaya are the others) with the potential to become a brand that extends beyong the country’s own borders.
They are already a massive club at home and indeed West Java is blue to such an extent that few other teams thrive in the province. From Cirebon on the border with Central Java to the coastal resort town of Pelabuhan Ratu and all points inbetween walls are covered in graffiti extolling ‘their’ football club. Persib, 1933, Bobotoh, Maung Bandung, Vikings are sprayed everywhere, clothes lines will usually feature the famous club crest somewhere.
As a football club, Persib have been starved of success for way too long. Their last domestic success was back in 1995 but it doesn’t matter. Every home game the narrow street leading to the Jalak Harapat Stadium in Soreang is filled to overflowing with a steady blue heading heading to the game, while coming back the journey to the centre of Bandung can take hours.
The traffic though isn’t a deterrent to the blue hoards. Persib fans call themselves Bobotoh, a Sundanese word meaning ‘one who encourages’ while the largest supporters club are the Vikings who have a small club shop just round the corner from the Siliwangi Stadium in central Bandung.
With professional football clubs no longer permitted to use funds from local governments to fund their campaigns, they have been forced to look elsewhere and Persib, with their massive supporter base, have been one of the more successful. Advertising boards round the pitch have long been a source of income for football clubs in other countries but a reliance on the taxpayer meant it has been under utilized here. Persib however have more than most for their home games and similarly they have foud a few sponsors to advertise on the club shirts.
And again this is an area where Indonesian clubs have been slow to enter. Traditionally it has been state owned enterprises or the local provincial bank that have been talked into putting their names to their local clubs; better known companies in the private sector have stayed away, perhaps not to impressed with the image the game has from top to bottom.
Persib are slowly changing that perception with several sponsors listed on their official website. And again very few clubs bother with their own website, preferring to let fans keep in touch by word of mouth. There is also an attached on line store where the supporters can buy official replica gear, t shirts and so on. The club also have a café, called Persib Café, in Bandung!
Persib’s next step to achieving financial independence is to offer shares in the club to the public be they institutional investors or fans longing to have a piece of their beloved Persib hanging on the bedroom wall.
While Persib set about securing their status as one of the biggest teams in Indonesia are they able to translate into international success? Some of the more forward thinking Thai teams have mumbled about becoming big clubs in the reason but to be fair they lack the traditions necessary. Muang Thong United’s name change during the pre season to accomade a new share holder won’t stir the passions; is it a football club or a cement company while Buriram whatever their name is this year is just small town miles from anywhere operating at the whim of the local landlord.
Neither bring what Persib can to the table. Passion and history. Bandung also has another couple of feathers in their hat. The city is increasingly being connected to the rest of south east Asia thanks to budget airlines flying in from Singapore and Kuala Lumpur which offer people the chance of low cost breaks, shopping plus perhaps some football over a weekend.
The recent signing of Noh Alam Shah can only increase the recognition of Persib in Singapore.
The other advantage Persib have is the Indonesian diaspora round the region, especially studying and working in Malaysia. An estimated 17,000 Indonesians attended the ASEAN Cup Final in KL back in 2010 and most of those weren’t flying in from Jakarta or Medan or Surabaya. Persib have long realized this and have frequently played games against Malaysian opposition both in Indonesia and in Malaysia.
A shared culture and language suggests that Persib will have an easier time connecting with fans in Malaysia than Thai teams would.
Persib’s potential is limited only by the vision of the people who run the club and the league in Indonesia. But they are surely better placed than most clubs to tap into South East Asia’s insatiable appetite for football.
Nonsense At Geylang
Tuesday, March 13, 2012
The (In)Famous Bonek
Thai Politicised League Preview
Thai season kicks off this weekend. Champions Buriram PEA are no Buriram United, an imaginative name change and they will be hoping to continue the form of last season when they surprised absolutely no one by winning the TPL, the FA Cup and the League Cup. They probably never lost a toss either.
Muang Thong United boast a new coach, a new sponsor, a slight name change and a new sponsor for their stadium. They’ve also been splashing the cash but will the club give the new coach time to even buy a second tube of toothpaste?
The guts have been torn out of Thai Port to such an extent that Scotsman Steven Robb is now among their longest serving players. He arrived last year and I have still to see him play; both games I went to he was injured eh?! Moise and Ulrich have also left the club and with ownership questions still circulating it remains to be seen whether they can find any stability on the field.
Stability ain’t an issue at Chonburi but with all the money being funneled towards clubs like Muang Thiong and Buriram United the side from the eastern seaboard seemed set fair to be the Arsenal of Thailand; a club everyone admires but always coming up short when it matters.
Coming up from Division One are BBCU who used to be known as Chula United last time they were in the TPL. Rather optimistically they will be using the Rajamangala Stadium for their home games. It’s like Barnet using the Emirates in North London.
Buriram won Division One at a canter and they have merged with Buriram PEA to allow non Buriram teams to win the odd trophy hence the Buriram United monicker.
The other promoted team are Chainat from somewhere north of Bangkok.
This being Thailand there is another new team in the TPL despite only three up, three down. With the PEA franchise no longer being used by Buriram and only one Burirma in the top flight by some mental arithmetic and no doubt political interference there is a new team in the top flight. And it ain’t the team that finished 4th ‘cos that would be logical but logic don’t apply in the land of la la and puu yai.
Wuanchon United, it has to be United dunnit, are some kind of spawn from OEA and Songkla and by rights have no place in any football league but the Thai owner fancied it so there you have it. Don’t whine about it, don’t question it. Just accept it. Or avoid it.
Interesting season lies ahead for the Thais. The political interference is getting more and more obvious and more and more embarrassing but it is unlikely the paper tiger that is FIFA will do anything. The political intereference comes at a local level where the concept of a local godfather still carries some swing amd no one seems to have the balls to stand up to them ‘cos they know one day they will need them; and their votes.
Like the Indonesians, the Thais are excellent at finding and exploiting loopholes. A few people are making a shit load of money so on one is really complaing, even if they could.
Oh, and a Casual hot tip? Suphanburi to win Division One!
Eagles Plummet Home
There has been a wonderful freshness to the SLeague in its opening weeks as teams like Hougang United and Balestier Khalsa have flirted with the top positions but the weekend just gone has shown the traditional big boys flexing their muscles and how.
Tampines won the title last year, confirming the triumph with a 5-0 rout of Balestier Khalsa. Along the way they routed Woodlands Wellington 5-0. But the Rams are one of those teams who have started the season better. The Stags though found form with prolific striker Aleksander Duric netting a hat trick and midfielder Mustafic Fahrudding adding the fourth.
Last season Home United had to defeat Geylang and hope Tampines slipped up againt Balestier to secure the title. They also thumped Geylang but to no avail. Last weekend though they met the Eagles one more time and this time they massacred them on home soil, winning 7-1 and detting out serious marker for Tampines.
Shotara Ihata hit four to help Home while Frederic Mendy hit a couple and an og rounded off the rout, moving Home up to 5th place. Tampines are 9th but have a game in and on the rest
In more SLeague action, league leaders Albirex Niigata lost 2-1 away to DPMM for their first defeat of the season. They still lead the table with nine points from their opening four games with Balestier second on eight points and Hougang with DPMM on seven points.
Tampines host Tanjong Pagar tonight; victory will see them climb to level on points with Hougang and DPMM.
Who said Singapore football was boring?
Sunday, March 11, 2012
Pelita Jaya v Arema 2-1
Saturday, March 10, 2012
More Dead Football Fans
- Why were fans allowed on the roof?
- Why were fans allowed to travel?
- Why don't clubs get involved with supporters clubs and arrange safe, affordable travel to away games?
- Considering the events a couple of years ago when Persebaya fans travelled to Bandung why were no preventative measures taken?
- Where does the buck stop?
Friday, March 09, 2012
Hassanal Bolkiah Cup Final Preview
Persita Top Divisi Utama
I haven't really touched upon the Divisi Utama this season, either of them, and for that I apologise; family stuff and all that.
A Ref Copping It Big Time
Balestier Enjoying The View
Thursday, March 08, 2012
Pakistan Striker Joins TPL
AFC Cup Match Day 1
Deltras Savour Rare Win
Tuesday, March 06, 2012
Persib Target Asian Strikers
Monday, March 05, 2012
Surabaya's New Stadium Opens
Friday, March 02, 2012
Latest World Cup Disaster
Fowler Exchanges Bangkok For Blackpool?
Why We Love Indonesian Football
what an extraordinary place to visit! The locals literally could not have been more hospitable, friendly and welcoming, and despite a constant battle with the language barrier it was a brilliant adventure.
I ended up seeing Johor v T-Team, SAFC v Brunei, Persiba Bantul v Persiraja, Persenga Nganjuk v Pasuaran, PSMP Mojokerto v Perseru, Persis Solo v Cilacap and PSISra Sragen v Boyolali. Two of them proved to be the most remarkable football matches I have ever witnessed – they were literally the stuff of dreams as far as football tourism goes.
At Nganjuk it took about 90mins to walk from my mosquito infested prison-cell (I think there was only one hotel in town) to the little ramshackle stadium. I expected a crowd of maybe a few hundred – similar to my local team Tooting – but the stadium was already filling up an hour before kick-off, and by kick-off it was dangerously overcrowded all the way around. Police had just waved me through the gate without having to buy a ticket and then two lads (who turned out to be the cheer-leaders) pushed me towards a couple of their mates who spoke English, so I found myself right in the singing and dancing section and not that far from an aggressive mob clad in green who they said supported Persebaya and were just there to provoke aggro.
With the home side 2-0 up and around 60 mins gone, all hell suddenly let loose. A home player was the recipient of a heavy tackle, he responded by punching the perpetrator and in turn the visiting keeper ran half the length of the pitch to brutally stamp on leg of the player who had thrown the punch. Instantly the keeper turned and scarpered, legging it across the width of the pitch with about five players in hot pursuit, whilst brawls broke out between the other players. The keeper was stopped in his tracks by a flying two-footed assault by one of the substitutes of Nganjuk, and he was then brutally beaten before police managed to come to his aid.
I did not know where to look next, as a few spectators had also run on to the pitch, whilst the Surabaya mob were trying to penetrate the gate below me and join those on the pitch.
Finally the players converged around their respective dug-outs, surrounded by police, whilst the match officials also huddled together, equally surrounded by police. I assumed the match would be abandoned, but chaos continued to reign for 15 mins and finally the referee walked to the centre circle and blew his whistle, the two captains trotted over to join him followed by their teammates and following handshakes and hugs all round the match resumed (although not before the keeper had been taken off on a stretcher and substituted).
There was not a single red card, or even a yellow…I’m guessing this is the sort of thing you see all the time but I was just totally dumb-struck (there is actually a video-clip of the news broadcast here: http://metrotvnews.com/read/newsvideo/2012/02/23/145836/Laga-Persenga-Nganjuk-dan-Persekabpas-Pasuruan-Ricuh/14 )
The very next day I got an early bus to the equally non-descript East Javan city of Mojokerto, and this time a kindly teacher who sat next to me got me a lift to a fantastic and really cheap hotel. As I checked in I noticed a washing line, hanging from which were a load of orange shirts belonging to Perseru from Papua. Having found a player (Doni) who spoke English he asked the manager, and it was agreed I could travel to the game in Mojosari on the team coach.
Doni was really excited as it was the first time ever he was playing in a game that was being broadcast live on TV, and sure enough the cameras were there to record the moment I stepped off the coach in my filthy rags and was ushered through the throng to the changing rooms, where I sat through the team talk and held hands during team prayers. I then took my place in the “VIP” section with two injured players (yeah, basically an old concrete terrace but with a roof!).
The game was dire, but again in a flash it turned tasty. The referee gave the home side a penalty with 20 mins remaining which they scored. He then made them retake it for encroachment and it was smashed over the bar. Suddenly the referee was surrounded by furious home players and pushed and jostled. He tried to retreat but was held by one player and then punched and kicked by a second. He then managed to wriggle free and ran from the pitch with the players in hot pursuit, and as the police pushed him through the gate just below me spectators also gave him a few pot shots. It was quite astonishing.
My two mates just shrugged and grinned. “This is Indonesia. Football is always like this!”
The crowd (the little stadium was so packed there were people sitting around the perimeter of the pitch) remained in place, and after ten minutes the referee and linesmen walked back on to the pitch, the two teams came over and shook his hand, and he blew his whistle to restart the match, once again without a single card being shown…
Mojokerto ended up winning 1-0 with a last minute goal, and as I sat with the players on the pitch afterwards as they received their post-match bollocking, one of them whisphered to me that the manager had just told them he had resigned as he was so disgusted. I never found out if this was true or not but the managers face was in the paper alongside a few paragraphs the next day so it is very likely.
After the match I talked through the game with Doni, and he blamed the defeat on the pitch and the heat, admitted he needed to get fitter and also explained how difficult it was to win an away game because of the referees / corruption. The one glaringly obvious complaint/excuse he should have used was that at least two of the home players should have been sent off, probably 6-7. This hadn’t even occurred to him until I pointed it out…
There were only two real frustrations: when I opened the newspaper on Saturday morning and saw a photo of the Persebaya – Indo U21 match with the stadium glowing pink – I hadn’t even realised the match was being played and had only been 40km away. And equally that same day Magelang and Sleman had played the first of two derby matches that they played on consecutive days, one in each of the two Utama Leagues. Early that week I had seen the fixture mentioned in two papers, with each stating a contradictory date, so I had given up on it and plumped for Persis Solo. It had not even occurred to me both papers were talking about different fixtures between the same sides at the same stadium…!