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)

Thursday, March 29, 2012


New FA, Same Mess

The 1st Round of the Indonesian Cup is underway amid the usual games postponed because no permission was issued or teams just didn't bother turning up or teams playing far from home.

Persikab v PSP 1-0
Persikota v Persikabo 1-0
Persis v PSS 3-1
PSCS v Persik 2-1
Persbul v Persemalra POSTPONED
Madiun Putra v Persires 1-0
Persitara v PS Bengkulu 3-0 (Bengkulu never turned up)
Persepar v PSIS 3-2
Persewangi v Persipro 1-1
PSBI v Gresik United POSTPONED

Second leg to be played 4 April

Monday, March 26, 2012


Reporting For Duty

Sorry, not much posted lately. It's not that nothing has happened, heaps have, but not had time to sit down and collate stuff. Keep checking Twitter as I will still post there but this will be quiet for the next couple of days...

Tuesday, March 20, 2012


Thai Port Season Tickets

According to Thai Port blog, season tickets have gone on sale at the PAT Stadium. Costing 2,500 Baht you get 10% discount in the club shop, a home and away jersey, a cuddly toy, a clock radio and admission to Thai Port home games.

Some confusion of where those home games will be played as PAT Stadium floodlights still not much more powerful than a candle in the wind. Some talk that home against Muang Thong United could well be at Muang Thong United's stadium.

After reaching three successive Cup Finals Thai Port are deep in financial poo poo and with many of their best players having left the club over the second half of last season it could be a long, hard struggle.


Malaysians Bemoan Lack Of Fairness

"If the LionsXII win the league, the Malaysia Cup and the FA Cup, we will have a problem. We all want a competitive league but we have to be fair to the Malaysian teams." (Original)

So says a member of the Football Association of Malaysia.It's a bit like having a party, inviting someone at the last minute then getting upset when they seduce the girl of your dreams. Basically, tough shit.

The same story also says that when the agreement was initialled inked, Singapore would enter an Under 23 side as the Malaysians were doing in the SLeague. But the Singaporeans objected (whined) saying they would lose players because of National Service duty and the Malaysians agreed.

National Service is Singapore's problem. Nothing to do with Malaysia. Entering Young Lions in Malaysia has long been my preferred option, not that anyone asked me, and creating a complete new team would take players from their clubs competing in the SLeague leaving the Singapore FA accused of weakening their own competition.

Why the need to let Malaysians eyeball the likes of Shahril, depriving Singaporeans the chance of seeing them week in, week out? It's not necessary for Malaysian fans to watch the big names from south of the causeway; if they wanna do that then they can top up their Proton and cross the border themselves.

Singaporeans are getting to see a Harimau Muda team with a roster of unknowns and last I checked the planet was still spinning on its axis and I was still aging.

Malaysia, I feel, gave away too much when they allowed LionsX11 to draw upon almost any age group and are perfectly entitled to insist on it for next season; whether the Singaporeans win all three trophies or not.


Malaysia FA Cup Quarter Final Draw

1st Leg

Sime Darby v Johor FC
Terengganu v LionsX11
SPA v Kelantan
Kedah v T Team

2nd leg to be played 27/03

Monday, March 19, 2012


Thai Premier League 2012 Kick Off

A new season underway in Thailand and one of many changes be they new teams, name changes or just political interfering.

Buriram United, who won the league as Buriram PEA last season, defeated Chiang Rai United 3-1 in front of 9,763 fans. If you're new to Thai football you will soon notice a few trends. Buriram whatever they call themselves will not lose many, if any, home games; and there are an inordinate number of teams called United.

Muang Thong United have a new coach and new sponsor and a striker who is embarrassing when it comes to diving. They beat BEC Tero 2-0 in their opening game. Somehow Chonburi defeated Thai Port 4-0 (7,856) in their opening game which means they never read the script properly and sit on top of the nascent table.

Bangkok Glass defeated Wuachon United 2-0 (7,900). Who the bloody hell are Wuachon United you may ask and if you are asking then please ask the Thai FA or the TPL to explain how the hell a totally new team can be in the top division. But that's how Thai football works!

Newly promoted Chainat, who aren't called United and this may cause problems later on, drew 1-1 away to Army United who are called United which pleases many no doubt who like the uniformity of the football league to match the uniformity of beer bellied silver tops in Pattaya in hawaiian shirts or white shirted Somchais in an office saying 'aroi dee' in unison.

Osotspa defeated TOT 2-1 in a game that probably was of little interest to anyone with no interest in energy drinks or telephone companies. Newly promoted BBCU, god they choose some daft names, beat Isan United, last season they were known as Sisaket but have moved city, 1-0 while finally Cyril Police United drew 0-0 with TTM who now are based in Chiang Mai.

Still here? Still interested?


Phnom Penh Crown Press Release

On 31 January 2012, prior to the Hun Sen Cup competition, Phnom Penh Crown announced securing the services of no less than thirteen new players. Crown are now pleased to announce the addition of six new players to our playing squad for the forthcoming Metfone Cambodian League, which the club have won for the last two consecutive seasons, in 2010 and 2011.

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?

Much hype recently about the 'power of social media' with an online clip about an African warlord going viral and many middle class liberals wringing their hands as much at the 'power' they think they now have as the crimes of that particularly despicable; by the way he was not an unknown, anyone who keeps up with current affairs would have been familiar with his evil story.

I have my doubts. Most people on line have the attention span of a stick insect. I'm surrounded by people at work who spend half their day on facebook yet they can never recall a joke they had regaled/bored us with 24 hours earlier.

But on the day Fabrice Muamba suffered a heart attack while playing for Bolton Wanderers in an FA Cup tie against Tottenham players round the world were still diving and cheating.

Check out this guy playing for Muang Thong United against BEC Tero on the opening day of the new Thai Premier League season. Watch from around 1:00.

Can the internet change anything? Probably not. But wouldn't it be nice if this particular individual, who probably calls himself a professional footballer, demands a high salary, win bonuses etc etc, was called to account for his bullshit. Wouldn't it be nice if the club sanctioned him. Wouldn't it be nice if he was banned from football for life?

He's a cheat. OK, in this example a failed cheat but all too often players get away with this kind of shit and when they do get away with it their clubs acquiesce. with their silence they condone this cheating.

Players are quick enough to whine about the ref, whine about their 'hectic schedule'. It would be nice to see them take a stand against this embarrassing behaviour and tell the offenders it just ain't acceptable.


Lions Grow Up

I've been calling for a Singapore team to play in Malaysia for several years. Singapore is safe, dull and nice. Aggression in Singapore is whining on internet forums or pushing past people to get on the MRT or to the head of a queue at a sale. Not the best environment for building a football team that can develop beyond their own borders.

Yesterday LionsX11 went to Sarawak and in a particularly hostile atmosphere managed to win 1-0 thanks to a 71st minute penalty. The Lions keeper complained about lasers being pointed at him, the home players apparently intimidated the match officials and after the game had finished the Singapore players had their coach trashed by rampaging home fans and had to stay in the dressing room while things quietened down.

Normal stuff for central defender Baihakki Khaizan of course who played for Persija and Persib in Indonesia for a couple of seasons but eye opening stuff for the rest of the team!

UPDATE - A Sarawak fan's viewpoint can be found on Sarawak Bloggers

Saturday, March 17, 2012


Raja Takes It On The Chin

Malaysia are currently going through their most successful time in a bloody long time. ASEAN Cup winners, two time SEA Games winners, got further than any other regional side in the Olympic Qualifiers, Malaysia at the moment are too big for ASEAN yet too small for the wider Asia.

With its weak domestic infrastructure, constant doubts about the fairness of the games and strong state Football Associations Malaysia is nowhere near ready to take on Asia on a level playing field, no matter how good the players and the coach are.

Yet some Tan Sri, a title bestowed on Malaysians who do things rather like the English knighthoods, seems to feel the national team are underperforming. This particular gent, who is on the FA apparently, is not happy and had this to say recently

“Excuses for the team’s failure cannot be accepted all the time”. SOURCE

I wonder which planet this particular gentleman lives on. Teams fail all the time. What does he expect? Does he expect Malaysia to qualify for the Olympics just because they won the SEA Games last year? Well, that ain't gonna happen. For all the good work of the last few years, Malaysia is still way, way short of the likes of Syria, Bahrain, Japan or South Korea.

To reach their level will need nothing less than a reform of the mindset of those who run the game. It will need an end to the state FAs, it will need greater transparency in the game, it will need a more professional approach from those who are responsible for the game.

In terms of world football, South East Asia is small fry. Malaysia's stated aim is to reach the next Asian Cup and to do that they will need to beat teams from a region that is ploughing serious money into football and taking a long term approach. It also needs everyone pulling together for the sake of Malaysian football, not dancing to someone else's own personal agenda.


Indonesia Cup Draw

First Round

Persikab v PSP
Persikota v Persikabo
Persis v PSS
PSCS v Persik
Persebul v Persemalra
Madiun Putra v Persires Bali
Persitara v PS Bengkulu
Persepar v PSIS
Persewangi v Persipro
PSBI v Gresik United

Games to be played home and away later this month, early April. What's that, you want to know the dates? Do me a favour!

There was no competition last season. Since it was introduced back in 2005 only two teams have won it, Arema and Sriwijaya, though given how pants Arema are this season and Sriwijaya don't even play in the right league can we expect a new name on this not so famous trophy?

2005 Arema
2006 Arema
2007 Sriwijaya
08/09 Sriwijaya
09/10 Sriwijaya


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

Mike Wong has quit SLeague strugglers Geylang United. The Eagles had started the season poorly with three defeats in their opening three games including a 7-1 reverse against Home United.

The club initially announced Wong would be placed in charge of the Prime League side; a strange move that most professional football coaches would not entertain. Wong didn't and has left the club.

Geylang have fully embraced the Business School language culture that Singaporeans so adore. They are talking about introducing Key Performance Indicators for every member of staff 'including the kit man'.

Players will have their performances evaluated after every game while people in suits will only be evaluated every three months because 'we need to know if we have the right person for each job.'

What a bunch of bollocks. Perhaps we could see the assistant coach fired 'cos the cones are not lined up straight enough, the kit man fired 'cos the centre forward's shirt doesn't have sharp enough creases or the chairman fired 'cos he doesn't use enough business school bullshit.

By their logic then Kenny Dalglish would have been fired a long time ago, Andy Carroll would have been released last summer and Jordan Henderson would have been placed in charge of bibs before games.

The club appointed a new chairman ahead of the new season.


Bobotoh NAS

It's probably the worst kept secret in Indonesian football. After heading to Bandung, ostensibly to play golf, Noh Alam Shah has signed for Persib Bandung! His signing coincided with the club's celebrations marking their 79th anniversary.

NAS, also known as Ah Long, had been a free agent since he left Arema IPL earlier in the year.

Persib are currently 6th in the Indonesia Super League and have scored 20 goals in their 15 games so far with midfielder Miljan Radovic top scoring with five goals.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012


The (In)Famous Bonek

Four Persebaya fans went to a game and never came back. My latest column in Jakarta Globe


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

You just know it's gonna be bad when you see perennial bench warmer Boy Jati starting up front alongside a new signing.

This hasn't been the greatest of seasons for Arema and this 2-1 defeat away to Pelita Jaya was just about right. Forget the fact that the two teams are to all intents and purposes owned by the same people, Arema are a poor team.

Yes they were without first choice striker Marcio Souza and Dicky Firasat but there isn't much in the rest of the line up to inspire confidence and Arema fans must be waiting for the day when they start playing the likes of M Ridhuan and their other signings from Arema IPL.

The team was devoid of spirit and invention. Nothing in the middle, even less up front. I was gobsmacked to see Boy Jati start and the first thing he did after running on the field was run back to the touchline for some water. Never saw him again first half and second half he lasted a few minutes before being subbed.

A subdued performance even from Seme Pierre Patrick. The cavalier full back who often thinks he's Lionel Messi put in a disciplined shift but oh how Arema could have done with someone, anyone with his exuberance.

Pelita Jaya weren't that great but then they didn't need to be.

All a far cry from two years ago in Malang when Arema thumped Pelita Jaya 6-1 on their way to the ISL title.

Some images from the match can be found on Asian Football Pictures.

Saturday, March 10, 2012


More Dead Football Fans

Apparently four Persebaya fans fell to their deaths on the way to their Indonesia Premier League game at Persibo. The train, as ever, was overcrowded, and was attacked, as ever, at Lamongan with fans on the roof falling to their deaths. Several more were taken to hospitals in Bojonegoro.

Don't waste your breath waiting for anyone to take responsibility. The FA, the clubs, the security and the railway company will play point the finger and hope everyone will soon forget. Which they will.

Some questions that won't be considered:

  1. Why were fans allowed on the roof?
  2. Why were fans allowed to travel?
  3. Why don't clubs get involved with supporters clubs and arrange safe, affordable travel to away games?
  4. Considering the events a couple of years ago when Persebaya fans travelled to Bandung why were no preventative measures taken?
  5. Where does the buck stop?
I know, these questions will be viewed as wishy washy from an over liberal westerner (and anyone who knows me will tell you liberal I ain't) but hey? What happens if the parents of those kids who went to a football match and never returned asked those questions? What would your answers be?

Friday, March 09, 2012


Hassanal Bolkiah Cup Final Preview

The Hassanal Bolkiah Cup is one more victim to familyhood. The final though kicks off in about half an hour so here is some quick background.


Group Stage

v Laos 2-0
v Singapore 1-1
v Myanmar 1-3
v Philippines 3-0

Semi Final

v Vietnam 2-0

In the final they meet hosts Brunei. This is the fourth edition of the Under 21 cup and Indonesia won the first in 2002. Thailand won in it in 2005 and 2007 but this year did they even send a team? Thai football is rapidly going down the swannee as politicians and other ne'erdowells flock to stick their disgusting, foaming beaks in the trough.

Brunei defeated Cambodia, the Malaysian Under 19s and Timor Leste, losing to Vietnam, before beating Myanmar in the final.

You know what would be funny? I mean sidesplittingly hilari-bloody-us as in the first time you saw Fawlty Towers pissing yourself funny? If Brunei win and the Indonesians start saying the ref favoured the home team!

Anyway Andik Vermansyah, the latest talent who should make it overseas according to local commentators, has scored five of Indonesia's nine goals.

Not seen any of the games so far, this ain't easy you know, my little gooner has hogged the TV and refuses to allow me to watch any football. And when he has finished watching the night garden it's time for Shaun the Bloody Sheep until he decides it's time to sleep.

See, you get none of this from Sky Sports...


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.

Anyway Persita, playing in Cilegon 'cos their Benteng Stadium has been closed to both them and Persikota, made hard work of beating Persih 1-0 to go top of Group 1 in the 'rebel' Divisi Utama.

It's quite a strong league, Group 1 anyway, with PSIM and Persebaya also in the mix but not many goals.

Persebaya's first defeat of the season came last week when they lost to 4th placed Persip Pekalongan. Of course there are two Persebaya's in the two set ups' Persebaya IPL attracted 55,000 fans to the Bung Tomo Stadium for their last home game against Arema. By contrast, their last home game in Divisi Utama saw just over 2,000 fans.

Persita's last home game, against Persis, at the Benteng Stadium attracted over 8,000 while PSIM's last home game, at the end of January, against Persebaya got just over 9,000.

1 - Persita 10 6 3 1 12-5 21
2 - Persebaya 8 6 1 1 13-5 19
3 - PSIM 8 5 3 0 12-5 18


A Ref Copping It Big Time

Complaining about referees in Indonesia is rather like saying the weather is a bit unpredictable in Manchester. The pea blowers are back in the news for the usual reasons...well, one is.

Following a 0-0 draw between Persija and Persisam the home coach was so pissed off he quit, blaming the ref! He came back a few days later mind.

Now Simon McMenemy, coach of Mitra Kukar, is having a pop at the same ref, asking 'how can a coach prepare his team for a big game when one individual has the power to decide the outcome?'

It's an open secret that refs are intimidated into favouring certain teams in Indonesia but no one wants to come out and say it. You want proof it happens? Check the home records of teams. And please don't retort by pointing to Chelsea or Manchester United's home records in recent seasons.

Certain club owners don't see football as a sport with winners and losers. They see it as a personality contest all about them and defeat reflects badly on them.

They're the ones who need to grow up.

(Picture is another ref in another league trying to explain a decision that went against the away team)


Balestier Enjoying The View

It's not often we've seen Balestier Khalsa top of the SLeague. In fact until last season their more accustomed place was firmly at the bottom of the table.

But these are topsy turvey times in Singapore football. After years of SAFFC, Home United and Tampines Rovers dominating the league has a fresh look about it and to be honest a pleasing look about it. Albirex Niigata are top but only a point ahead of second placed Balestier who are unbeaten after four games, I said these are crazy times.

The fixtures weren't kind to the Tigers who had unusually invested heavily ahead of the new season. Home United, runners up, followed by Tampines, champions. They drew at Bishan and beat the champions.

Next they drew at home to Gombak United and followed that up with a win away to another side who have discovered newly lofty ambitions, Hougang United.

It all means Balestier Khalsa sit second in the table after four games with just one goal conceded; a tight defence is a hallmark of coach Darren Stewart's teams.

Will it last? Who knows, it;s way too early in the season but for now everyone associated with the club, who recently revamped their website, are having the time of their lives.

2011 - 10th
2010 - 8th
2009 - 11th (bottom 'cos FIFA acted tough and banned DPMM)
2008 - 12th
2007 - 9th


Sriwijaya's Crowds

There seems to be a real belief in Palembang that this year could see them lifting their first title since 2007/2008 though they were pushed all the way yesterday by Mitra Kukar, leading 3-0 just to cling on 4-3. The fans seem to believe as the crowd figures show.

Yesterday's victory puts them three points clear at the top of the ISL though 2nd placed Persipura have two games in hand.

v Mitra Kukar 24,593
v Persisam 29,753
v Deltras 12,831
v Persidafon 20,235
v Persiba 21,875
v Gresik United 15,234 (!)
v Persija 20,000
v PSPS 15,234

Thursday, March 08, 2012


Pakistan Striker Joins TPL

Hassan Bashir has joined newly promoted Thai Premier League side BBCU. Not sure if the lad is an international or not...


AFC Cup Match Day 1

Song Lam Nghe An v Terengganu 0-1 (Abdul Manaf) 6,142
Kitchee v Tampines Rovers 3-1 (; Jamil Ali) 1,314
Yangon United v Chonburi 1-1 (Milan Jovanovic; Sukree Etae) 5,500
Home United v Citizen 3-1 (Frederic Mendy, Shotara Ihata, Qiu Li) 1,023
Arema v Ayeyawady United 1-1 (Roman Chhmelo;) 500
Kelantan v Navibank Saigon 0-0 5,452

A mixed evening's work for teams from the region with perhaps pride of place going to Terengganu who snatched a confidence building win in Vietnam while Chonburi also earned a good result albeit through an injury time equaliser but they all count eh?

Arema took the lead but ended up with a point and the famous Aremania have all but deserted them while Home United came from behind against Hong Kong opponents while SLeague champions Tampines lost by the same result there.

Kelantan fired blanks in their home game that was played at Bukit Jalil in KL.


Deltras Savour Rare Win

Deltras coach Jorg Steinbrunner would have slept a bit easier last night following his team's 2-1 win over PSAP. The win takes Deltras out of the bottom three and above their opponents. Goals from Sean Rooney and M Fakhruddin did the business.

It followed a losing streak of six straight defeats though of course in that quirky Indonesian way all five of those games were away from home. Their last win came early January when they defeated Persela 1-0.

The attendance will be of concern. Admittedly PSAP will never be the biggest attraction outside of Aceh and work days never get the biggest crowds but 6,500 will be of concern.

15 - Deltras 15 4 2 16-24 14

Tuesday, March 06, 2012


Persib Target Asian Strikers

Persib coach Drago Mamic is reportedly looking at strikers as he seeks to add to his squad during the transfer window.

That isn't in itself news of course. What is interesting is who the players are that he is being linked with and where they come from.

Sunil Chhetri is an Indian international and plays for Mohun Bagun while Yan Paing is a Myamnar international who plays for Yadanarbon.

Monday, March 05, 2012


Surabaya's New Stadium Opens

It's one of Indonesia's most firey encounters. Persebaya v Arema. Two East Javan giants with large, passionate support. It's one of those games where the away fans don't travel; if they do they don't wear colours and the keep a very low profile. The kinda game where the visiting team arrives at the stadium in an Armoured Personnel Carrier.

The Indonesia Premier League has struggled in this it's second season. It maybe the new official league but it is the rival ISL that gets the headlines.

Persebaya and Arema are featured in both leagues. Persebaya are in the IPL and have been since its inception but they also retain a presence in the other league where they play in the second tier and get tiny crowds.

Arema are now a mess. Fans stayed away from the ISL team, now they're staying away from the IPL.

But last weekend was a special occasion. A new stadium was being used for the first time. New stadiums in Indonesia are like peace and quiet; bloody hard to find but Bung Tomo was being used for the first time for a domestic encounter and it is quite fitting that the game should feature these two big names.

An estimated 55,000 people filled the stadium paying over 100,000USD in gate receipts which looks a little disappointing. Less than 15,000 rupiah a ticket? Don't seem right.

In a week when the PSSI brought more shame on the game and the country with the national team's 10-0 defeat away to Bahrain, which may or may not have been dodgy but I strongly suggest any investigation be expanded to cover the Qatar game in Iraq, it's great to see people turn out in force for a local game and Persebaya, sitting 3rd in the IPL, are well set up to keep the big crowds a coming.

It says much about priorities in Indonesia that the better stadiums in the country can be found in places like Soreang, Gresik, Kanjaruhan, Samarinda and Jakabaring. Look 'em up on a map!

Later this year should see Bandung's new stadium open.

Meanwhile, Jakarta gets by with the cavernous Bung Karno and, umm, that's about it 'cos Lebak Bulus is about to be demolished for a mass transit railway that may or may not happen.


Results 3-4/3

Indonesia Super League

Persidafon v PSAP 4-2 (Patrick Wanggai 2, Eric Bayemi, Christian Worabay; Wook Jin, Sukman) 4,850
Persipura v Pelita Jaya 2-1 (Alberto Goncalves, Boaz Solossa; Zhekov) 23,272
Deltras v PSMS 0-1 (Arie Supriyantna) 11,350
Sriwijaya v Persisam 3-1 (Keith Kayamba 2, Hilton Moreira; Gonzales) 29,753
Persija v Persiba 4-0 (Pedro Vasqualez Javier 2, Bambang Pamungkas, Ramdhani Lestalahu) 20,599

1 - Sriwijaya 15 9 3 3 34-13 30
2 - Persipura 14 9 3 2 28-16 30
3 - Persiwa 14 9 2 3 26-17 29

14 - Keith Kayamba (Sriwijaya)
10 - Hilton Moreira (Sriwijaya)
9 - Patrick Wanggai (Persidafon), Herman Dzumafo (PSPS)

Indonesia Premier League

Persebaya v Arema 2-1 (Halil, Dutra; TA Mushafry) 55,000
Persijap v Persija 1-0 (Julio Lopez) 8,000

1 - Persibo 9 5 2 2 13-7 17
2 - Semen Padang 9 4 4 1 15-7 16
3 - Persebaya 9 5 1 3 10-6 16

Don't recall the last time Indonesian football enjoyed such bumper crowds on the same day. Persebaya led the way with an impressive 55,000 seeing them take on Arema in the first league game played at the Bung Tomo Stadium in Surabaya. That's the biggest league crowd in the country since Persija hosted Arema in 2010.

Divisi Utama (LPIS)

PSLS v Pro Duta 1-0
Persitara v PSBL 2-2

1 - PSLS 8 7 0 1 14-4 21

PSIS v Persis 1-0
Persik v Persipasi 3-1
PSS v Persepar 6-3
PSCS v Persikab 1-1

1 - PSIS 9 5 1 3 15-9 16

Persbul v Madiun Putra 2-0

1 - Perseman 8 5 2 1 14-6 17


Woodlands Wellington v Albirex Niigata 0-1 (Yasuhiro Yamakoshi) 557
Harimau Muda v Tanjong Pagar 3-0 (Syahrul Azwari, Gary Robbat, Thamil Arusu) 449
Hougang United v Geylang United 2-0 Jordan Webb, Ignatius Ang) 754
SAFFC v Home United 3-3 (Fazrul Nawaz 2, Tatsuro Inui; Qiu Li 2, Shotaro Ihata)
Balestier Khalsa v Gombak United 1-1 (Park Kang Jin; Mustaqim Manzur) 2,386

Malaysia Super League

T Team v Sarawak 1-0
Kedah v Selangor 1-0
PKNS v Perak 2-2
KL v Terengganu 0-1
Sabah v Johor FC 2-1
Kelantan v Negeri Sembilan 2-1

1 - Kelantan 9 6 2 1 16-7 20
2 - Terengganu 9 5 2 2 11-6 17
3 - T Team 9 5 1 3 15-6 16

Friday, March 02, 2012


Latest World Cup Disaster

Another proud week in South East Asian football comes to an end. Indonesia got thumped by Bahrain 10-0 and FIFA are investigating if there was a little help there in that scoreline.

Singapore managed to lose 7-1 away to Iraq. And Thailand lost 2-0 away to Oman.

Intriguingly the AFC have yet to update their website with details of the final games? Too embarrassing eh?

Anyway, South East Asia. Content to be big fish in their own small ponds, no real desire to improve, business school language does not get results, hard work on the training field does but that ain't sexy enough, who can gain face that way?

BTW, more about Indonesia's humiliation in the Jakarta Globe


Fowler Exchanges Bangkok For Blackpool?

Reports suggesting former Muang Thong United player coach Robbie Fowler is having trials with English team Blackpool. I have no idea what they call the league Blackpool are in, in my day as it was the second tier it was called Division 2.

If he does go ahead and move to the north west coast of England famous for sticks of rock, kiss me quick hats and women from Hartlepool on a hen night then can we expect Muang Thong fans to travel over for a game and chant 'You'll Never Play For Muang Thong'!

Fowler had expected to sign for a team no one knew in a league no one recognised in India that seems to have gone tits up.


Why We Love Indonesian Football

I have written much about Indonesian football recently even though the leagues are in full swing and there is plenty of news out there. To busy in other areas and the last three games I saw stunk. As in stunk. As in left a bad flavour in the mouth stunk. Quiet how pleople could call themselves professional in those games is beyond me.

Anyway then I got this email and I'm buzzing again. I've not asked his permission to use it yet but will do...

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: )

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…!


More Bad News For Arema

Arema, the IPL version, aren't giving up. At least we can say that. Their fans have; just 500 saw their last game. Yep, 500!

They've faced problems all season with the most spectacular seeing two Arema teams turn up for a home game against Bontang, a game that was eventually cancelled.

Then Singapore striker Noh Alam Shah quit and he has since been followed a number of other big names including keeper Megia Kurnia and Esteban who has signed for Persiba. Kurnia, along with Hendro Siswanto and Dendi Santoso have joined Arema the ISL version.

Into the IPL version have come Latvian keeper and no relation to the former Russian royal family Denis Romanov as well as striker Purwanto, a prolific striker in the lower leagues, and Amandeus Suropati as the club somewhat hilariously prepare for the AFC Cup.

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