Friday, August 05, 2016
Trust In Youth Brings Rewards For Patient Military Sides
Besides resembling letters that have fallen off a scrabble board there is little in common for Malaysia's ATM and Indonesia's PS TNI. Except their military backgrounds of course and their shockingly poor starts to their respective campaigns.
PS TNI are in their first season as a proper football club with the army FA taking over Persiram ahead of the ISC after flirting with PSMS during the endless competitions that filled the vacuum left by the halting of football last year.
With Eduard Tjong at the helm, PS TNI started the season telling all and sundry they would not bother with hiring any foreign players, instead preferring to try promising young players drawn from the military plus one or two more experienced older heads.
It wasn't a particularly auspicious start to the season as the military backed side drew three and lost five of their opening games and it wasn't until a 1-0 reverse against Persija that they started to show some semblance for spine and rhythm. Their first win came in early July when they defeated fellow stragglers Persela 3-1 with goals from Suhandi, Erwin Ramdani and Wawan Febrianto, an alumni of the project that saw the PSSI send a number of promising players to Uruguay for an extended stint. Tjong was replaced by Suharto when he was called up for the national Under 19 side but the hard work on the training field continued to bear fruit.
They managed to follow that win with another in their next home game, defeating Barito Putera 2-1 with Febrianto and Ramdani again getting on the score sheet.Nothing improves confidence like winning, for all the dogged determination they had shown against Persija they had still lost, and PS TNI went to Bali for Match Day 12 knowing they were facing a team yet to lose on home soil. Again Ramdani was on the score sheet, giving the military side the lead on 10 minutes and when Manahati Lestusen doubled the lead on 55 minutes they looked set fair for their first away win on their travels. Alas it was not to be with Bail United mounting a fightback and sharing the spoils.
With the win in their sails perhaps we should not be surprised PS TNI came from behind to defeat leaders Arema last time out, goals from Tambun Naibaho, his third of the campaign, and Aldino Herdianto securing yet another three points and this weekend they travel to Palembang to face Sriwijaya in good form and feeling confident about facing one of the top sides in the ISC.
But while PS TNI are most definitely the new kids on the block in Indonesia, Malaysia's ATM have been around a bit longer. In fact before Johor Darul Ta'zim really took off ATM were known as the Manchester City of Malaysia in recognition of the way they were throwing the cash at players. They won the Premier League and the Malaysia Cup in 2012 and followed that up with the Charity Shield in 2013,,.a heady few months for the handful of fans they had at the time.
With success came support and ATM were being talked about as the next big thing in Malaysia but it didn't happen. It rarely does. Hype is ten-a-penny, just look at how Pahang have fallen away so quickly, as football clubs rely on the amount of effort, and cash, the top brass are prepared to invest.
With apathy on high the fans attracted by the sweet aroma of success and ralgex disappeared as quickly as they came and ATM finished 11th in the Super League inn 2015 with just two wins from their 22 games. They lost a play off 2-1 to T Team which relegated them and saw the Terengganu side take their place and with their lowly status confirmed the club set about recruiting for the 2016 season in the Premier League. The likes of Jerry Palcios and Mario Karlovic were released and young players were drafted in from the various arms of the military.
They lost their first game of the season 6-1 away to big spending Perlis and the tone was set. Their next game saw them lose to Sime Darby 3-0 in front of 100 fans and the victors that evening haven't managed a win since. Heavy loss followed heavy loss as ATM crumbled 5-1 away to JDT II and 5-0 away to Negeri Sembilan. It wasn't until April that ATM were able to play a home game but by then what support they had was gone...just 38 bothered turning out to see them lose at home to Sabah.
Zaironi's 88th minute equaliser gave ATM a new experience...a point after they managed to hold on for a share of the spoils away to UiTM and as the Premier League wound down ahead of a two month break more heavy defeats followed, 5-1 away to ATM and 6-0 at home to leaders Melaka United.
|A rare sight these days...ATM fans|
The transfer window saw ATM back in teh market for foreign players with three being brought in fro Kazakhstan and one from Uzbekistan and it seems their arrival has lifted the younger players. ATM's first win of the season came against DRB HICOM as goals from Aifa and Boris Fomenkov, one of the Kazakh contingent, gave the fans in Temerloh something to cheer about.
A 0-0 draw away to Kuantan was followed by another victory, this time new signing Khasan Abdukarimov was on the score sheet, he hit two as ATM defeated fellow strugglers UiTm 3-1. Seven points from three games? This was unheard of and as with PS TNI in Indonesia, the young players seemed to feed off the older heads as well as the results and next time out they drew 3-3 with high flyers Kuala Lumpur. Having spent 14 weeks rooted to bottom spot of the Premier League ATM have reached the dizzying heights of 11th in the 12 team league and most definitely have UiTM in their sights despite boasting the worst goal difference in the competition.
In an era when fans and clubs demand instant success it is heartening to see clubs like PS TNI and ATM give a chance to younger players. Players who would normally be shunted from club to club without making an impact till they approach their 30s and the twilight of their career is closer than the dawn. Yes, both clubs maybe special cases but the fact that young players are exposed to to flight football on a regular basis can only develop their careers, if they can overcome the stigma of loss after loss and judging by recent performances it seems the players can.