Friday, July 07, 2017


Indonesia Withdraw AFC Asian Cup Bid

The news Indonesia has withdrawn its bid to host the 2023 AFC Asian Cup came as a bit of a surprise. I wasn't aware they had even put in a serious bid for it!

Indonesia of course co hosted the 2007 event (tickets left) with Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam with Bung Karno, Jakabaring and Si Jalak Harapat Stadiums being used. And next year it will host the Asian Games in Jakarta and Palembang with stadiums in both cities being renovated.

In the last few years there have been a number of new, decent stadiums going up across the country but many of them have flaws that would surely prevent them being used for international events. Many were designed for the National Sports Week (PON) and were built in areas where the price of the land was of greater concern than accessibility for visitors with all that entails in a country where infrastructure has been neglected for so long.

The PSSI of course wanted to bid for the 2022 World Cup, a bid that was not supported by the government and led indirectly to the creation of two leagues for which we are still paying the price. That particular plan required the building of a whole swathe of new stadiums across the country with the PSSI optimistic the fields would suddenly sprout tremendous, gleaming sports arenas that would benefit generations to come.

Today a handful of stadiums have been built in different parts of the country and it could be argued the following would not take too much investment to make them ready for an international event:

88,000 - Bung Karno Stadium, Jakarta
38,000 - Bandung Laut Api Stadium, Bandung, West Java
30,000 - Patriot Stadium, Bekasi, West Java
30,000 - Pakansari Stadium, Cibinong, West Java
28,778 - Wibawa Mukti Stadium, Bekasi, West Java

The following venues have the capacity but lack the facilities or access for an international event like the AFC Asian Cup

67,075 - Palaran Stadium, Samarinda, East Kalimantan 
55,000 - Bung Tomo Stadium, Surabaya, East Java
45,000 - Harapan Bangsa, Banda Aceh, Aceh
44,965 - Kanjurhan Stadium, Malang, East Java
35,000 - Gajayana Stadium, Malang
35,000 - Delta Stadium, Sidoarjo, West Java
35,000 - Aji Imbut Stadium, Kutai Kartanegara, East Kalimantan
31,500 - Maguwoharjo Stadium, Sleman, Yogyakarta
27,250 - Jakabaring Stadium, Palembang
27,000 - Si Jalak Harapat Stadium, Soreang, West Java

There are also a number of stadiums in Riau province, a legacy of the recent PON games there but I have no idea what they are like. 

As can be seen from the above the better stadiums tend to be in West Java province. But while the venues in the first list have the benefit of reasonable access, by local standards, and individual seating Si Jalak Harupat is accessible via a couple of country lanes. Hardly the best approach for international or world class players. Likewise Maguwoharjo Stadium would be worthy of consideration but is in the middle of a residential area and access can be an issue if you are not on a motorcycle!

While the stadium situation is a big improvement on what it was even 10 years ago those that we do have do need work on to bring up to international standards and much of that work needs to come from state coffers. Bung Tomo for example (pictured left) is set amid rice fields and a water treatment plant. It stands out like a huge spaceship but for now is only reachable via a couple of narrow lanes although I understand a plan exists to link it to the nearby freeway.

Roads though are problematic from an environmental point of view. What's needed is some kind of public transport, especially trains and hardly any stadium on the two lists is within walking distance of a railway station with the exception of Patriot Stadium in Bekasi. Gajayana Stadium is a doable walk for me but then I'm English and don't mind a walk now and then. And Bung Karno is situated in the middle of Jakarta, close to the busway and Palmerah Railway Station. But that's it.

It would be interesting to know why Indonesia have withdrawn their bid. Thailand are still in contention and they boast Rajamangala, Supachalasai, Thammasat and Buriram United as decent stadiums. That's about it. Still, under a military junta they are more likely to construct stadiums and infrastructure than Indonesian in a short period of time.

Indonesia started the 2017 season with a regulation stipulating the number of players aged 23 or under who must start the game. Then they realized the SEA Game stake place in August which would force teams to be short of key players so they ditched the regulation. Perhaps they should just focus on having a season go to plan before inviting the world to come and visit?


Persis Go Three Points Clear After Derby Win

Group 2

Persika v Persikabo 3-1 (Samsudin, Ade Ivan, Rezky Ikhwan; Munadi) 5,000

1 - Persita 6 4 0 2 6-4 12
2 - Persika 6 3 2 1 8-6 11
3 - Cilegon U 6 3 1 2 5-4 10
4 - Perserang 5 3 0 2 9-7 9

Sunday sees Perserang host PS Bengkulu. Win that and they would go top on goal difference

Group 4

Persis v PSIS 1-0 (Dedi Cahyono) 23,000

1 - Persis 6 5 1 0 10-2 16
2 - PSIS 6 4 1 1 7-4 13
3 - PSIR 5 2 3 0 5-2

Group 5

Persebaya v Persatu 2-0 (M Syaifuddin, Rishadi Fauzi) 35,000

1 - Persebaya 5 2 2 1 8-5 8
2 - Persatu 6 2 2 2 8-8 8
3 - Madiun Putra 5 2 2 1 7-7 8

Persebaya won their first game under new coach Alfredo Angel Vera against the leaders Persatu. Four teams have seven points in this tight group

Thursday, July 06, 2017


Solo Prepares To Welcome PSIS In Top Of The Table Liga 2 Clash

Welcome to Solo
I can't begin to tell you how gutted I am to be missing the Central Java derby between Persis and PSIS later today. The reasons I had to be there? The Solo chapter in my second book is the first reason. Second? It's a quality derby in the second tier that shows the strength in depth of Indonesian football history and culture. Third? It's first against second. And finally a monster atmosphere! What's not to love?

Both teams arguably belong in the top flight based on history alone. Persis were formed in 1923, PSIS 1932. They aren't in Liga 1 of course because in the last few years they haven't been good enough. PSIS came close to winning Liga Indonesia back in 2006, ending up as runners up to a Cristian Gonzales inspired Persik. Since then there has been little for the fans to cheer about as the club, starved of funds, have fallen out of the top flight and struggled to make an impact in the second tier. 

They came close in 2014 when they reached the play offs but were then involved in that infamous 'elephant match' with PSS where neither team wanted to win for, allegedly, fear of playing Pusamania in the next round. 

Ironically in that season PSIS and Persis were drawn in the same group and ended the first stage of the season level on points. But while PSIS were eventually kicked out after the farce against PSS Persis finished bottom of their play off group and promotion hopes extinguished.

Three years pn and both harbour similar ambitions. They are tied with 13 points at the top of Group 4, Persis marginally ahead thanks to a better goal difference.With 3rd place PSIR four points behind the two giants and nine games left to play neither side can be assured of success just yet and after a two month rest today's game will be a stern test in the fullest sense of the term.

An estimated 1,500 PSIS fans will make the short journey south to Solo for the game where they will be welcomed by an estimated 1,100 security personnel charged with ensuring the game goes off in a safe atmosphere. They have been advised not to bring large banners or flags while Persis supporters have been told they can not wear club colours following an incident earlier in the season/

You want passion, you want excitement, you want thrills then Persis v PSIS promises all of that. Plus a lot more. 


PSM Stay Top Despite Loss As Rivals Lose Ground

Persipura v Mitra Kukar 6-0 (Yan Pieter Nasadit, Prisca Womsiwor 3, Boas Solossa, Addison Alves) 12,400

New coach Wanderley Junior got his Persipura career off to a flying start as his team thumped Mitra Kukar in the first game after the Lebaran break. Twenty year old Nasadit started the scoring after 10 minutes before 22 year old Womsiwor got in on the act netting two goals in six minutes. The Black Pearls killed off the visitors with three goals in nine second half minutes including Womsiwor completing his first top flight hat trick

Semen Padang v Persela 1-0 (Irsyad Maulana) 5,963

Irsyad's second goal of the season on the hour mark killed off plucky Persela who saw Ivan Carlos' goal disallowed after a collision between the home side's keeper and a defender. To make things worse for the visitor top scorer Carlos was later red carded.

PS TNI v Arema 0-0 1,498 (Match Report)

Borneo v Madura United 3-0 (Flavio Beck 2, Shane Smeltz) 

High flying Madura United's title aspirations took a hit after going down 3-0 against an irrepressible Borneo. The visitors opted to start their leading scorer Peter Odemwingie on the bench while Borneo gave New Zealand international Shane Smeltz a starting role despite his exploits for his country at the Confederations Cup in Russia. The win keeps Borneo's 1005 home record intact and they climb to 12th in the table

Gresik United v Persija 1-1 (Gusti Rustiawan; Luis Junior) Behind Closed Doors

A rare point for struggling Gresik United, their first since the end of May but Persija were left fuming about the referee's performance, threatening to file an official letter of complaint. Gusti Rustiawan gave the home team the lead on 28 minutes with his first goal of the season, the first time Persijas defence had been breached in 478 minutes. Despite the draw Gresik United could face further sanction as seven of their players were yellow carded including M Said who was also sent off. Scorer Rustiawan picked up his fourth red card in five games. Already punished by being forced to play behind closed doors this result may be a costly point for relegation threatened Gresik.

Bhayangkara v Barito Putera 0-1 (Mathias Cordobo) 1,250

Jacksen F Thiago saw his side pick up their first away win since April 2015, the season that was halted when PSSI was suspended by FIFA, as they launched the most complete smash and grab raid on third place Bhayangkara. After scoring on 14 minutes with a free head it was backs to the wall for Barito Putera who put in a polished, professional performance to keep the Cops at bay. Bhayangkara dominated the second 45 minutes and had the chances to draw level but a lack of composure in front of goal ultimately cost them. Ilham Uddin, four goals in six games, came on as a second half substitute and his all action style immediately lifted the spirits among the home team fans but as I  said that clinical final touch wasn't there.

Bali United v Persiba 2-0 (Nick van der Velden, Sylvano Comvalius) 10,000

Bali's win sees them four points behind leaders PSM after a competent display against struggling Persiba. Just one win all season, the Honey Bears are rooted to the bottom of the table with just four points from 12 games and it is difficult to see how coach Milo Seslija can change things too much even with the transfer window opening next month. Four straight losses, perhaps some respite may come when they host PSM next week.

Persib v PSM 2-1 (Shohei Matsuanaga, Atep; Wiljan Pluim) 19,713

The Persib soap opera rolls on. Coach Djadjang Nurdjaman wasn't in the dug out for this crucial test against the league leaders. He was in Saudi Arabia on a minor hajj but his team seems to have done just fine without him with Japanese import Matsunaga scoring his first goal of the season six minutes before half time. Atep hit his second on 55 minutes before Pluim set up a nervy final 18 minutes. After the game PSM coach Robert Alberts said Persib ha
d played well but at least his team were still top of the table. Yep, all the results went PSM's way for sure...but beware Persipura! One thing Alberts may be wary of. His team have picked up just one point from their last four away games and with three of t heir next five games on the road he will be wanting to see an improvement in away form or that top place will soon be a memory.

1 - PSM Makassar 12 7 2 3 19-11 23
2 - Madura United 12 6 4 2 22-12 22
3 - Persipura          12 7 1 4 21-15 22
4 - Bhayangkara    12 7 0 5 17-16 21

9 - Peter Odemwingie (Madura United)
7 - Ivan Carlos (Persela), Lerby Eliandry (Borneo), Reinaldo (PSM), Sylvano Comvalius (Bali United

Wednesday, July 05, 2017


The Fine Art Of Timewasting

Hands up. Who hasn't, in their daily jobs or while carrying out those chores whoch are so necessary but time consuming, hasn't indulged in a little bludging? You know, stealing a few 'me' moments? We all do it and we do it because we think we can get away with it.

Football's equivalence is time wasting and we see it all the time. Players use go down like they have been shot, roll around for an age, on comes the physio, a bit of the old magic sponge and what do you know, the player gets to his feet gingerly and within minutes is running round like his usual self. Or when a substitution takes place, the player being replaced may have the pace of a whippet but with three minutes on the clock and his team leading 1-0 away from home, suddenly he's wading through treacle.

For some reason refs seem quite happy to let these forms of cheating carry on unpunished. Why is that? They are perfectly within their rights to brandish a yellow card, and let's face it some of them are in the business just for the card waving, but when it comes to players nicking a few crafty seconds they let it go.

The thing with time wasting is it is actually quite popular. When your team is winning away from home you don't want your team going out out for a second goal. You expect  them to shut up shop, show some discipline and see the game out (this applies across football except to Arsene Wenger). 

But a week later and we, the fans, will be screaming like hell when we are trailing 1-0 in similar circumstances. Then, we are happy for it to happen. Managers complain about consistency from refs but in this case where is the consistency from supporters?

Fact is FIFA should be clamping down on time wasting in games, not introducing cosmetic rule changes that force players to stand like lemons in the middle of the field shaking hands with foes or decreeing a game can kick off with the ball going backwards. Seriously, who cares about that inane piece of tinkering? But insist refs get serious on time wasting and FIFA may find itself basking in the rare glow of praise.

In the last two games I have seen here refs have given out yellow cards for time wasting. But they have waited until the last few minutes to do so even though it has been happening for much of the game. Refs need to clamp their authority from that get go and if that means booking players after 10 minutes for time wasting then bloody well do it. It's the rules pal. Cos if you don't take action the cheats will prosper and the game will suffer as a spectacle.

I don't blame players for trying to find an advantage, any advantage on the field. They are doing what they can to win the game. It is down to the match officials to be cannier and to be smarter. A case in point is the incident pictured that happened during the Bhayangkara v Barito Putera game at Patriot Stadium. Leading 1-0 a Barito Putera player went down inches from the touchline. The ref stops the game while he receives treatment with Bhayangkara players looking on. The ref is checking his watch as if to say 'I have your card marked son, I know what you're doing'. But given the player's proximity to the touch line why not just tell him to drag himself off the pitch to be looked at and let the rest of us get on with the football?

FIFA are now talking about football being reduced from 2 x 45 minute halves to 2 x 30 minute halves without stoppages. Believe me, if players can steal a few moments down time they will, 30 minutes or not. Why not just work to ensure referees are aware of time wasting and act quickly to nip it in the bud? The laws are already in place, just do it.

Tuesday, July 04, 2017


PS TNI v Arema 0-0

Has it really been a month since I last saw a game in Indonesia? To the day in fact. But the fasting is over and last night I headed to Cibinong to see an interesting top of the table clash as hosts PS TNI take on Arema. 

If you want to take anything from PS TNI you  need to get in their faces and that's what Arema did, competitive and fighting for every ball. There were still chances at each end on an open game but  PS TNI, perhaps mindful of their disciplinary record that has cost them the services of key players like Manahati Lestusen and Abduh Lestalahu for long periods, were not quite the imposing force they had been earlier in the season. (Both were booked in this game!)

Arema coach Aji Santoso gave rare starts to Arif Suryono and Ahmad Bustomi and indeed they did have the ball in the net in the first half when Arthur Cunha bundled the ball home from close range but the ref ruled it out for offside.

A thrilling climax saw PS TNI pile the pressure on and an excellent save from Kurnia Meiga in injury time looked to have saved a point for Arema and kept their impressive defensive record intact. From the resulting corner it PS TNI claimed a penalty as the ball appeared to strike an Arema defender but the ref waved away their appeals.

After the game PS TNI coach Ivan Kolev made his feelings clear when he said 'This is four games we have failed to win because of the ref. What is going on?' He went on to say inbetween the game ending and the press conference starting he received a phone call from a friend in Bulgaria who had seen the game. His pal it was a nailed on penalty (in Bulgarian of course) and there were several times when the ref missed Arema players handling the ball.

Perhaps Kolev would have been happy to have seen video technology used by the ref as it was in the recent PS TNI v Persija game?! Perhaps if the ref could have seen both the alleged handball incident and Cunha's goal...

While Kolev sought to blame the hapless ref Arema's coach Aji Santoso felt his players weren't perhaps fully match fit having only returned to training on 29th June.

From my seat in the stand I felt It wasn't a bad game to watch, both sides had the opportunities to win the game but failed to take their chances. They say there is a fine line between winning and not winning and often that fine line can be a wrong decision by a player or a poor first or second touch when in good positions. Coaches of course won't always admit that, their job is on the line every game, and I understand that. 

The attendance by the way was 1,498 including a sizeable Arema contingent who occupied the stand normally used by PS TNI fans. The home support was strangely absent, perhaps because many were involved in security duty during the lebaran period.

In terms of the league table the result helped Persipura who thrashed Mitra Kukar 6-0 in an earlier game and climbed up to third in Liga 1, one point behind leaders PSM. In the other game Semen Padang defeated Persela 1-0 at home to climb from 15th to 9th!

Sunday, July 02, 2017


Persija v Espanyol Ticket Info

Saturday, July 01, 2017


PSM Face Persib Test In Week 12

After a near three week break Liga 1 action returns Monday with sides hoping the pause hasn't interrupted their momentum be it good or bad.

Semen Padang get the ball rolling when they host Persela and they will be hoping to claw their way up the table as quickly as possible. With 14 points they are eight points clear of 16th placed Perseru but coach Nil Maizer knows a win could see them back in the top half of the table. Unbeaten at home, Semen Padang did beat leaders PSM last time out so there will be some wind in their sails, especially when they come up against a Persela side which has just one away win all season.

With a new coach, Wanderley Junior, fourth place Persipura will be looking to impress when they come up against the tough to beat Mitra Kukar. The Black Pearls have won their last three home games by a single goal advantage so may feel confident going into this game but ex coach Jafri Sastra has set up his Mitra Kukar side in such a way even if they concede first there is enough about them to earn at least a point.

Three losses in their last five games suggest the tank tracks have come of the PS TNI side in recent weeks but they go into their home game with Arema knowing they could be at full strength after losing a number of key players to suspension. Mind they are up against an Arema packed with big names yet looking for form on their travels. They  have just one win and one goal away from home and that came against Persiba which was played in ... Malang! Only Perseru and Persiba have scored less goals than the Crazy Lions and Aji Santoso probably has half an eye on the upcoming transfer window as he seeks to solve the goalscoring conundrum which is afflicting his side. Away to PS TNI won't be his idea of a gentle introduction after a long break!

Borneo may be welcoming back striker Shane Smeltz after his exploits at the Confederations Cup in Russia but it is local lad Lerby Eliandry who has been making people sit up and take note with seven goals in Liga 1. They come up against Madura United unbeaten in their last nine games and with 11 goals in their last three, admittedly home, games. The football club is buzzing and they are looking to tie down Peter Odemwingie to a longer contract as they look to build on their impressive start to the season. Two of the  newer clubs in Liga 1, it should be a thriller.

Gresik United are in a bad place. They have a single win and two draws to show for their 11 games and they must host Persija behind closed doors after their supporters invaded the pitch at their game against Persela. Persija, the same side that are really flying with four straight wins. 

Bhayangkara could go top if they beat Barito Putera on Tuesday at Patriot Stadium in Bekasi. After two wins on the road at Persiba and Bali United coach Simon McMenemy will be hoping his side can continue that form at home against Jacksen F Thiago's men who have picked up just one point on their travels. 21 year old striker Ilham Uddin has been on fire recently with four goals in his last six outings to his credit putting him one behind veteran Thiago Furtuoso.

When Bali United, who have lost their last two games, host Persiba, who have lost their last two games there can surely be only one winner? Persiba have been abject all season, hard working but lacking quality and it is difficult to see them picking up maximum points in Bali.

The game of the week sees Persib host PSM on Wednesday. Coach Djadjang Nurdjaman is still with the club apparently though in recent days he has been in Saudi Arabia doing a minor hajj. For all Persib's perceived woes they remain unbeaten at home while PSM, for all their fine form, have just a single win on their travels and no matter the problems surrounding Persib a full house on Wednesday will be demanding the players wearing blue get into the visitors from the first minute. It may not be a pretty game to watch but it should be a thriller and PSM coach Robert Alberts will know this will be a strong test of his team's title ambitions


My Favourite Grounds In Asia

I was inspired to do this post by an article on the AFC website about the 16 best stadiums in Asia. Now, normally I don't bother clicking on these sorts of stories, they're just fluff, but we are in a bit of a lull in Indonesia, action returns Monday, and it did get me thinking which ain't always a bad thing. 

From the 16 chosen by the AFC, not sure what the parameters were, I have been to just four; Rajamangala, Bung Karno, My Dinh and Bukit Jalil. No surprise there. But if I were to choose my own favourite stadiums none of them would appear on the list. Bung Karno for example maybe a cavernous arena but it is a bowl designed by the Soviet Union with all the aesthetic charm you might expect from them. Plus, it has a running track and I detest them at stadiums.

I'm not going to list all the stadiums I have been to in Asia but here is a break down, country by country.

35 - Indonesia
18 - Australia
15 - Singapore
14 - Thailand
10 - Kuwait
5 - Malaysia, UAE
3 - Qatar
2 - Cambodia, Hong Kong, Philippines, Bahrain
1 - Nepal, Jordan

Out of that little lot which grounds tick the boxes for me? For a start I don't like those with running tracks round them. I much prefer arenas where fans are right up close to the action. I also don't like this new breed of stadium where architects have exhibited their love of wavy roofs. Give me something compact with a bit of history, not always possible, and character and I'm happy. 

So, in no particular order except the first here we go with my own fluff!

1 - PAT Stadium, Bangkok
I just love the way  this stadium has grown organically over the years. Nice atmosphere, easy to get to, proper football club.

I also like how the city skyline seems o rise up out of the two tier terrace

2 - Lebak Bulus, Jakarta
Now sadly no more, this was the first ground I went to when I started Jakarta Casual. It only held about 12,000 supporters but bloody hell, the
atmosphere they generated...especially under the lights. I have seen international players just gaze in awe at the seething mass of humanity singing and swaying as one on the terrace.

3 - Leo Stadium, Pathum Thani
You gotta admire the sheer ambition of this stadium. There was only three sides last time I visited but but boy, what can be done with a bit of cash and imagination. A three tier terrace I ask you! 

A segregated terrace behind the other goal does wonders for the atmosphere when there is a large away following.

4 - Maguwoharjo Stadium, Sleman
Difficult to get to by public transport but well worth the effort and expense. PSS's stadium has been nicknamed the Indonesian San Siro after curly bits on the outside. But inside, oh boy. Like I said, well worth the effort. PSS fans were recently featured in a Polish fan culture magazine and I expect more and more fans from around the world will be making a bee line to one of the hottest atmospheres in Asia. And all this at a second tier club!

5 - The Thunderdome, Muang Thong
As they say, I love what you have done with the place. Nice, compact, this arena shows what can be done when you own your own stadium. Small on the capacity side but big enough for the Thai league. 

6 - November 10 Stadium, Surabaya
Sadly never saw a game here but what's not to love? Uneven terraces, a moat that was designed to keep fans off the pitch but never did its job particularly well and trees growing out of the terraces. And, as an Arsenal fan, we lost here in a friendly in 1983! See, I am neutral!

7 - Siliwangi Stadium, Bandung
How lucky are Persib? They have the pick from Si Jalak Harapat, Bandung Laut Api and Siliwangi Stadiums. While they have outgrown this particular venue, it only holds around 22,000, surely some other team could use it once in a while? As well as Persib I have seen PSMS and Persita play home games here over the years. Fairly central as well.

8 - St George Stadium, Sydney
Last I heard it was falling to pieces but it's my list and I want some sentimentality. Got to know about the issues in the Balkans in this stadium back in late 1980s, early 1990s. Used to go with a good group of lads to see St George, home and some away, Home games started in the Brighton le Sands Fishing Club not too far away for a few beers then on to the ground. 

Monday, June 26, 2017


FAS Dump Management Speak For Football!

In recent years the Football Association of Singapore has seemed less like a body tasked with developing the worlds most popular sport in one of the world’s richest countries and more like Yes Prime Minister writ large. A tragic comedy where doing nothing is the name of the game, cunningly disguised by meaningless business school speak aimed at impressing the gullible. 

Sir Humphrey Appleby, the master at using a large number of words to say very little,  has been alive and well and running football in Singapore. Well, now his time is over. We have a new Sherrif in town and early indications suggest they have an understanding of football and what could be needed to remedy the near decade of institutional contempt that is the legacy of the last bunch. 

We are hearing people talk about 12 teams in the SLeague again. About time too. Nine clubs in a professional league is nonsense. Bring back the likes of Woodlands Wellington, Gombak United and Tanjong Pagar United.  End this nonsense of clubs being asked to drop out of the League for the greater good.

Admiralty v Summerville, NFL
It is also good to see people sitting up and taking notice of the National Football League. Ok so it isn’t much more than a social league but there are some well run clubs there who may fancy mixing it with the big boys. Not every club of course but why not offer the opportunity to those who want it by introducing a form.of promotion relegation between the 2 leagues. Mix it up a bit. As it stands clubs could be playing each other 5 times a season.. .do you know how boring that can be?

We are unlikely to see a return to 5 figure attendances that greeted the SLeague when it started, Neglect and satellite TV broadcasting games from around the world 24/7 has seen to that, But there is no reason why we can’t see crowds of 3000 plus on a regular basis

It’s alo good to see outside experts being consulted. God knows we have seen what inside knowledge has done in recent years. Listen to them. Engage stakeholders, not cos it’s a cool phrase but because so many people have a love for the game and want to have a voice. And I don’t mean just the gambling firms. Talk with fan groups like Hougang Hools who started following a highly unfashionable team at a time when others were jumping ship. They stuck by their team, their league. They deserve to be heard.

There won t be any overnight change in Singapore football. Hell there may be none. But at least we are seeing signs that there are people now involved who have an understanding of the game. We have not had that for several years. A positive article about Singapore football? Yeah, perhaps I am clutching at straws but I would love to see an across the board improvement in the way the game is viewed on the island and perhaps a new FAS may start the ball rolling.

Sunday, June 25, 2017


Kiatisuk Spurns Overseas Offers For Port Luck

I gotta start by saying I love Kiatisuk Senamuang. He was one of the first Asian footballers I became familiar with when I moved to Thailand in the early 1990s. He was a fantastic ambassador for Thai football, not a bad player and made difficult career choices, moving to Huddersfield, because he felt his game would improve. And having seen him exude with and charm in press conferences has only increased my pathetic man love for him.

Out of work since stepping down as coach of the Thai national team earlier this year, Zico, as he is popularly known, was recently appointed coach of Port in the Thai top flight. I don't have a favourite team in this part of the world but if I did it would probably be Port FC as I lived round the corner from their PAT Stadium for several years (but never saw a game!).

So when a guy you respect is appointed to a club you have a soft spot there is a certain warm glow inside one's body, as well as a possible trip to Bangkok to take in a game or two.

A number of clubs in Indonesia were linked with Zico before he appointed coach of Port including Persib while he admits there was also interest from Malaysia. However it seems there was little to no hope of him heading outside of Thailand to coach. Why? 

'I received several offers to coach teams from outside Thailand,' he explains, 'but I don't want to go there because I don't want to coach a team that could play against either the Thai national team or a Thai club side in the future'.

It seems a daft reason from such a well travelled football person. With one of his star players in the national team Chanathip heading to Japan you can be sure coach and player would have discussed the pros and cons and playing outside the comfort zone and it is difficult to believe a man who played in Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam would have so easily dissed the chance to go abroad.

The chances are of course Port simply offered more money. Zico's quote, if indeed he did say that, would have been made to a Thai audience brought up on the importance of 'Thainess' and it would have gone down well with the flag wavers and face painters who put love of country above everything else.

There could be another reason. Despite his stellar record with the Thai national team and the Under 23s Zico remains unproven in the domestic league with underwhelming stints at Chula United (twice) and half a season at second tier Bangkok. Only a season at Chonburi has seen him competing with the very best Thai football has too offer. He remains very much unproven as a club side coach. Maybe he sees an opportunity with Port to burnish his coaching credentials at a mid table side.

All conjecture of course. It would be great to see Kiatisuk coaching in Indonesia one day and I hope he hasn't fully closed the door on the opportunity.


Clubs Pay Hefty Price For Fan & Player Misbehaviour

Everyone says it. The atmosphere at an Indonesian league game is the best in South East Asia. Players come, fall in love with it and become coaches. A full terrace singing and dancing as one is, for me at least, one of the must sees in this diverse country.

At the same time there is always that feeling that under the surface something is likely to kick off. It could take a poor decision from the match officials, a sense of injustice or just some supporters misbehaving, flouting the rules, succumbing to a herd mentality. Sadly when this happens the terrace that can produce a scene of such colour and vibrancy can quickly turn into a less desirable place to be or to witness.

Fortunately the 2017 season hasn't had the number of serious outbreaks of crowd disorder we have witnessed in recent years. But that hasn't stopped clubs feeling the wrath of the PSSI disciplinary committee who sit in justice on a regular basis and hand out fines like a vending machine dishing out chocolate. And with authorities clamping down on flares and smoke bombs, some may argue they are an essential part of the match day experience, they are being kept busy.

As we are now in a break for the end of the fasting month it is a good time to which clubs have been hit hardest by the PSSI and how much the actions of their supporters, and their ill disciplined players, are costing.

For those unfamiliar with Indonesian money Rp 1 million = 59 GBP or USD 75.

Rp 150 million - Persib
Rp 50 million - Persija
Rp 45 million - Gresik United
Rp 35 million - Persebaya, Perssu
Rp 25 million - Arema, Persis
Rp 20 million - Persikabo, Persip
Rp 15 million - Persipur

A further 16 clubs have been fined Rp 10 million for various offences. Let's hope the money goes to useful causes!

SOURCE - the excellent Instagram account Pengamat Sepakbola

Saturday, June 24, 2017


Should Singapore Be Turning Japanese?

With Indonesian football shut down for a couple of weeks to mark the end of the fasting month my thoughts have turned to Singapore. For a while now I have been meaning to do an article about the state of the national team and the need for a new mind set and a result from last night, plus a dearth of stories locally, has forced my hand.

Stipe Plazibat's brace helped Home United defeated Albirex Niigata 2-0 last night, inflicting the first loss of the season on the SLeague champions. Prior to that defeat the Japanese side had gone 11 games unbeaten, winning 10 and scoring 37 goals along the way. Even after last night's defeat they have conceded just eight goals in the SLeague.

Last year Albirex managed a full house, winning the Community Shield, the League Cup, the Singapore Cup and of course the SLeague. They began 2017 in the same way, retaining the Community Shield. In 2015 they won the League Cup and the Singapore Cup.

In simple terms they have won seven out of the last nine trophies on offer in Singapore suggesting someone somewhere within the football club has the measure of the local football DNA.

Albirex Niigata are of course as Singaporean as I am. They are a Japanese owned football club, a subsidiary of Albirex Niigata in Japan. They are coached by Japanese and have only Japanese players most of whom see Singapore as a stepping stone in their career back home. An example of this is Naoki Naruo. 

He spent two years playing for Albirex Niigata in Japan among other clubs before first moving to Singapore in 2009 to coach. He returned in 2016, won everything and within hours of being crowned Coach of the Year was heading back to Japan where he is coaching the Albirex Niigata Under 18s.

Yep, the guy who came to Singapore and won everything was allowed to return to his own country to coach an age group side. Perhaps Singapore was glad to see the back of him, this pesky foreigner who breezed into town, won the lot and buggered off home again. I'm left wondering whether anyone at the FAS could place a name to the face?

Into Naruo's place has come Kazuaki Yoshinaga and he has continued in his predecessors footsteps.

Meanwhile the national team chugs along in its own sweet way. An impressive 0-0 draw away to Bahrain was followed up by a 2-1 loss at home to they even have a professional league? The Lions were knocked out of the AFF Suzuki Cup scoring just one goal in their three games. They have lost twice against Afghanistan in the last 15 months. 

Since the start of 2016 they have played 19 games, winning just three and scoring just 10 goal. Two of those wins and four of the goals have come against Myanmar!

The coach of the national team since May last year is V Sundramoorthy. The former international who spent one season playing in Switzerland was highly rated as a player, earning the nickname The Dazzler for his silky skills. He also had the distinction of playing for the national team during the halcyon 1990s when everyone supported the Lions in the Malaysia Cup. The golden age of Singapore football, the aura of that team has left its mark on the modern game with players all too often being unfairly compared with the great and the good, the legends of that time.

Given the almost saintly scent that surrounds the players from that era the FAS often feels the need to call on that generation when it feels under pressure to act feeling, rightly or wrongly, such an appointment will buy them time and or ease pressure on them to make the necessary tough decisions. A 90s vet will nearly always be met with chest bursting headlines from nostalgia driven hacks who have a name they can relate to at last. But nostalgia doesn't win trophies. Last year Naoki Naruo won trophies. Lots of them. 

It makes you wonder, doesn't it? If the old FAS had been in charge of Arsenal in the mid 1990s then the chances are they would have appointed Liam Brady as manager and not Arsene Wenger. But then the FAS don't have anyone of the calibre of David Dein, a one man LinkedIn. 

It is easy to imagine the outcry had the FAS thought out of the box and tried to find a way to involved Naruo within the national team set up but results don't lie. You can't run football through the prism of a glory age a generation ago. The world has moved on and yes football has moved on. Hopefully a new FAS will have the courage to look beyond the 1990s, and foreign journeymen, when it comes to appointing the next Singapore coach. A youthful approach embracing new ideas might be just the ticket Singapore football needs. 

Friday, June 23, 2017


Persija's Arthur Irawan Eyes Espanyol Reunion

Remember Arthur Irawan? Young Indonesian defender who went overseas to try his luck, played for Espanyol B for a while, Malaga B and Waasland Beveren in Belgium. He returned to Indonesia after a few years in Europe and is now with Persija though he has yet to play for the first team this season.

Anyway the 24 year old will be looking forward to locking horns with some of his former team mates as Persija will host Espanyol in a friendly next month at Patriot Stadium. The Spanish side are coming to Indonesia to play a couple of games, the other comes against the national Under 19 team in Bandung.

Persija will now be playing three home games in a week as the Espanyol game is sandwiched between more pressing Liga 1 games against Borneo and Persib so perhaps we could see coach Teco rotate his squad.

Espanyol have promised to bring their big names but being no fan of Spanish football I have no idea who they may be.


Sriwijaya Forced To Rearrange Perseru Clash

We are just starting an early mid season break as the country comes to a standstill and already we are seeing confusion over the fixtures in early July as we return to normal. Not too long ago Liga 1 issued a revised schedule but already that is being changed as clubs are forced to take into account local circumstances.

The first victim is Siriwjaya's home game with Perseru. Scheduled to take place 3rd July, the game has been postponed after local security officials refused to release the necessary paperwork for the game to go ahead.

Security officials say they have an ongoing programme from 19th June - 4th July to ensure security in the  Palembang area as Indonesians go mudik, return to their home cities and villages to spend time with their families at the end of the fasting month. 

An alternate date of 6th July has been proposed but Sriwijaya but now talk with Liga 1 and Perseru to see if that date is acceptable to all parties concerned. 

Rearranging games is no easy business in Indonesia. Away teams often need to book plane tickets, hotel rooms and training facilities in advance and like the rest of us the best prices come when booked in advance.

Given how far Persueru will have to travel, from Papua to South Sumatra, they will be hoping a date can be sorted as soon as possible to facilitate bookings. But we are entering the holiday period so perhaps the best thing they can do is enjoy being with their families and not eat too much!


No Future In Zainudin's Dreaming

Finally, the suits have confirmed what most of us have long known. There is no future, no future in Zainudin's dreaming. The AFC have declared the ASEAN Super League, driven by FAS officials in face of lukewarm support in the rest of the region, is over. 

The people behind the ASL have written to the AFC to say they would no longer be seeking to build an ASEAN wide league. Good. Not before time,

The plan seems to have been driven by the old Football Association of Singapore hierarchy but now they are history I guess much of the momentum has gone and the new officials there seem more keen on sorting out their own domestic football rather than meddling in other more popular leagues. 

With the Philippines starting their own league and impressing in both the AFC Cup and Singapore Cup and Indonesia working on ways to improve their own  league, already the strongest in the region if not the best, it was difficult to see the proposals going anywhere especially as they were seen as the idea of a handful of officials incapable of improving their own league.

I have just been looking back through old ASEAN Super League posts and the first one I can find was when John Dykes mentioned it on TV back in 2007, back when Jakarta Casual was a mere 12 months old. I seemed then to be more intrigued than anything but as I got to understand more about the game here I turned resolutely against the madcap scheme. 

In 2013 I recognised an ASL could have the potential to reach new local markets while highlighting the barriers in each local league, with the exception of Singapore. By the time people were suggesting a super league comprising under 23 teams and academies we all knew what we had long suspected. There was no will among ASEAN members for such a league. 

Start dates have shifted from 2014 to 2016 to 2008 to the 12th of Never and in 2015 I asked who needed an ASEAN Super League? Now the answer seems clear enough. A couple of suits in Singapore looking to build an international legacy for themselves to mask the failures of their own league.

What we see in the region isn't perfect, far from it. But there are examples of excellence amid pools of mediocrity, lessons to be learnt from those willing to return to the classroom. The new Philippines league, Johor Darul Ta'zim, even the Indian Super League. 

Tuesday, June 20, 2017


Arema Support A Cause For Concern

Arema fans are again under the microscope after their team's average attendance has dropped below the 10,000 mark. Their six home games, four at Kanjaruhan Stadium and two at Gajayana Stadium have seen an average of just 9,257 attending. Compare that with the Indonesia Super League title winning campaign of 2009/10 when they averaged 27,860 or the following season when they pulled in 20,215. 

There were doubts raised last season when the club were in contention for the ISC but no real answer was found. 

This season and the club are scrambling for excuses as to why the Arema fans are staying away. One official blames TV and the weather. 'Many Arema home games are broadcast live on TV,' said one official. 'In addition games are played in the evening and the weather in Malang is extremely cold (ekstrem dingin).' He added there were many new players at the club who were not well known by the fans. He didn't explain why the club had done little to introduce the new faces to the support base.

Fans have their own viewpoint of course. 'It is not a question of loyalty or not being loyal to the team,' says one. 'If the number of fans has fallen the management must improve things and the team must be more consistent.' "Cos football is that easy.

Arema are sixth in the table, unbeaten at home and didn't they start the campaign on top before falling away in recent weeks? Their largest crowd of the season is less than 15,000 against Madura United. Other fans have whined about their team's inconsistency, Persib and Persija spring to mind, yet they have still come out in numbers to their home games, both averaging 20,000 plus. Even clubs like Bali United and Persela, lacking Arema's fan base and traditions, are drawing larger crowds.

Arema have scored just nine goals all season, only relegation candidates Perseru and Gresik United have scored less. But that is also the same as Persib and the fans still go to their games. 

Thai fans may look at Arema's attendances and wonder what they fuss is. Only Buriram United and Muang Thong United get bigger home gates. Four Malaysian teams are currently pulling bigger crowds than Arema. I don't have the stats for Liga 2 in Indonesia but I think it's fair to say PSS and Persebaya at least average bigger crowds than Arema.

Many, including me, like to think Arema have the potential to be one of the biggest club names in South East Asia, not just Indonesia. But that won't happen all the while they are pulling such meagre crowds and people are blaming the weather. The football club need to be sitting down with the supporters and ask why they are staying away.


Week 11 - Madura Hit Six But Reinaldo Penalty Keeps PSM Top

Madura United v Semen Padang 6-0 (Peter Odemwingie 3, Greg Nwokolo 2, Bayu Gatra) 4,180

Madura United are finding their shooting boots. This thrashing of Semen Padang put them top of Liga 1 for a week before PSM played and sent out a warning shot for the rest of the league. Admittedly their recent run of fixtures hasn't been too much of a stretch, four out of five at home, but they have won them all and scored 15 goals in the process. To Odemwingie the headlines, he now has nine goals for the season, but to Slamet Nurcahyo the praise as he had a hand in four of the goals.

Persela v Persipura 0-1 (Addison Alves) 12,536

Respect to Persela fans who turn up consistently game after game no matter how the team fares. Addison returning to his old team scored the only goal and responded by not celebrating. The perfect response to back to back defeats by the Black Pearls who continue to search for a coach after losing Liestadi.

Mitra Kukar v Gresik United 3-1 (Bayu Pradana, Mohammad Sissoko, Marclei; Patrick da Silva) 1,929

Persija v Sriwijaya 1-0 (Willian Pacheco) Behind closed doors

Four wins on the bounce for Persija, five clean sheets. Shame no fans were there to see their latest triumph and it remains to be seen where the club will play future home games. Kudos to coach Teco for turning things around, perhaps in future fans need to show some patience instead of demanding change after a couple of results don't go their way?

Arema v Bali United 2-0 (Cristian Gonzales 2) 11,430

Weren't Bali United second a couple of weeks back? Two losses and they are back in the bottom half of the table!

Perseru v PS TNI 0-1 (Sansan Husaeni) 239

After much humming and haring this game was finally played in Cibinong with Husaeni hitting his third goal of the season to secure a narrow victory for the away side. Playing at home.  Four losses in their last five games for the Papuan side. Perhaps had they invested in their stadium and its lights they would not have been forced to play home games in Java?

Barito Putera v Persib 1-0 (Matias Cordoba) 9,124

Another away game, another loss for Persib who have  now gone 360 minutes without scoring on their travels. The sooner a decision can be made about coach Djanur's future the better. Carlton Cole came on as a 14th minute substitute for Sergio van Dijk.

Persiba v Bhayangkara 1-2 (Dikir Kohn Glay; Guy Junior, Ilham Uddin Armaiyn) 4,520

Sometimes you just know who is going to win a game. I had this down as a nailed on home win as Persiba, for whatever reason, rarely lose competitive home games in Balikpapan. This year though Persiba are hapless. Short on cash they have a squad that is high on promise but low on quality and 11 games in have just one win to show for their efforts and remain rooted at the bottom of Liga 1. They have a spanking new stadium waiting but it could be hosting Liga 2 action if things don't improve.

But credit to Bhayangkara. They climbed to third after this, their third win on the road this season. Ilham Uddin scored his fourth goal of the season, an impressive start for the youngster.

PSM v Borneo 1-0 (Reinaldo) 13,975

A controversial penalty in the second half helped PSM return to the top of the table.

1 - PSM Makassar 11 7 2 2 18-9 23
2 - Madura United 11 6 4 1 22-9 22
3 - Bhayangkara    11 7 0 4 17-15 21
4 - Persipura          11 6 1 4 15-15 19

9 - Peter Odemwingie (Madura United)
7 - Ivan Carlos (Persela), Reinaldo (PSM), Lerby Eliandry (Borneo)

Monday, June 19, 2017


Sriwijaya Sack Lessa After One Win In Five

There were a number of coaching appointments pre season that left me and perhaps others scratching heads in wonder. The biggest cranium scratcher for me was when Sriwijaya allowed Widodo Cahyono Putro was allowed to leave the club and Osvaldo Lessa appointed in his place.

It's not that Lessa is a stranger to Indonesia. Far from it. He worked with Persipura as fitness coach while the Black Pearls were hoovering up trophies. Then, when Jacksen F Thiago stepped down, Lessa was perhaps surprisingly, promoted to the hot seat. It didn't work out and he was soon replaced, perhaps another coach he found it difficult from being the buffer between coach and players to being the man with the final say. 

Sriwijaya see themselves as an ambitious club but not this particular season. The appointment of Lessa underwhelmed when perhaps a bigger name was needed to get the best out of a squad that mixed age (Hilton and Beto) with youthful promise (Teja Paku Alam and Ichsan Kurniawan). And the marquee player, Tunisian Tijani Belaid, has struggled to make an impact in a side that has struggled for consistency,

Laskar Wong Kito have managed just four wins all season with just one of them on their travels. To stick the knife in further that came away to Persiba in Malang. Since then they have lost three games straight on their travels.

Remove the aging Brazilian strikers from the line up and you wonder where the goals will come from. Beto and Hilton have contributed nine of the 12 Sriwijaya have scored this season. 

With football taking a two week break for the end of the fasting month Sriwijaya know they have some breathing space to appoint a new coach and give him some time to bed in. But they will need to move quickly. In the meantime Hartono Ruslan takes over as caretaker while the club from South Sumatra ponder their next move. 


Fachri Guides Under 16s Triumph In Vietnam

Tien Phong Plastics Cup 2017

Vietnam v Taiwan 5-2
Myanmar v Indonesia 1-4

Indonesia v Vietnam 1-1
Taiwan v Myanmar 2-2

Taiwan v Indonesia 0-11
Vietnam v Myanmar 0-0

1 - Indonesia 3 2 1 16-2 7
2 - Vietnam 3 1 2 0 6-3 5
3 - Myanmar 3 0 2 1 3-6 2
4 - Taiwan 3 0 1 2 3-18 1

7 - Rendy Juliansyah (ASIOP)
3 - Hamsah Lestaluhu (ASAD 313), Brylian Aldama (JSSL Chelsea)
2 - Amiruddin Bagus (JSSL Chelsea)
1 - Andre Okaviansyah (Pelita Jaya)

Player of the tournament - Hamsa Lestaluhu
Top scorer - Rendy Juliansyah
Coach of the tournament - Fachri Husaini

A pretty impressive showing by the young Indonesians as they return from Vietnam with a trophy in their hands and medals around their neck. Credit also must go to coach Fachri, a name I have been familiar with since I started covering local football 11 years ago.

Born in Lhokseumawe in Aceh province in 1965 as a player Fachri is best known for his time with Bontang where he played from 1991 to 2001. I have never been to Bontang, in East Kalimantan but those who have say it isn't the easiest place to get to being about a six hour drive from the nearest airport Balikpapan. For Fachri and his team mates that meant every away game was a trek and a half just to board the plane!

After hanging up his boots Fachri continued his involvement with Bontang coaching the side from 2008 for a number of years before getting involved with age group sides at the PSSI. Out of sight, out of mind, Fachri may only now be getting the credit his hard work deserves but if he is expecting any kind of rest he is greatly mistaken. 

After the fasting month is over he will be taking his young charges to Thailand to compete in the AFF Under 15 Championships along with the Thais, Myanmar, Laos and Australia. Hopefully the team get used to the spicey Thai food; they will be back in September for the qualifying round of the AFC Under 16 Championship when they go up against Northern Mariana Islands, Timor Leste, Thailand and Laos.

Happy days for Indonesian fans.

Saturday, June 17, 2017


Another Victory, Another Clean Sheet, Persija March On

Last night saw Persija defeat Sriwijaya 1-0 to climb up to 4th place in Liga 1, just four points behind leaders Madura United. The win was the fourth on the spin for the Macan Kemayoran and their sixth game unbeaten. A run of games that has seen them concede just one goal, that late equaliser against Mitra Kukar.

The protests that greeted that disappointing draw, with fans calling for coach Teco to step down after a disappointing start to the campaign and the club giving the coach two games to change things, have all but subsided as Persija, perhaps inspired by the recall of Bambang Pamungkas and Ramdhani Lestalahu, have turned things around so spectacularly. 

Their last defeat came away to Persela and I said at the time I felt they had played well and Teco was being treated unfairly, weighed down by the baggage of history and underachievement, and it is refreshing to see how a little bit of patience is being rewarded.

Last night's victory came courtesy of Brazilian defender William, his second in two games, with a header from an Ismed Sofyan cross. The game was played behind closed doors in Cikarang after a number of incidents of crowd trouble in Bekasi and indeed their are some concerns the team may not play anymore home games there this season.

Coach Teco's challenge now lies in keeping that winning momentum going with the team not playing another competitive game until 4th July when they travel to East Java to play Gresik United (another game that will be played behind closed doors for Gresik fans' pitch invasion against Persela). 


Bhayangkara, Persib Pay Price For Pitch Invasion

Both Bhayangkara and Persib have been fined following the pitch invasion which marred their Liga 1 game at Patriot Stadium 4th June.

Persib lost the game 2-0 making it four games without a win and a number of fans, a small number, invaded the pitch to let the players and club officials now how they felt about the poor run while in the stands flares were let off and play stopped for several minutes.

People who were at the game told me it wasn't a threatening invasion and pictures from the game showed fans with tears in their eyes as they confronted players.

Whatever the motive for encroaching on the field of play the PSSI are adopting a harsh line, witness Gresik United being forced to play behind closed doors after their fans crossed the white line.

Persib have been fined Rp 45 million for the actions of their supporters and the fans haven't got off scott free, being banned from wearing club colours to their next three games.

Bhayangkara were also fined, Rp15 million, because the pitch invasion took place at their stadium and they were responsible for security. The irony of a police owned team being punished for lack of crowd control seems to have gone unnoticed by many.

Thursday, June 15, 2017


Singapore v Argentina

In an ideal world my plan was simple. Head to Phnom Penh to watch Cambodia v Indonesia, down to Singapore for their game with Chinese Taipei before returning to Indonesia for their friendly with Puerto Rico. I would like to have caught Thailand v UAE but the Thais, in their infinite wisdom, make it difficult for foreigners to buy tickets for games, something the mainstream media, which dotes so much on the kingdom, would do well to address amid their usual fawning gumpf.

Anyway, plans are designed to be broken. Especially when you have a seven year old son at the end of the school year. Meeting his teachers meant I had to cancel Cambodia. I mean for goodness sake I am glad I came to this middle age lark now and not 20 years ago! And this seven year old, once he heard Argentina were in the manor, so to speak, was most insistent. 'Daddy, we go Singapore or no?' Yes, son.

He loves football, my little boy. But his football and mine or generations apart. He loves the big name players like Ronaldo, Messi and Reinaldo, he knows more about the latest football boots than your average shop assistant and he was telling me about Dyabala long before I knew anything about him beyond his nationality (Disclaimer - I don't watch Italian football). For MyLittleGooner football is a world of celebrities and products, everything I loathe about the game. Hell, he says if Mesut Ozil wants to leave Arsenal and can't find a new club he can come and stay with us and play football with my son after school!

Seeing football through my son's eyes is seeing modern football at its ugliest yet his thinking is perhaps more common than mine. We only had to go see Singapore v Argentina to see that. As far as a footballing experience went, and I was watching one of the  best teams in the world here, it was a non event. There was no atmosphere at all inside the stadium. Organisers wanted to #BringBackTheRoar. All we got was #TheSoundOfSilence.

Singapore's new national stadium holds 55,000. Ahead of the game organisers were saying they hold sold more than 20,000 tickets. Alarm bells! How the hell can there be so little interest when your own national side were playing one of the best in the world? Seriously, this wasn't a sell out because?

At the weekend Brazil played  Argentina in Melbourne in front of 95,000. Yet it wasn't that long ago when some foolish organisation more interested in sponsors and headlines declared with a straight face Singapore was the world's best sports city!

In the wake of the Melbourne game it was revealed Lionel Messi would not be playing in Singapore and oh boy, the whining with some fans demanding a refund 'cos one player would not be there. But the fact is 20,000 tickets had been sold before Melbourne? Why were ticket sales so poor when people thought Messi would be there? Why the apathy?

On the day of the game I went to the FAS offices to see what was going on. There was one poster advertising the game. That's it. Their 125th anniversary game against one of the biggest football nations in the world and the best they could come up with was a poster?

So, we walked along the river through a park to the stadium and a very nice walk it was. Very quiet. Follow the crowds? There were none. Just us and the greenery. Even as we crossed the bridge and headed into the stadium area there was little in the way of crowds. And no merchandise on sale. No indication a big game was about to be played.

Around the stadium concourse there were more people. Large numbers of security of course. I wonder if they, and the ubiquitous ushers inside, were included in the final attendance figure? Only then would it make sense. We played count the football shirts and of course there were more Singaporeans wearing Argentina shirts than their own. Why? I don't know. My seven year old son, I can understand to a certain extent. Peer pressure, TV coverage dictates his world. But I was looking at grown adults who had never been to Argentina transforming themselves into fans of a nation thousands of miles away.

And of course Liverpool shirts. Loads of Liverpool shirts. Including many wearing the new 125th anniversary shirt which was released less than a month ago. Getting the irony here? 

Inside the stadium, I bought some beer and we took our seats. Me, my wife and my son. We must have looked proper naughty sitting their, laughing, joking together, my son munching on his crisps, my wife complaining about the number of beers I had under the seat. And then I cheered for Singapore. Bloody hell, this woman in front turns round, takes one look at this family sitting together and she was off. What the hell had upset her so much that one fat git cheering for her country, her country mind, was on her toes. When she looked back from her new seat her face was one Stephen King could describe better in one of his horror books than I ever could. I smiled and raised my beer towards her.

Maybe it was the fact I tried to get involved in the match. If I was then I was alone. Apart from a few Argentine fans, the real deal, to our right, everyone was sat rigid for the game. It's fucking football, not the Queen's garden party! These people talk football and buy football but do they get football? In my area no one was cheering on Singapore. No one. Plenty of cheers when Argentina scored but nothing when Hassan Sunny was pulling off save after save.

If someone is scared by one guy cheering what the hell would happen if England came here. Or even Indonesia? Over the years I have been a big fan of the SLeague and Singapore football but when your own FA does FA to promote its own anniversary game then why should anyone else bother? Here was a massive opportunity to put Singapore football back in the spotlight at a time when it is hiding in the darkest shadows. The opportunity was missed. Again.

Next up for the Singapore football shirt collector is the International Champions Challenge or whatever it is called. Three European teams heading to town for a highly choreographed visit including games, perhaps a coaching clinic or a photo opportunity. It would be interesting to see how many turn out for those games. 

As we walked away from the stadium my friends and family were less than impressed by what we had seen. The only person who enjoyed himself was my seven year old son before adding the support was rubbish!


Persija Face Sriwijaya Behind Closed Doors

Persija coach Teco deserves massive respect for turning the team's fortunes around in recent weeks. Their 3-0 triumph 'away' to Perseru was their third win on the spin and the third consectutive game Andritany had kept a clean sheet. The turnaround contrasts sharply with their start to the season when they went six games without a win.

Next up is Sriwijaya at home tomorrow night. While Laskar Wong Kito have struggled for consistency this season, they are currently 12th in Liga 1, Teco will know the biggest challenge facing his team could lie elsewhere.

It was announced yesterday the game with Sriwijaya would be played in Cikarang, not Bekasi, and will be played behind closed doors. 

Persija fans have been involved in a number of incidents this season, the most recent being in their last home game against Arema when a section of the support trashed the TV equipment which was supposed to have beamed the game around the nation.

It will also be recalled last season when Persija hosted Sriwijaya the game was abandoned in the second half when home supporters went on the rampage and attacked the police in and around the stadium.

Persija are of course used to playing games behind closed doors. I am sure someone out there knows how many times they have managed this little feat. And it is unlikely this will be the last game to be played in such conditions. It is though unfortunate that the actions of the few continue to harm the club they profess to love so much.

Sunday, June 11, 2017


Indonesian Ref Uses Pitchside Video Technology

Another first for Indonesian football? From the country that has had two players unions, different clubs sharing the same name, two leagues, two national teams and god knows what else, now Indonesia has seen a referee change his decision after watching video evidence.

The whistler concerned awarded a penalty to PS TNI during their home game with Persija last week after he felt a Persija defender handled the ball in the box. Persija weren't too happy with the decision and complained so the hapless ref, Fariq Hitaba, turned to one of the TV cameras pitch side and watched the incident again. He subsequently decided his initial decision was wrong and annuled the penalty.

FIFA has talked about allowing match officials to use video technology to assist them in their decision making but it hasn't been implemented yet, not even in Indonesia.

PSSI official Joko Diriyono, who has spent years trying to explain the unexplainable in local football, struggled to account for the ref's actions. 'I don't know where the ref got the idea from. But for sure the use of video technology is not allowed in Liga 1,' he said.

Persija coach Teco likewise shrugged his shoulders at the latest lunacy. 'I have known about football since I was three years old. I have coached several teams but I have never seen anything like this before,' he said after the game. 

The PSSI recently appointed Scotsman George Cumming in a bid to raise standards of match officials in the country. This incident suggests the bar is even much lower than we expected.


Bali United Decimated By International Call Ups

Most leagues around the world tend to stop their domestic competitions around the time the national team is in duty. Frustrating for many fans, myself including, this notion is designed to give the national side the fullest support possible as they bid on the world stage for international glory.

Indonesia used to embrace this idea big time. The national league would go into lengthy hibernation for something like the SEA Games, a regional Under 23 competition, as the nation's best young players were sent off to join the national team in their preparations.

This idea seems to have quietly dropped. During the AFF Suzuki Cup last year, for example, the national competition carried on regardless as clubs mobbed together to insist no more than two players from each team were called up for national duty. It didn't seem to harm Indonesia as they surprised everyone by reaching the final, losing to Thailand.

Indonesia travelled to Cambodia last week and defeated their hosts 2-0. Next up they face Puerto Rico in Sleman. But Liga 1 carries on in its own merry way. This time Luis Milla wasn't hampered by the two player per team restriction but some teams have not been impacted by call ups in the way other teams have.

Take for example Bhayangkara. Their promising midfielder Evan Dimas wasn't called up. None of their players were in fact. Last week they travelled to Bali United who had seen four of their players representing their country in Phnom Penh. Four! Irfan Bachdim, Yabes Roni, Ricky Fajrin and Miftahul Hamdi. And these are not bit part players.

Bhayangkara won the game 3-1 and climbed above Bali United into 3rd place in the Liga 1 standings. But given the number of players the home side were missing surely there was a case for rearranging the game? Fans expect their team to field their strongest line up and with Bali having a chance to go up to second had they won 13,700 supporters turned up hoping for their team to at least have a fighting chance. 

It's not just Bali United who can feel aggrieved by the cavalier attitude PSSI seem to have to players and international call ups.

Last night Arema were held 0-0 at home by Perseru. The Crazy Lions were without Kurnia Meiga, Hanif Sjahbandi and Bagas Adi. Perhaps feeling short changed, perhaps taking into account recent results, the Arema fans stayed home, less than 5,000 saw the goalless draw.

Clubs and fans expect a level playing field and when you're without nearly a third of your team while your opponent is at full strength one team is at a definite disadvantage. Perhaps PSSI need to reconsider an international break to be fair to all sides.

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