Thursday, February 18, 2016


Coach Fabio Opens Up On Timor Leste Football

It was perhaps two or three years ago. I was sat in a restaurant in South Jakarta with a German and a Brazilian and an Indonesian. And I couldn't get a word in edge ways which was a bit of a surprise as you can imagine. It was a heated passionate conversation about local football but what was interesting is was solely conducted in Indonesian. Timo Scheunemann and Fabio D'Oliveria have of course been kicking around donkeys years and know the game, and the language, inside out. Little old me, I couldn't keep up with their patter and I really must get my act into gear and improve my language skills when I get back.

Fabio of course spent time working with the national team and also coached Persita for a spell among many other assignments in the country. But now he is coaching overseas in a nation that let us be honest is not widely considered a footballing hotspot. Malaysia and Thailand have a football tradition but Timor Leste? At least he is familiar with one of the languages for Timor Leste belies its colonial past with Portuguese as one of the official languages and Fabio of course...well, he is trilingual at least.

So how does a Brazilian coach end up in one of the newest countries in the world and perhaps just as importantly how does he persuade some of the biggest names in Indonesian football to join him there?

'I received the invitation from a friend to be coach of a team here in East Timor. The name of the team is Carsae FC,' said Fabio and like any good coach he was attracted as much by the club's focus on youth development as the first team. ' I accepted the invitation because the president of the team beyond participation in the championship, he also want building a development football program with young talents here in Timor Leste.'

 The eight team Liga Futbol Amadora De Timor Leste kicks off 25 February with all the games scheduled to be played atthe Municipal Stadium in the nation's capital Dili. The first game sees Academica play Aitana which will allow Fabio and his team the opportunity to at least get some idea of the standard.

Since being appointed coach Fabio has been busy recruiting players and has managed something of a coup with Immanuel Wanggi and Okta Maniani following him to Timor Leste. In 2010 hopes were high Okta would be at the spearhead of a thrilling young generation of Indonesian players but he, much like Indonesian football, has not built on that early promise and in recent years his career has somewhat stagnated and earlier this year a move to PKNS in Malaysia fell through.

Okta signed at the end of January and was immediately looking forward to the prospect of playing overseas but the Papuan born flyer was quick to point out playing in Timor was a bit like returning home. In a geographical sense perhaps, the island of Timor which is shared by Indonesian and Timor Leste is closer to Papua than Jakarta for example.

Given Indonesia's suspension from FIFA, Okta's move is unlikely to reignite his national team ambitions, he has not played for the merah putih since 2013, but perhaps playing far from the spotlight may allow him to play with less pressure and recapture some of that early promise.

Joining Carsae and Okta is Immanuel Wanggai. The Indonesian international played for Persipura for a decade and comes from a footballing family with cousin Patrich having recently enjoyed a spell in Malaysia with T Team after impressing at the 2013 SEA Games.

The experience of Okta and Wanggai could prove invaluable for Carsae in the season ahead and if coach Fabio has his way the duo could well be joined by an even more illustrious name, saying 'Maybe Boaz (Solossa) join with us also'.

How ironic if Boas should move to Timor Leste. For several years he has been one of the few Indonesian players considered adept enough to take his talents overseas and had he taken the plunge then surely he would have found suitors in Malaysia, Thailand or even Australia. He has previously resisted the urge but perhaps with no end in sight to Indonesian football woes perhaps now is the time for the pacy striker to dust off his passport and try his luck.

Coach Fabio has been impressed by the standard of local players he has seen. 'My first impression about the players was like a good potential with no football basic orientation.' Refering to his Indonesian contingent he added 'I think they can transfer knowledge for young local players here.'

It could be argued players like Okta and Immanuel are selling themselves short by moving to Timor Leste and perhaps they should have sought to really test themselves by trying their luck in more competitive leagues but as Okta said, it is like going home. And credit must be given to Carsae for being adventurous and taking the plunge on big name players.

For now though Fabio and his Indonesian internationals have a week or so to get to know their new team mates ahead of of their first game of the season against Dit FC. It may not attract much attention around the world but for Carsae and Timor Leste it is the first step on a new adventure.

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