Saturday, November 18, 2017


Vujovic To Leave Persib But Will Remain Club Legend

Persib Bandung were trailing 1-0 against Arema in the Indonesia Super League semi final at the Jakabaring Stadium in Palembang. The only goal of the game had come in the first minute of the second half. Persib’s Montegran defender Vladimir Vujovic failed to anticpate the bounce of a ball lofted into the penalty area.

Arema’s Brazilian striker Alberto Goncalves took full advantage of the slip, driving the ball across the keeper I Made Wirawan and into the far post. The East Java side, ISL champions back in 2009/2010, had one foot in the final.

With seven minutes remaining, however, Vujovic redeemed for his earlier error. This time it was the Arema defence that failed to clear and the tall defender stooped to sweep the ball home from close range. The goal took the game to injury time and further goals from Atep and Konate Makan set Persib up for their first ever ISL final appearance.

As this paper goes to press, thousands of Persib supporters, known as Bobotoh (a Sundanese word meaning follower) are looking at how they can get to Palembang in time for Friday’s final against Persipura Jayapura. The city in South Sumatra will slowly but surely turn blue as the Persib hoardes take over the place in a bid to win the ISL for the first time in their history.

That the West Java are in the final at all is in no small part down to Vujovic. The goal against Arema was his sixth in 11 games; no mean feat for a striker let alone a player bought to the club for his height at the back.

And in the manner of great goalscorers the world over, when Vujovic scores it usually means something. It was his injury time penalty against Mitra Kukar in the play off  round that earned Persib a 2-1 victory while his team were struggling to break down a resolute Persik Kediri towards the end of the season before Vujovic nroke the deadlock halfway through the second half. Persib went on to win that game 3-0.

Cometh the hour, cometh the man. While Persib have looked to more traditional outlets for their goals this season, think Atep, Makan, Fedinand Sinaga, Djibril Coulibaly, it is the journeyman defender who has come up trumps at the business end of the campaign time and time again.

Yet Vujovic would be the first to admit he makes an unlikely hero. Persib are his 13th team in a 14 year career that also includes three spells with his hometown club Mogren Budva. He was played football for a living in Montenegro, Serbia, Macedonia, Ukraine, Saudi Arabia, Russia, China, Hungary, Kazakhstan and Lebanon; a resume that would leave career diplomats gasping for breath, let alone a professional footballer!

It is unlikely though that Vujovic will have engraved his name so indelibly within a club’s psyche as he has at Persib. His goals during their run to the ISL final will have given him a special place in the hearts of Bobotoh everywhere and as his compatriot and one time Persib player himself Miljan Radovic can tell him, once a Bobotoh, always a Bobotoh.

NOTE - this was written ahead of Persib's game against Persipura when they were crowned Indonesia Super League champions in 2014. The defender has just announced he will be leaving the football club. The story also appeared in the Jakarta Globe at the time where for a few memorable hours it was the most read article.

Monday, November 13, 2017


ASEAN Average Attendances 2017

Indonesia (top 6 attendances)

46,359 Persebaya v Semeru
36,545 Persib v Persija
34.056 Persib v Arema
29,673 Persija v Persela
29,669 Persija v PS TNI
29,640 Persija v Bhayangkara

Indonesia Average

23,051 Persija
18,006 Persib
13,779 PSM
13,423 Bali United
12,392 Persipura


17,051 Johor Darul Ta'zim
14,693 Kedah
  7,542 Pahang
  7,097 Kelantan
  6,474 Perak


13,890 Buriram United
  9,359 Muang Thong United
  7,493 Suphanburi
  6,316 Chiang Rai United
  6,059 Nakorn Ratchasima


9,333 Thanh Hoa
8,538 SHB Da Nang
8,417 Hoang Anh Gia Lai
7,583 Hai Phong
6,750 Than Quang Ninh


Persib Season Ends In Disgrace After Perseru Loss

Following on from their 2014 Indonesia Super League title success it looked like Persib were set fair to dominate the domestic game for years to come. They had the squad, they had the supporters and they had the vision off the field. 

Then came the FIFA suspension. Persib had reached the last 16 of the AFC Cup but the rug was pulled from under their feet and domestically the ISL was halted. The winning mentality hung around for a while and they still won the President's Cup but by 2016 key components of the title winning squad had moved on including coach Djadjang Nurdjaman.

With no official league Persib joined the other ISL teams in the Indonesia Soccer Championship in 2016 and after a slow start fan pressure forced out coach Dejan Antonic and the club were forced to welcome back Djadjang to salvage a rudderless ship.

For the 2017 Persib went out aggressively recruiting high profile players like Michael Essien, Carlton Cole and Raphael Maitimo but struggled to gel as Djadjang tried to juggle his squad with the demands of an interfering management. He was on a loser and tried to resign but the club wouldn't let him.

Eventually he did manage to step down and Persib found a 'suitable' replacement in Emral Abus but results didn't improve and the team blessed with so many riches went into freefall. 

Fan discontent that had started in the 2016 season showed no signs of going away with some invading the pitch after losing away to Bhayangkara to express their disgust at the way the club was being run. 

Manager Umuh Muchtar was banned from football for six months after Persib stopped playing in Solo after seeing a perfectly good goal disallowed by the Australian ref. While many supporters were happy to see him go the results didn't improve and Persib ended the season with three straight losses.

The Bobotoh kept supporting their team and more than 20,000 saw their Under 19s play in the final against Persipura in Cikarang. The Black Pearls won 1-0 and elements of the Persib support responded by trashing parts of the newly built stadium.

Persib's final game of the season saw them hosting relegation threatened Perseru. The visitors secured their spot in Liga 1 next season with a surprise 2-0 and, humiliated, Persib fans kicked off again, invading the pitch and throwing rocks at the team coach. That 23,000 supporters showed for this end of season disaster says much about the loyalty of the Bobotoh; that Persib should lose, their first home loss of the season, says much of the disharmony around the football club.

Persib ended the season just six points clear of the relegation places and with four losses in their last six games. The season hasn't been all doom and gloom as the faithful have seen young players like Febri Haryadi, Billy Keraf and Gian Zola come in and make an impression.  But they were handicapped by a lack of goals. Carlton Cole was regularly attacked by the manager during his stay as he struggled for fitness and Sergio van Dijk missed most of the season through injury. That midfielder Rapahel Maitimo ended up as top scorer with nine goals only highlights the lack of potency up top for the season.

Persib need a serious overhaul if they are to challenge the new breed of teams that have arrived on the scene/ Champions Bhayangkara, Bali United and Madura United and even PSM and Persija have shown clubs need to appoint a coach and let the coach do his job. You get the impression that is not the case in Bandung. That requires a shake up of the club culture and it remains to be seen whether or not the club want to go down that road.


FIFA Congratulate Bali As Bhayangkara Lift Title

I received a message from my brother yesterday. 'Why,' he wanted to know 'weren't Bali United champions?' Long story I replied.

It wasn't only a West Ham United fan with no knowledge of Indonesian football who was asking questions about Bhayangkara's surprise title success.

The game's world governing body was caught out as well. They congratulated Bali United on winning Liga 1 and showed a screenshot of the final table.

The ASEAN Football Federation followed suit, congratulating Bali United.

Even Bali United got in on the act. They defeated already relegated Gresik United 3-0 and held a party after the game with the players wearing t shirts describing themselves as The Real Champions! The flares and smoke bombs won't go down well with the league and the club could face sanctions.

Meanwhile in Bekasi the actual champions Bhayangkara took the lead against Persija through the prolific Ilija Spaosjevic only  for the visitors to fight back with two goals from Ramdhani Lestalahu to give them the three points and cementing their spot in the top four and the AFC Cup next year.

While the league have been clamping down on pyrotechnic displays inside stadiums they seem less concerned with people being involved with more than one team and some social media wags described this game as the GW Derby. 

Despite winning the league Bhayangkara won't be playing in Asian football in 2018 despite sharing the same stadium as Persija. Why? I don't know...As for my brother? He shrugged his shoulders and went to see Wimbledon play Peterborough United.


Madura United's Odemwingie Takes To Social Media

Madura United's Peter Odemwingie has been sucked into an online spat with his club following the team's back to back losses at the end of a season that had gone so well. The East Javan club president Achsanul Qosari took to social media to explain to the team's supporters that Odemwingie would be leaving the club.

'Since the game with Bhayangkara (when Odemwingie was sent off after being on the receiving end of some bad challenges) Odemwingie has been felt unhappy about continuing his career in Indonesia. He was really angry with opponents who he felt were trying to provoke him in a way that went against the spirit of fair play.'

Odemwingie seemed to have really taken to life in Indonesia, he started the season on fire with 13 goals in quick succession and his social media accounts showed a guy happy in his skin in his adopted country and not one reflecting on his past career as other high profile names have done. A few months back it was announced he would be signing on for a second season with Madura United but that seems to be over now.

'He (Odemwingie) has returned the down payment he had already received from Madura United,' continued Qosari, 'and he is not available to play in Indonesia again.'

Odemwingie hasn't responded well to Qosari's comments. In a tweet addressed to the club president he says 'can you please not quote me in the press? Especially things I never said. Thank you.'

He followed up a couple of hours later with a longer post saying the club shouldn't use 'my name to complain about the league operators because we didn't become champions'. He went on to say 'Yes poor decisions from referees (like it happens everywhere in the world) we can only complain and speculate about corruption until proven'. 

The Uzbek born striker goes on to admit he and the club are parting ways and are working to find a solution that is win win for both parties. 

It is ironic that Indonesian football can be so transparent at times. No English club for example would come out and say what Qosari did. Former Chelsea and west Ham United striker Carlton Cole was also taken aback to read about often negative comments about him in the local media from the club manager; Cole to having been brought up in England where dirty linen was washed within the club and not aired in public.

Odemwingie has had a good season in Indonesia and has proven to be a model professional, exactly the type of player the country needs. Hopefully a win win solution can be found for both parties.

Sunday, November 12, 2017


Marquee Players Leave Indonesia Less Than Impressed

With the Liga 1 season coming to an end it's time we look back at the marquee players and how they did over the course of the campaign. Were they any that stuck out from the crowd? Were there any flops? What memories will they take from Indonesia?

The notion of the marquee player came pretty late. From my understanding Persib signed Michael Essien, the former Chelsea midfielder, then the league announced clubs would be entitled to sign four foreigners and one marquee. 

Other players followed, some familiar, others less so. Madura United signed ex West Bromwich Albion striker Peter Odemwingie, Semen Padang brought in the former Spurs midfielder Didier Zokora and Mitra Kukar added ex Liverpool player Mohammad Sissoko to their ranks.

They are perhaps the best known examples but that is not to say other clubs shunned the programme. Borneo for example recruited New Zealan international Shane Smeltz who had impressed in Malaysia last season. PSM announced Wiljan Pluim, who they had signed during the second half of last season, would be their marquee while Arema brought in Juan Pino to little acclaim.

Bali United went Dutch when they signed Nick van der Velden while PS TNI's Elio Martins impressed when he first arrived. Flushed with cash from sponsorship most clubs went down the marquee route with varying levels of success.

Zokora was gone by the middle of the season. Semen Padang, normally such a stable, well run club, failed to build on the relative success of last season, in part down to Marcel Sacremento scoring far fewer goals, struggled to find any kind of consistency and come the transfer window Zokora was allowed to leave. Things didn't improve and the Padang side were ultimately relegated.

Essien was involved in one of the most controversial incidents of the season. The high risk game between Persija and Persib was moved to Solo, as usual, and Essien's Persib thought they had taken the lead in the first half when Chad striker Ezechiel N'Douassel thought he had scored with a header from close range. The ref however had different ideas and disallowed the goal and Essien, who had a perfect view of what had happened, led the protests as Persib couldn't believe their perfectly good goal had been disallowed.

Mohammad Sissoko has left his unique own mark on the title race. In fact you could say he had a direct role in Bhayangkara being crowned champions. He was sent off in the Mahakam derby between Mitra Kukar and Borneo and his team left him out of their next game which they lost 4-0. With Sissoko restored to the line up for their next game, at home to title challengers Bhayangkara Mitra Kukar drew 1-1 and it looked for all the world like Bali United would go on and be crowned champions.

The league then announced that in actual fact Sissoko had been suspended for two games, not one, hence was illegible to play against Bhayangkara and awarded the game 3-0 to the men in green. You can of course imagine the outcry this caused as those two extra points meant Simon McMenemy's team were back on top of the table and, thanks to better results in a head to head with Bali, only needed to beat Madura United to win the league for the first time in their history.

And it was in Madura where Peter Odemwingie. The Uzbekistan born striker seemed to have really taken to life in Indonesia and his 13 goals in the first half of the season helped put Madura United in the mix for the title. Then he was injured and was forced to miss a couple of months. By the time he returned Madura had lost ground on the leaders and all that was left to play for was personal pride. 

Odemwingie scored twice in his first three games on his return. Then came the game with Bhayangkara. The game was played behind closed doors, police kept fans away from the main entrance to the stadium, thronged the corridors in the main stand and the kick off was delayed as the TV channels were showing some wedding reception apparently. 

For a title decider the game was dreadful. The tackles were flying thick and fast and when Odemwingie lashed out at Bhayangkara's Indra Khahfi after being on the receiving end of some dodgy tackles, the Iranian ref had no hesitation in brandishing a straight red. Odemwingie had lost it and he looked like the kind of guy who had just had enough. Think Joey Barton playing for Queens Park Rangers against Manchester City when they won the Premier League. 

In a controversial end to a controversial season three of the highest profile marquee players played key roles in the action for good or bad. Neither of them featured in their team's last games. It could take a good agent to convince them to stay another season. Sadly for Indonesian football Essien, Sissoko and Odemwingie have many friends in football. Next time an Indonesian club comes calling for one of their mates can you imagine the type of reference they would be given?

People may want to flex their muscles. They may want to show they have 'power' and 'influence'. But beyond Indonesia's shores their names mean nothing. Football is the global game and footballers are global players. When Odemwingie, Essien and Sissoko tell the world about their experiences here, about the way a result was changed, a letter was misplaced, a kick off delayed there will only be one loser. 

Thursday, November 09, 2017


ASEAN Domestic Champions Five Year Record


2013 - Persipura
2014 - Persib
2015 - Gresik United*
2016 - Persipura**
2017 - Bhayangkara

* season halted following FIFA suspension
** Indonesia Soccer Championship is not recognised as an official league


2013 -  LionsXII
2014 -  Johor Darul Ta'zim
2015 -  Johor Darul Ta'zim
2016 -  Johor Darul Ta'zim
2017 -  Johor Darul Ta'zim


2013 - Tampines Rovers
2014 - Warriors
2015 - DPMM
2016 - Albirex Niigata
2017 - Albirex Niigata


2013 - Buriram United
2014 - Buriram United
2015 - Buriram United
2016 - Muang Thong United*
2017 - Buriram United

The 2016 season was cut short when the Thai king died


Bhayangkara Champions After Spaso Hat Trick

The circumstances may have been controversial but then what in Indonesian football isn't? Bhayangkara have been there or there abouts all season, impressing many with their open, attacking football. Coach Simon McMenemy has shown he isn't afraid to make the big shouts along the way for example replacing Thiago Fortuoso with Ilija Spasojevic mid season or placing his trust in 20 year old rookie keeper Awan Setho Raharjo.

Nine wins in 11 games seemed to have set Bhayangkara on course for their first ever title when they travelled to Banjarmasin to face Barito Putera. Jacksen F Thiago's team had made a name for themselves giving the leading teams nervous moments and indeed earlier in the season had nicked a 1-0 victory in Bekasi against Bhayangkara despite playing on the back foot for most of the 90 minutes. History repeated as they defeated McMenemy's men 1-0 again, their first loss since the end of July.

Four days later Bhayangkara had a chance to reassert their authority when they hosted fellow title challengers PSM but two goals early in the second half saw them slump to a second defeat in less than a week and suddenly Bhayangkkara were looking up at the leaders rather than down on the chasing pack.

Fortunately for the coaching staff their next game wasn't for eight days and they were able to concentrate on doing their thing on the training ground. Bhayangkara aren't a big club by any stretch of the imagination. They started life as Persikubar in East Kalimantan and through a series of tortuous, and not always transparent, mergers and acquisitions now find themselves in Bekasi, West Java, a dormitory suburb of Jakarta as a police owned team, reliant on off duty coppers for support.

This low profile meant the team were able to get on with restoring any battered confidence they may have felt after straight losses far from the media spotlight that would have accompanied more established teams. They were put through their paces ahead of their next game against Persela, a side troubled having lost their legendary goalkeeper Choirul Huda following a tragic on field collision in a recent game.

There is no sympathy on the football field and with newly naturalised striker Ilija Spasojevic, boasting a fresh Indonesian passport, opening the scoring the police backed side went on to win the game 3-1. Bhayangkara were back but their run in was tricky.

Their game away to Madura United was postponed at the last minute when the hosts were unable to find an alternate venue; they had been slapped with a stadium ban following an incident at a previous game. For some reason no action was taken against Madura for failing to fulfil a fixture but Bhayangkara now knew they would face a busy final week to the season with three games in a week including a fair amount of travel.

Next up was Mitra Kukar away, never an easy place to play. McMenemy's team came away with a point and with Bali United winning away to PSM thanks to an injury time winner from Stefano Lilypaly it seemed the title had slipped away. Then, in the hours leading up to the rearranged Madura United game, an apparent administration oversight (I'm being polite here) saw the title race turned upside down. Mitra Kukar were found guilty of playing an illegible player, M Sissoko,  and the game was awarded to Bhayangkara 3-0. Despite having an inferior goal difference to Bali United, Bhayangkara had come out on top in their meetings so all they needed to do was win in Madura and they would be crowned champions.

And win they did but only in the strangest of circumstances. Despite being banned from watching the game inside the stadium Madura United fans had apparently been told they could gather in the car park to support their team. This permission was then rescinded and a large police presence ensured no fans could get near the stadium. Kick off was then delayed, apparently because a it clashed with a wedding reception. 

They finally did kick off and Bhayangkara won 3-1 thanks to a Spasojevic hat trick. It was an untidy game at best. Paolo Sergio missed an early penalty for Bhayangkara, striking the post. Peter Odemwingie, so impressive for Madura United, was red carded after lashing out at Indra Kahfi. Substitute Fandi Eko Utomo was on the field for about three minutes and was booked twice before being sent off. Madura United ended the game with eight players when substitute Rizky Febrianto, who had pulled one back, was sent off with five minutes remaining.

Bhayangkara celebrated like champions do. Let the controversies and conspiracies swirl this was their moment. Winning the title in any country is no easy achievement, in Indonesia it is even harder. Bhayangkara can be criticised for a number of things but not on the playing side. McMenemy has built a team that plays good football and works as a unit. Watching them play you can see the discipline he has instilled in his side. His signing of Spasojevic was a master stroke as the ex Persib striker responded with 12 goals in 15 games. When Bhayangkara blinked Spaso kept on scoring. Meanwhile in the midfield unheralded South Korean Lee Yoo Joon has been the glue that has held the team together.

While the hoary old pros can look back on a job well done, Indonesian football can feel excited about the progress some of its young players have made. Evan Dimas and Putu Gede were well known before the season started but Dendy Sulistyawan, Ilham Uddin and Awan Setho Raharjo have been impressive all season while Jajang Mulyana has played with maturity in a number of positions to show his versatility.

The concept of Bhayangkara, a police backed club born from a number of mergers is never going to achieve mass support from the Indonesian football community brought up on their own local side with their history and traditions. If Bhayangkara were Thai for example where clubs have less history and bandwagons come easier the reaction to winning the title would be far more positive. And Bali United may have a sexier image, look where they come from after all, but they, along with the likes of Madura United, are doing their bit to shake up the cobwebs of the long dormant football scene on the pitch at least.

Simon McMenemy deserves kudos for the job he has done, for the team he has built and the way the team has played football. The coaching staff and the players have nothing to do with management or Liga 1 'forgetting' to send out letters. Their job is to play football and over the season they have done that pretty well.

Wednesday, November 08, 2017


Mystery As Liga 1 Decision Puts Bhayangkara In Pole Position

Bhayangkara - Champions Elect?
A few months back I wrote about wayang, a puppet show where the puppet master sits behind a screen and manipulates puppets while telling a story. Understanding the concept of wayang goes a long way to understanding Indonesian and the myriad WTF moments that colour life here. Whenever something happens a little out of the ordinary, which is quite often, my first thought is who benefits? Why has this happened, why now and who benefits?

That there are hidden puppet masters pulling the strings of football's stakeholders is nothing new of course. You think the rebel Liga Primer Indonesia was about football? Think again! And sadly the 2017 season is perhaps even more evidence football isn't just about 90 minutes. For some football is about ego, power and, more importantly, having the power to project that power.

When Bali United defeated PSM in Makassar thanks to Stefano Lillipaly's injury time winner it seemed the Liga 1 season had taken yet another tortuous turn in a season of tortuous twists and turns. That late, late victory, which produced surely one of the iconic pictures of the season with the PSM goalkeeper Rivky Mokodompit slumped against a goal posted looking thoroughly dejected, embracing a couple of sobbing supporters, ended PSM's title challenge and surely thrust Bali into pole position.

The three points saw them go two points clear at the top of the table with a superior goal difference ahead of Bhayangkara with the latter facing tough games against Madura United and Persija needing maximum points to be crowned champions themselves. Advantage Bali United. Or so we thought.

On 23rd October middle of the table Borneo beat middle of the table Mitra Kukar 4-0 in the Mahakam Derby. A surprise result perhaps but not one that would have had any great significance on the title race. One would have thought. Mitra Kukar's midfielder M Sissoko, yep the player who used to play for Liverpool, was red carded in the last minute. 

Normally a red card sees a player sit out the next game and dutifully Mitra Kukar left the Malian international out of their next game away to Persib. 

Twenty four hours before Mitra Kukar's next game, against Bhayangkara no less, Liga 1 apparently sent a letter advising advising 26 year old defender Herwin Tri Saputra would be illegible to play against Bhayangkara because of accumulation of yellow cards. The game went ahead 3rd November sans Saputra, but with Sissoko back in the line up, and ended 1-1. No one seemed to think too much about it at the time. Valuable points dropped by Bhayangkara yes but they were still in the title race.

Now comes news Sissoko shouldn't have played with Liga 1 claiming Sissoko should not have played in this game. Apparently the league had discussed the Sissoko case on 28th October but had, so it seems, left out details of his suspension from their letter they sent on 2nd November. Despite this apparent oversight/SNAFU, Liga 1 have decided to award the game to Bhayangkara 3-0 thus putting them back on top of Liga 1 ahead of Bali United based upon their head to head.

Tonight sees Bhayangkara play Madura United and that is another story. The teams were due to meet last month but Madura United were told they could not play a couple of home games in Madura following crowd disturbances. The club claimed they couldn't find another venue in time but rather than be punished for failing to hold a fixture the game was rearranged. Tonight's game will be played in Madura but spectators are not allowed inside the stadium. They are however being encouraged to gather outside!

Bhayangkara's last game of the season is against Persija in Bekasi. Officially a home game, given their support, and Persija's it will be to all intents and purposes a Persija home game. To add more twists and turns the Persija president was at one time the president of Bhayangkara. Indeed until recently Bhayangkara's official Instagram account used to hashtag this guy's name.

With everything now pointing to Bhayangkara winning the title, though we can expect more twists and turns in the final few days, we now know if they are crowned champions they won't be allowed to compete in the AFC Champions League because they don't have the proper licencing the AFC requires. 

As you can imagine, many football fans aren't happy with the way things are panning out. Most recognise Bhayangkara are a good team. Well coached by Simon McMenemy, they boast promising young players like Putu Gede and Evan Dimas as well as experienced players like Firman Utina and Ilija Spasojevic. But there is little respect for the football club which is mocked for having no history and no fans. 

There are also deeper concerns over what a Bhayangkara title success would say about the state of Indonesian football. Bhayangkara are of course a rebranded PS Polri, the police side that has only recently embraced professional football. And the PSSI are no run by a serving military officer. There is of course much discussion over this recent uniform interest in football and, in true wayang style, what is going on behind the scenes. The events of the last few days have done nothing to ease those concerns.

Tuesday, November 07, 2017


Persija's Bright Future After Ignoring Fans' Call For Coach Ouster

Remember earlier in the season when Persija were struggling to find a win? When they went on that run which saw them winless in six games, scoring two goals along the way? The fans were calling for coach Teco to be sacked, there were protests at games, banners held up calling for change at the football club?

Teco stuck to his guns and to their credit the football club did as well. Too often clubs pander to the whims of their supporters and sack the coach as soon as they feel it is what the supporters want.

The problem is of course a football fan is a fickle beast. For the fan the last result is everything and when you keep failing to score then you're not going to win, no matter how good your defence is.

And Teco was building a good defence. In fact that's what good coaches do. They build a team on a strong back line. Sadly for coaches building a defence is neither sexy nor quick. Ask the likes of Sam Allardyce or George Graham. But good teams are built on the foundation of a good defence and for all Persija's woes in front of goal they were still a tough nut to crack, conceding just five goals in that run.

In Andritany Ardhiyasa between the sticks they have a serious contender for player of the season. While the defence were getting used to each other there was Andritany on hand to rescue Persija time and time again with saves taken from the top drawer.

The back line ware one of the most imposing sights in Indonesian football with height and physical presence to intimidate the small, slightly built but agile local strikers. At the heart of the defence Brazilian William Pachecho has been a revelation. This guy is massive and has chipped in with a few goals along the way, forming an ever improving partnership with the veteran Maman Abdurahman. 

Its not all about age and experience. Left sided Rezaldi Hehanusa has come in and performed consistently well over the season and the 22 year old , happy birthday today, has been rewarded for his efforts by national team coach Luis Milla who has played him against Puerto Rico and Cambodia. 

Now of course Persija can look forward to a bright future. Despite sitting sixth in Liga 1 with a game remaining, thanks to Bhayangkara, PSM and Persipura not receiving AFC licensing they could well be representing Indonesia in the AFC Cup next year. They can also look forward to returning to a renovated Bung Karno Stadium once the Asian Games have finished and the extra cash flow that entails. And stable management off the field are finally realising the potential in their football club which has, in recent years, been seen as a lesson how not to run a club.

To think, had the club bowed to fan pressure Teco would have been long gone and who knows where the Macan Kemayoran would be now!

Sunday, November 05, 2017


Bambang Responds To Disallowed Goal Controversy

Bambang Pamungkas holds a unique position in the football pantheon. He is perhaps the one player respected across the length and breadth of the 17,000 islands that make up Indonesia. Bepe, as he is nicknamed, is Indonesia's Mohammed Saleh, Omar Abdulrahman, George Best, Franz Beckanbauer. He is perhaps the only footballer a humble noodle vendor or a western educated high flying businessman might recognise.

He is intelligent, articulate and cares deeply about the game. He works with the players union, APPI, trying to educate players about their rights and responsibilities to the game and their employers as well as how to negotiate the tricky world of contracts.

Bambang posts videos of him playing the piano and gives cookery tips, a passion of his. Yep, he is not your usual footballer. Hell, I have even spoken to Persib supporters who said they would welcome him should he ever forsake the Persija orange for the Bandung blue; he wouldn't out of respect to the Persija support who have cheered him for some 15 years.

And now Bambang has got caught up in the controversey surrounding the recent meeting between the two bitter foes. For when Chad striker Ezechiel N''Douassel scored what he felt was a perfectly good goal, the net rippled(!), Bambang had a good view of the event. As Persib celebrated video evidence seems to show Bambang hurrying to the centre circle as if he felt it was a goal.

The ref of course disallowed the goal and irate Persib fans took to social media to complain Bambang should have done the sporting thing and told the ref that in his view yes it was a goal. It would still have been down to the Australian referee to make a decision of course but at least, so went the Bobotoh thinking, Bambang could have made a stand.

Bambang has since written a post explaining why he didn't take any action in the cauldron of a feisty derby and full credit to him for doing so. Not many players would do the same but then not many players share the highest pedastal with him.

What we need to do is accept there are two Bambangs. The one many in football would like him to be, that rare voice of sanity in an asylum where it seems too often the lunatics have taken charge. Many, and I include myself, are crying out for someone untainted to rise from the dressing room and cast his purity over the game, magically ending match-fixing allegations, giving succor to honest match officials and telling errant supporters to put away their parangs.

And then there is a Bambang who plays for a football club and is trying to win every game he plays in for his employer and his supporters. The difference is so great any bridging is unlikely but it is to Bambang's credit, and an indication of the respect people across football have for him, they feel he is the one to speak up when injustice occurs.

In his post Bambang asks whether any Persib player would have tried to convince the ref the goal was valid had the roles been reversed. Had for example the game was being played in Bandung, there were no Persija fans present, the visitors had been taken to the game inside an armoured personnel carrier. If, for example, Bruno Lopes had scored for Persija and the ref disallowed it, as the home support rejoiced would an Atep or a Hariono have approached the ref and said, sorry mate you got it wrong?

Bambang goes on to suggest any person brave enough to have confronted the ref, risking the ire of his team mates and supporters, and said the goal was good would be possessed of wings and worthy of a FIFA Fair Play Award. 'Last time I checked, unfortunately I am still human' said the 37 year old striker.

Yes sir, you are still human. As is Paolo di Canio. The firey Italian was playing for West Ham United and with the Everton goalkeeper on the ground after failing to clear the ball and twisting his knee, was presented with an opportunity to score. Instead he caught the ball and gestured to the injured keeper suggesting he receive treatment. He was rewarded with a bollocking from his manager in the dressing room, worldwide praise for his actions and the FIFA Fair Play Award. And no one is suggesting di Canio is an angel!

As a footballing romantic I would like to have seen Bambang at least do the honourable thing. But as an Arsenal fan, had one of our players told the match officials a Spurs goal, which had been disallowed, was good I know I wouldn't be praising his honesty. 

Saturday, November 04, 2017


Good 'Evans. Shaun The Meek Leaves Persib Fuming After Disaster Showing

Controversy is never far away when Persija and Persib meet. Earlier in the season fan disorder in Bandung resulted in a Persib fan being beaten to death inside the stadium. Other 'events' in recent years can be found in this post I wrote some 15 months ago. When these two teams meet something invariably happens and I'm not talking about a football match.

It was Persija's turn to host Persib yesterday and Liga 1 decided in their infinite wisdom the game should be played in Solo to minimise the risk of violence. They also decreed Persib fans should not be allowed to travel to the game. Persija fans did of course, in their thousands.

One innovation in Liga 1 this season has been the introduction of foreign referees for some games, the feeling being local refs may not always be the most reliable when it comes to big decisions in high pressure games. Not every one has been in favour of foreign whistleblowers with, perhaps ironically, PSMs Dutch coach Robert Alberts arguing for other measure to clamp down on dodgy decisions by the men in the middle.

So there we have it. Persija hosting Persib in the neutral city of Solo with an Australian referee, Shaun Evans, and no away fans present. Surely this most intense of games should pass off fairly peacably? What on earth could go wrong?

Do not underestimate Indonesian football's ability to take whatthefuckery to new levels. After all this is land of three leagues, two national teams, two players' unions, three Persemas last season and who knows what else over the years?

Early in the first half and Persija's veteran striker Rudi Widodo comes flying in on Persib's tigerish midfield player Kim Kurniawan forcing the German born player to leave the field and head straight to hospital. Remember, we are only a couple of weeks on from burying Persela's keeper Choirul Huda after he was on the receiving end of a much more innocuous one that clattered Kim. The ref gave Rudi a yellow card and Persib were seething.

Before the half hour mark and Persib were positively irate. Chad striker Ezechiel N'Douassel heads the ball in to the ground and rises up over the despairing reach of Persija keeper Andritany and in to the roof of the net. N'Douassel wheels away in triumph, former Chelsea midfielder Michael Essian punches the air in triumph. Persib had taken the lead against their bitterest foe. Or so they thought. The Australian ref says it was no goal! The ball rippled the fucking net! And, interestingly, Bambang Pamungkas, arguably the most respected player in the country, appears to be heading back to the centre circle. He was close enough to see what had happened.

As one the Persib players surrounded the match officials but of course they were not going to change their mind. First they had lost one of their key players, no they had a goal chalked off, the game was less than 30 minutes and things were not going their way. Surely the whole point of having foreign match officials is to assure players and supporters a game is going to be played in a fair and just manner? And here we have two game changing decisions in the first 30 minutes favouring one team over another under the auspices of foreign match officials!

In the second half the ref awarded Persija a penalty and followed that up with giving Persib defender Vladimir Vujovic a red card after giving Bruno Lopes a tug outside the penalty area and that was too much for the visiting team. The straw that broke the camel's back?

It is too early to consider whether the experiment with foreign refs continues but after the Shaun Evans horror show in Solo no doubt questions will be asked. Certainly Persib will have a thing or two to say about it. Suffice to say the Aussie whistler won't be a popular man should he ever venture down in West Java any time soon!

Oh yeah, the game. The result leaves Persija on the cusp of a surprise AFC Cup slot and Persib looking back on a woeful run of one win in 10 games.

Wednesday, November 01, 2017


Asia Beckons Not For PSM, Bhayangkara

Title challengers PSM, Bhayangkara and Persipura have been told they do not meet the criteria for AFC licensing and as such will not be allowed to enter AFC club competitions next season. Potentially three Indonesian teams could go through to either the AFC Champions League and the AFC Cup in 2018 with the Liga 1 champions entering the play offs for the ACL. The second and third placed teams go straight into the AFC Cup

The news comes as PSM and Bhayangkara at least hold out strong hopes of lifting the Liga 1 title at the end of the season which comes in a couple of weeks.

Quite why these clubs will not be allowed to qualify isn't clear. Certainly Persipura, who have represented Indonesia several times in the Asian club competition, most recent in 2015 before FIFA  suspended Indonesia, can feel hard done by.

Five teams have however been cleared for AFC competition; Bali United who lead the table on goal difference from PSM and Bhayangkara, and Madura United who sit five points adrift. Sixth place Persija, 9th placed Arema and 11th placed Persib could reap an Asian cup bonanza despite their perfromances falling short of earning a spot by merit.

As things stand Bali United and Madura United can start planning for next season leaving Persija to fill the final spot but of course this is Indonesia and anything can happen.

All this is of course mightily depressing for clubs like Bhayangkara and PSM who have led the table for most of the season. Coaches Simon McMenemy and Robert Alberts are to be denied the opportunity to pit their wits against regional rivals because of some pedantic last minute box tickers and promising young players like Evan Dimas and Puti Gede are likely to miss out on some valuable experience.

Not for the first time we are witnessing football authorities scrambling at the last minute to make decisions that should have been taken before the season had even started.


Liga 2 Quarter Final Groups, Venues Decided

The Liga 2 quarter final schedule and venues have finally been announced. The PSSI have said the two four team groups will be based in West Java for reasons of security and the chosen stadiums are easily accessible.

We are still awaiting details of who plays who on what date. For now the cities of Bekasi and Cikarang can look forward to a large influx of football fans with Persebaya and Persis supporters at least likely to travel in large numbers.

Anticipating trouble, from players or supporters, the PSSI have warned any clubs involved in misbehaviour riks being thrown out of the competition.

As things stand the top three teams will be promoted to Liga 1 where they will replace Gresik United, Persiba and one of Perseru and Semen Padang.

Group X - Wibawa Mukti Stadium, Cikarang (Match days 9/11, 12/11, 15/11)

Persis, PSMS, Kalteng Putra, Martapura

Group Y - Patriot Stadium, Bekasi (10/11, 13/11, 16/11)

PSIS, PSPS, Persebaya, PSMP

22/11 - Semi finals

25/11 - Liga 2 Final

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