In­done­sia fol­lows China in big-name re­cruit­ment

New Straits Times - - Sport -


CHINA may have the most star-stud­ded league in Asia but In­done­sia is an­other sleep­ing gi­ant that is start­ing to im­port some in­ter­na­tion­ally fa­mous play­ers in a bid to raise stan­dards at home and pro­file over­seas.

For­mer English Pre­mier League stars Michael Essien, Di­dier Zokora, Carl­ton Cole and Peter Odemwingie are closer to the end of their ca­reers than the im­ports in China but their ar­rival could make a dif­fer­ence.

Af­ter years of cor­rup­tion scan­dals, po­lit­i­cal in­fight­ing, crowd vi­o­lence and in­ter­na­tional bans, the play­ers are help­ing In­done­sian foot­ball make pos­i­tive over­seas head­lines for the first time in years.

“Their ar­rival is a good thing be­cause they can help the In­done­sia foot­ball league pro­file over­seas,” Jacksen Ti­ago, for­mer head coach of the In­done­sia na­tional team and now in charge of league side PS Bar­ito Putera, said.

“We have more cov­er­age from in­ter­na­tional me­dia and more qual­ity play­ers will be look­ing for a chance to come over here in fu­ture.”

That has an ef­fect at home too, said the Brazil­ian. “Now tele­vi­sion, pa­pers and fans are more ex­cited about foot­ball and peo­ple are re­ally happy with those big names around the coun­try. They feel re­ally proud to have in­ter­na­tional play­ers here and lo­cal play­ers can learn from them.”

Like China, In­done­sia has long been re­garded as one of the world’s great un­der­achiev­ers given its un­doubted pas­sion for the sport and league games that reg­u­larly at­tract more than 20,000 fans.

The na­tional team ap­peared at the 1938 World Cup as Dutch East Indies but have made lit­tle im­pact since.

A Fifa ban, im­posed in May 2015 af­ter gov­ern­men­tal in­ter­fer­ence in the run­ning of the game, was seen as nec­es­sary by some af­ter years of mis­man­age­ment and scan­dals in the lo­cal game.

The ban was lifted in May 2016 and in De­cem­ber, In­done­sia reached the fi­nal of the AFF Suzuki Cup, South­east Asia’s re­gional tour­na­ment, equalling their best ever show­ing.

Al­fred Riedl was the na­tional team coach at the time and re­tired af­ter the fi­nal. “There has al­ways been tal­ent in In­done­sia and we showed that,” he said. “In­done­sian foot­ball could be very soon the num­ber one in South­east Asia but the clubs and the fed­er­a­tion need to be fu­ture­ori­ented.”

There are chal­lenges for the

The fa­cil­i­ties such as dress­ing rooms, train­ing fields and sta­di­ums are still poor so if you are com­ing from Chelsea to In­done­sian foot­ball there is a big dif­fer­ence.

AL­FRED RIEDL For­mer In­done­sia na­tional coach

for­eign stars com­ing to In­done­sia ac­cord­ing to the Aus­trian.

“The fa­cil­i­ties such as dress­ing rooms, train­ing fields and sta­di­ums are still poor so if you are com­ing from Chelsea to In­done­sian foot­ball there is a big dif­fer­ence.”

Jacksen is sure that, as­sum­ing the im­ports set­tle, they will en­joy their time in the pas­sion­ate foot­ball na­tion.

“The foot­ball at­mos­phere is In­done­sia is just amaz­ing and the for­eign play­ers will en­joy the at­mos­phere in­side the sta­dium and it will help them adapt to the cul­ture here. Fans make us re­ally en­joy our work, be­cause they re­ally ap­pre­ci­ate peo­ple with qual­ity here.”

The big­gest star is Essien, for­merly of Chelsea and Real Madrid, who signed for Persib Ban­dung in March along with for­mer Eng­land in­ter­na­tional striker Carl­ton Cole.

Essien scored his sec­ond goal of the sea­son on Sun­day to put Persib top of the stand­ings. Odemwingie has scored three in four ap­pear­ances for Madura United.

Riedl, who had three spells in charge of the na­tional team, has doubts whether the im­ports will have a last­ing im­pact and would pre­fer more money to be in­vested in youth de­vel­op­ment.

“It may be more ex­cit­ing for the fans and the me­dia,” he said. “But I don’t think that bring­ing for­mer big play­ers to In­done­sia will help. I am not sure that they are com­ing to serve In­done­sian foot­ball. They take big money, for In­done­sia at least, and leave when­ever they want.”

Jacksen, who has coached eight clubs in In­done­sia, is con­fi­dent how­ever that money spent on star play­ers will en­cour­age im­prove­ments else­where.

“It will make clubs in­vest more in their fa­cil­i­ties for train­ing ses­sions. The qual­ity of ref­er­ees will im­prove sooner or later, we coaches must im­prove our coach­ing knowl­edge to han­dle play­ers like those big names and the fa­cil­i­ties to train­ing will be bet­ter.”

The Brazil­ian ac­knowl­edges how­ever that it will all take time.

“There is still com­plain­ing about ref­er­ees, ag­gres­sive foot­ball and ri­ots be­tween fans,” he said, but added: “The fed­er­a­tion are try­ing to solve the prob­lems and bring more cov­er­age and money to the game. They are try­ing to make the league more pro­fes­sional in ev­ery as­pect.” AP

Their ar­rival is a good thing be­cause they can help the In­done­sia foot­ball league pro­file over­seas.

JACKSEN TI­AGO For­mer In­done­sia head coach

Michael Essien (left) and his for­mer Chelsea team­mate Carl­ton Cole play for Persib Ban­dung.

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