Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Indonesia hopes to get back on track vs. Azkals

This appears in the Tuesday, May 15, 2012 edition of the Business Mirror.

Indonesia hopes to get back on track vs. Azkals
by rick olivares

When the Philippine Men’s Football National Team takes on Indonesia in a June 5 friendly at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium, the match will carry certain significance. As recently as 2010, Indonesia looked at the Philippines as “road kill” as the Jakarta Globe once infamously described that year’s Suzuki Cup semifinals match up. While Indonesia dispatched the Azkals with a 2-0 aggregate win, the Philippines have since gained a measure of respect not just in the region but also throughout the world. The current #148 ranking by FIFA underscores that.

While Indonesia has yet to win Southeast Asia’s most prestigious seniors football tournament, the Philippines is rapidly improving. But the Merah Putih, as Indonesia’s team is nicknamed, is in a state of turmoil and is under threat of suspension by FIFA if the country is unable to resolve its national sports association problems by June 15, 2012.

Indonesia, a country of 240 million people has long been recognized as a regional football power but has underperformed in the Suzuki Cup where it has been a losing finalist on three occasions with the 2010 tournament being the most recent disaster.

The problems were compounded when a breakaway faction from the Persatuan Sepak Bola Seluruh Indonesia (PSSI) formed the Liga Primer Indonesia that saw the participation of 19 teams and the transfer of some of the Indonesia Premier League stars including the popular Irfan Bachdim.

Making matters worse was the controversial 10-nil loss to Bahrain last February where the gulf state needed a win by eight goals to advance in the qualifiers for the 2014 World Cup. Indonesia lost its goalkeeper early on but given the circumstances, the match was placed under investigation as Bahrain needed at least an eight-goal win in order to progress to the fourth and final round of World Cup qualifiers. During that match, the Merah Putih’s head coach, Aji Santoso, was suspended by FIFA for four matches and fined 6000 Swiss francs (€4,990) after he accused officials of being bribed to rig the result.

Indonesia saw their keeper sent off after only two minutes of play and Bahrain was awarded four penalties.

In spite of the turmoil, Indonesia, currently ranked #151 in the world, is neck deep in preparations for the year-ending Suzuki Cup. The Merah Putih, under interim head coach Nil Maizar, while Santoso serves out his suspension, are scheduled to take part in a pocket tournament in Palestine before playing visiting Inter Milan in Jakarta on May 26. Irfan Bachdim is the only player from the 2010 Suzuki Cup team that played against the Azkals who is expected to make the trip to Manila. Other players such as Cristian Gonzales who scored the two goals against the Philippines in that Suzuki Cup clash, as well as forwards Bambang Pamungkas, Yongki Aribowo; midfielders Oktovianus Maniani, Tony Sucipto, Ahmad Bustomi, and defenders Muhammad Roby and Benny Wahyudi are still available for call ups.

No comments:

Post a Comment