Friday, January 8, 2010

Hendri speaks for Indonesian fans

When Hendri Mulyadi (picture) ran onto the field and tried to score on Oman goalkeeper Ali Al-Habsi, he represented the disgust and disappointment of all Indonesian football fans.

Al-Habsi failed to play along, saving the 20-year-old’s shot and adding to the frustration of Indonesia’s 2-1 Asian Cup qualifying loss.

“I know what I did was wrong, but I was so disappointed with the team,” Hendri said after being questioned by police. “I can’t stand it. Why is it so hard for them to win? It’s always either lose or draw.” Fans across the national are asking the same question.

Indonesian national teams of all age groups are at the lowest point in their history. The Under-23 team made unwanted history by going winless at the 2009 Southeast Asian Games, including a first loss to Laos. The Under-19 team failed to reach the 2010 AFC U-19 Championship hosting its qualifying group.

Now, for the first time since 1992, the Asian Cup will go on without Indonesia.

Who is to blame? Indonesian Football Association (PSSI) officials, still confident in their ability to manage the country’s favorite sport, refuse to take responsibility.

After the SEA Games debacle, PSSI secretary general Nugraha Besoes said, “FA officials don’t step down just because England doesn’t win the World Cup.”

PSSI chairman Nurdin Halid managed to smile throughout an interview after the Oman loss.

“With this kind of quality, we know we can’t compete against other Asian teams,” he told Metro TV. “We must overhaul football development by preparing a better junior development program.”

Junior development under Nurdin, who took charge in 2003 and will hold his post until 2011, has not involved improving junior leagues or football academies. Rather, the association chose to spent Rp 20 billion to send a select group of youngsters to play in the Uruguayan youth leagues until 2012.

Junior leagues in Indonesia are unheard of, the most notable being the Medco Under-15 League run by current Indonesian Golf Association president Arifin Panigoro.

Indonesia coach Benny Dollo refused to take responsibility, blaming the domestic league.

“The boys are not in good condition as we played in the middle of [the Indonesian Super League season]. Rahmat Latief just played a few days prior to the match,” he said on Wednesday.

It is not a stretch to suggest good competitions make for good players and teams. In Indonesia, though, the top-flight league and national team are seemingly constantly at odds. The PSSI continually insists on long-term training camps for each national team game, which in turn forces league administrators to alter their schedule in search of a win-win situation for club and country.

The end result is lose-lose, though, with players too tired to star for either team.

It is time for all football stakeholders in Indonesia to come together and find a way out of this mess instead of protecting their piece of the pie. They must focus on developing young talent and improving the leagues.

Forget splurging Rp 10 trillion in the vain hope of hosting the 2022 World Cup. If the PSSI has that kind of cash lying around, it would be better served to use it on developing football at the grassroots level, which in turn will produce better players for club and country.

That way, there will be no more Hendri Mulyadis. - JG.

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