Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Uruguayan "Tigers"

In the midst of endless debate over Indonesia's national team performances and local youth development programs, or the lack thereof, the boys of the Under-18 team shipped off for the third stint of the Uruguayan Project on Tuesday.

The team headed for Montevideo to play in the Quarta Division in Uruguay.

Critics have said the Rp 20 billion ($2.1 million), four-year program is just another Indonesian Football Association (PSSI) shortcut to develop better footballers, rather than improving junior leagues or football academies at home. Junior leagues in Indonesia are nearly unheard of, the most notable being the Medco Under-15 League.

It’s not the first time PSSI has sent teams of youngsters abroad. In the early 1990s, the association sent two teams to Italy to play in the Primavera and Baretti leagues.

Though it produced local stars like Aples Tecuari, Kurniawan Dwi Yulianto, Kurnia Sandy and Yeyen Tumena, they failed to go international.

PSSI, though, has continued to insist that sending players to a country with a good youth development system is still the best option for now.

“The Uruguay Project is on the right track,” PSSI president Nurdin Halid said. “You can see the boys’ skills are improving, and when the time comes they will make a world-class national team.”

But last year the Under-19 team, comprised of kids who had played in Uruguay for two years, failed to reach the 2010 AFC U-19 Championship, even though Indonesia hosted its qualifying group.

The team’s coach, Cesar Payovich, warned against expecting instant results. “After all, they were just training for two years.”

“Give me two more years and, if the boys show determination and discipline, I promise Indonesia will see a much better team,” the Uruguayan coach added.

He cited Tri Windu Anggono’s achievement as he was named the best goalkeeper in the Quinta, or Under-17, Division by the Uruguayan Football Association (AUF) last season.

Payovich brought 26 players this time, including five new players, dropping four from the previous squad.

Manager Demis Djamaoeddin said competition to make and stay on the squad would motivate the players.

“We have assessment from the beginning, and the boys know they’re replaceable,” Demis said.

The National Team Body dropped four players — Dimas Galih Pratama, Imam Agus Faisal, Sahlan Sodik and Syaiful Bachri Ohorela — from the last squad. In their place it added five new players — Aris Wahyu Nugroho, Manahati Lestusen, Muhamad Arsyad, Ahmad Resal Oktavian and I Wayan Julian Arimbawa Hotzel.

Joining the Uruguayan Project has become the ultimate dream for young footballers around the country.

Resal might be a good example, as he went through three selection processes before finally being selected this year.

“I’m happy as finally I was able to make the team. But I don’t want to get too excited. The most important thing is playing well and keeping my place on the team,” the 16-year-old native of Bangkalan, Madura, said. -JG.

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