After exactly one year working in Indonesia I am back in the Netherlands. It has been an interesting, frustrating and learning experience. When I first came there was a lot of energy in the Football Association (PSSI) office. A lot of changes were made over the previous two years to develop football in this football crazy country.
The association brought in two foreigners, Mr. Sivaji and myself, to help develop the sport in Indonesia. Mr. Sivaji is an experienced coach and instructor who is a member of the AFC technical committee.
We concentrated on one of the most important pillars for improvement of football: coach education. In a short period of time we set up a great program for coaches to get their AFC license in Indonesia. There had been a vacuum of 4 years in which the courses were not given or not recognized bij AFC. The new program provided 40 A-, B- and C-AFC courses and 36 National D-courses in 2015. The head coaches participated in the first courses. Many of them had previously followed the national courses which were not recognized bij AFC.
Simultaneously we started to asses the football development situation in the country. I travelled to many provinces to study the local youth football circumstances. It brought me to the nicest places of Indonesia like Jayapura, Manokwari, Ternate, Ambon and Palembang. Everywhere I went I met a lot of enthusiasm and a big love for football. It was good to see that the younger age group (up to 10 years) showed a lot of talented players. But at the same time it was obvious to see that the older age group (16-19 years) was not at the same level as in European countries.
There was a big problem in football development between the ages of 10-19 years. In this category there are few well organized clubs, not enough good coaches and almost no competitions to play.
The teams and the players rely on a couple of tournaments and play far too few good quality games to develop their football skills.
Good facilities we would take for granted (like good pitches) are few and far between.
In the meantime we had an exciting project with the national teams -16 and -19. After a difficult selection (where to find the best players?) the teams were brought together in the National Youth Training Center in Sawangan. The players were supposed to live together for one year to develop the players and the teams. Under the capable guidance of coach Fakhri they were preparing for the AFF tournaments to be held in Indonesia in July and September.
A lot of money and resources was put into this program to give hope to the future of football in Indonesia. The Timnas -16 was good enough to beat Japan in a friendly.
Everything looked good until the PSSI congres in April. At this congres the members had to elect a new president. I was present all day and saw the events taking place right in front of me. It started to go wrong when 5 minutes before the election two gentlemen who ran for the position of president suddenly withdrew their candidacy, leaving only one remaining serious candidate. At the same time a letter from the government was handed over to the committee. The government “froze” the PSSI right there and refused to accept the outcome of the election. They refused to recognize the newly chosen president. From that moment the football development of the country came to an abrupt standstill.
The ISL league had to be stopped and the FIFA had to ban the country from all international activities, because government interference is against FIFA rules and regulations. This was two weeks before the first game of the World Cup qualification. It also meant that Indonesia is out of the 2019 Asian AFC cup because the qualification was linked with World Cup qualifications.
“Team Transisi” was installed by the government to replace the PSSI, but it had no clear plan how to help football progress. All the AFC coaching courses were cancelled due to the suspension and the AFF finals for -16 and -19 moved to other countries. The program that looked so promising stopped after more than nine months of hard work. None of the clubs in ISL had revenues coming in and subsequently quickly ran out of funds to pay the players’ salaries. The players lost their contracts and their income due to the situation. Thousands of people were affected by the government decision to freeze the PSSI.
My own situation was also affected. Not only the fact that my salary was stopped but also that the technical people in the office left.
I still had good hope that the situation would be resolved quickly for the sake of football and its people and kept working. I kept making plans for the future and gave clinics and presentations for youth coaches. I tried to find sponsors to fund a youth league program but experienced a large hesitation at the big companies to enter football under the present situation.
To give a little hope and salary to players and coaches a neutral organizer managed to organize the Presidents Cup and after that the Sudirman Cup. I was asked for the coaching job of Persipasi Bandung Raya (PBR) in the Sudirman Cup, a very pleasant experience. In this tournament I got a close feel of the games and the quality of the players. It was also great to experience the passion of the supporters during the the games in Malang.
This experience makes me believe there is a possibility for Indonesian football to grow. To select a national team that can win games when they are back on the international stage. But this can only happen when PSSI and the government bury the hatchet and start working together. Then sponsors will step in and youth football can be given a boost.
Unfortunately it will be without me. I have moved back home and am looking forward to a new challenge.