October 09, 2011 | by Antony Sutton
Persija Jakarta never starts seasons well. There are always doubts and disputes going on behind the scenes.
No one knows who is running the club, no one knows where the money will come from to pay the players and no one knows where home games will be played.
Jakarta’s biggest club has played home games in Solo, Malang, Jepara and other cities in recent seasons as the club has been unable to secure a police permit for their home town. Then there was the time some businessman no one had ever heard of came along waving fistfuls of cash. He offered to end the club’s reliance on local government funds and take the club to the next level. He was next heard of with second tier-club Persikad Depok, and such was his impact there that it fell out the league before the season ended. No one has heard from that businessman since.
This close season is no exception. Well, in one way it is different. There isn’t one Persija now but two. Only one can enter the league next season, and it appears the Indonesian Football Association of Indonesia (PSSI) has chosen the wrong one. The fans, known as Jakmania, aren’t happy and have been protesting outside the PSSI offices, but to no avail.
Of course, the main aim of football clubs is to play football, not get entangled in annual ownership battles. On the field, as things stand, Persija is imploding. So many players are leaving or have left that training sessions have been very quiet affairs.
What will annoy Persija fans the most, though, is where the players have been heading. M. Ilham, Tony Sucipto, M. Nasuha and Aliyudin have all joined bitter rival Persib Bandung. Even Persib’s new goalkeeper, Jendri Pitoy, was with Persija, albeit for only a few days, before heading to the cool mountains of West Java.
Precious Emuejeraye, Hendro Kartiko, Ismed Sofyan and Syamsul Haeruddin are reported to have moved on. That’s pretty much the whole of last season’s starting XI being deemed surplus to requirements or deciding themselves the time was ripe to leave of town.
Now comes news that Persija’s arguably two best players, the iconic Bambang Pamungkas and Greg Nwokolo, are being courted by Sriwijaya FC. Bambang has spent the best part of a decade with the club, minus a couple of years in Malaysia, and no one doubts his devotion to the cause. But he can’t be faulted if he looks elsewhere and sees teams challenging for honors and players getting paid on time.
Too often in recent seasons Persija has made headlines off the field, while on it the club’s performances have been less than satisfactory. Back in 2008-09 the team did come close to winning the title, but with home games being shifted around the country and long spells between games, the momentum was lost and the club fell away.
Persija and their fans consider themselves to be one of the biggest clubs in the country, and the potential for Persija’s brand, with its distinctive orange, and its huge support remains untapped. But Indonesian football is changing, and it is the better-run clubs like Persipura Jayapura and Sriwijaya that have been winning trophies and signing the best players.
Now, even before a ball is kicked, it seems Persija’s season is doomed before it has even begun.
Recruitment has yet to start in earnest, and with 10 days or so before the season kicks off, not for the first time, the Kemayoran Tigers are left to pick up the scraps.