28 Desember 2010

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Euphoria and the national soccer team

Euphoria struck Indonesia after the national soccer team advanced to the AFF Suzuki Cup finals. The stellar performance of the national team was abuzz everywhere, and has been a hot topic in the past few weeks in the media in the country. Some politicians have even complained that the many reports in the media have diverted people’s attention from the Bank Century corruption scandal.
Television stations have broadcast news about the successes of the national team; with news even spilling over into the personal lives of players and coaches, particularly the two naturalized players, Christian Gonzales and Irfan Bachdim.
The frenzy has not ended with coffee shop and media discussions. People have gone crazy for the national team’s merchandise such as T-shirts and scarves, which are now hot selling items.
People have always been seen jostling at Bung Karno Stadium to secure tickets to every game the national team has played in the AFF Cup, and the enthusiasm led to riots at the stadium Sunday after supporters became angry because they could not secure tickets for the second leg of the final match against Malaysia on Wednesday.
The jubilant mood was justified as Indonesians have been longing for a great achievement by their national soccer team.
Soccer is the ultimate sport in the country, but, ironically, the national soccer team has continuously failed to win any international games the last few years.
People have been in perpetual discontent ever since Indonesia’s participation in the World Cup Final in 1938 because game after game, the national team rarely shows great achievement.
The worst was last year when the national team failed to even qualify in the regional SEA Games.

“The Indonesian Football Association has to discover the right formula to assure our national teams in the future will perform well in every game they play.”

Only this year the team began to show some promise after the AFF Cup kicked off a few weeks ago. The team was determined and crushed Malaysia 5-1 and Laos 6-0 before advancing to the semifinals against the Philippines. In the semifinals, Indonesia overcame their neighbor 2–0.
In the first leg of the finals in Kuala Lumpur on Sunday night, Indonesia was crushed by Malaysia 0–3, but the final score did not represent the overall performance of the Indonesian team.
Non-technical reasons such as nervousness, the burden of the public’s expectations and the
use of lasers by Malaysian supporters that affected the concentration of the Indonesian players have been often cited as causes behind the defeat, but, in the second leg to be held on Wednesday in Jakarta, the national team is expected to rebound and return to its previous stellar performance that had stirred up euphoric emotions among Indonesian people.
The defeat Sunday was disheartening, but Indonesia can still win big in the upcoming match in front of its home audience.
It thrashed Malaysia 5-1 in a preliminary match, so Indonesian players will hopefully be able to regain confidence to defeat Malaysia.
On top of that, the players also know Senayan field well compared to the Malaysian players, so that can also serve as an advantage.
People’s expectations are still running high as the trophy is important. If the national team wins, it would be the first time ever for Indonesia since the Cup began in 1996.
The best achievement so far by the national team in the biennial event was runner up.
Winning the AFF Cup is important to elevate national pride. But, the more important thing is to sustain the stellar performance the team has shown so far.
It will be a shame if the impressive performance already shown this year does not continue in the
future and instead in years to come the national team again ends up with the same fate, namely, as a perpetual loser.
This is a cause of concern for many people. Many still question whether the superior play can be sustained. Had Christian Gonzales (a former Uruguayan citizen) not been naturalized and not been member of our national team, would we have been able to win the match against the Philippines? (The 34-year-old striker scored defining goals, with one goal in each game against the Philippines to secure Indonesia a place in the finals).
Should we rely on immediate gratification, that is, naturalizing foreign players to ensure our national team wins every game?
Had we failed to recruit Alfred Riedl, our seasoned foreign coach, would we have been able to instill the discipline and determination among our players so that the team became more competitive?
The Indonesian Football Association has to look ahead and find the root causes behind the success of the national team and discover the right formula to assure our national teams in the future will perform well in every game they play.
If we can do that, the euphoria will not only be one time — like what we are experiencing now — but will continue for many years to come.

Opini The Jakarta Pos 29 Desember 2010