Football in Indonesia: the hope of a new generation | Sports | DW

Indonesia is a country of 275 million people with a great passion for football. What appears to be a good recipe for a successful national football team actually looks very different. While India and China are often referred to as the “sleeping giants” of world football, the island nation is rarely talked about when it comes to football.

“Indonesia did not qualify from the group stage of the Asian Cup. If we succeed this time, it will be of great significance to the whole country,” their coach Shin Tae-young told DW. Shane is one of the most famous and respected coaches in Asia. In 2010 he won the AFC Champions League with the South Korean first division club Seongnam FC. In the 2018 World Cup, he led South Korea sensationally to victory over Germany in the group stage.

The next challenge now is: to qualify for the 2023 Asian Cup. Indonesia, which ranks only 159 in the world rankings, will face Nepal (168), Jordan (91) and Kuwait (146). It’s not an easy task, but coach Shane has complete confidence in his team: “Our team is very stable and confident and I’m sure we can qualify,” he told DW.

Indonesia coach Shin Tae-young wants to bring new stability to the national team

Hooligans and match-fixing

Many ardent fans have always wished that the focus would finally be on the green lawn. In the past, problems off the field have always set the country back. The name Noureddine Khaled symbolizes this. From 2003 to 2011, the politician was president of the football association PSSI. This is even more amazing when you consider that Khaled was involved in the cooking oil scandal in 2004 and was subsequently imprisoned. But even from prison, he continued to direct the fortunes of Indonesian football until his dismissal in 2011. From 2014 to 2016, the national team was banned from international football due to the Indonesian government’s repeated interference in the affairs of the federation.

“There were a lot of people who were involved in running the game and they were just looking out for their own interests,” says a PSSI official. But the situation has improved and the focus is now all on football. However, some attention should continue to be devoted to other issues – in the case of Indonesia, these are mainly riots and match-fixing. As a recent example, in November 2021, six players were suspended for attempting to illegally influence a game. Save Our Soccer has found that 74 fans have died in football-related violence since 1994.

Shin Tae Young's first football team, Indonesia

Football is very popular in Indonesia – but time and time again it has been overshadowed by corruption and violence

New generation, new mindset, new hope

Now the Indonesian national team wants to reinvent itself with coach Shane and young players. “We’re getting a lot of support from PSSI now,” he says. “Our focus now is clearly on developing young players.” In December, the team reached the final of the Suzuki Asia-Pacific Cup, which is held every two years in Southeast Asia – and did so with an average age of just 23. bronchus. “All the players have very good skills and are enjoying the game – but they need a better attitude.”

Assistant coach Shin Dzinan Radoncic sees the players’ mentality as the key to success. “Indonesian players are often very calm and relaxed,” says the Serbian. “I think it comes from the climate and the culture. I have to constantly tell them to do everything they can for the 90 minutes and not to stop during the match.” Another way is to convince European players who have family ties to Indonesia to play for Indonesia in the future.

Elkan Baggot is one such example. The 19-year-old son of an English father and a Chinese Indonesian mother moved to England when he was nine and plays for Ipswich Town in the third division. Now he decided to wear the Indonesian national jersey in the future. Spaniard Jordi Amat and Dutch international Sandy Walsh are also on the list of Indonesians – the naturalization process is ongoing.

Shin Tae Young's first football team, Indonesia

Then-Korean coach Shin Tae-young celebrated his victory over Germany in the 2018 World Cup

The U-20 World Cup as an opportunity

Next year, the island nation will host the U-20 World Cup – the first global tournament to be held in Indonesia. In addition to the sport itself, the state will also benefit from $28 million provided by the state to modernize stadiums and infrastructure in the lead-up to the tournament. “This is a very important investment because infrastructure is a big problem,” Raduncik says. “The stadiums are in very poor condition and urgently need improvement.”

In 2023, Indonesia U-20 will have the opportunity to present itself on the world stage for the first time since 1979. The first national team is still far from that, but the turmoil to better times has undoubtedly begun.

The text was adapted from the English language by Matthias Brock.

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