Merah Putih Faces Busy September Schedule
Despite lingering uncertainty over the domestic league, national team coach Nil Maizar is pushing forward with preparations for the Asean Football Federation Suzuki Cup.
After a friendly against Valencia on Saturday, the senior side resumed its training camp in Jakarta. It will play several warm-up matches prior to the regional championship. The Merah Putih have a busy schedule in September, when the team is scheduled to play five matches.
“I presented my program to the PSSI two weeks ago, and I run the camp based on my program,” Nil said on Wednesday, referring to the Indonesian Football Association. “So far, we have friendly matches against North Korea, the Philippines and Vietnam. If there’s a schedule change, the PSSI should inform me.”
Recently, national team coordinator Bob Hippy said the PSSI scheduled the senior side to play Espanyol B, the Philippines, North Korea and Vietnam in September. The match against Espanyol B is scheduled for Sept. 5, while the North Korea match is part of the SCTV Cup on Sept. 10.
Five days later, the Philippines will pay a visit to Jakarta, and Vietnam will be a two-legged affair, with matches on Sept. 22 in Hanoi and Sept. 29 in Jakarta. The AFF Cup takes place from Nov. 24 to Dec. 22 in Thailand and Malaysia.
With five warm-up matches in hand, Nil wants to secure his players a few more opportunities on the pitch before the regional championship.
“We have endured hard times and I have to consider our difficulties when I design my program. I think we need six to eight warm-up matches prior to the AFF Cup. That’s enough,” Nil said.
Meanwhile, PSSI chairman Djohar Arifin Husin said his organization would protect Indonesian Super League players who joined the national team camp by providing them with new clubs and wages.
Five ISL players — Ahmad Bustomi, Bambang Pamungkas, Firman Utina, Muhamad Ridwan and Ponaryo Astaman — joined the senior side and played in the friendly against Valencia last weekend. They did so against their clubs’ wishes, stemming from an ongoing dispute between the breakaway ISL and the Indonesian Premier League. No action has been taken against any of the players yet.
“The most important thing is players won’t be neglected. The PSSI will do anything to help them,” Djohar told state news agency Antara.
He also welcomed the interest shown by Thai Premier League clubs in Indonesian talent. “Players need assurances, so they choose to play abroad. It’s good for the players and the national team,” he said.
Two naturalized Indonesians — Greg Nwokolo and Victor Igbonefo — have joined TPL side Chiang Rai. BEC Tero Sasana cancelled its signing of Titus Bonai due to legal concerns.