PSSI Ponders Putting U-23 Squad in for Rest of Qualifiers
After two losses to open World Cup qualifying, some at the Indonesian Football Association already want to cut their losses and look to the future.
Bernhard Limbong, national team coordinator for the association known as the PSSI, has suggested using the Under-23 national team for the four remaining Group E qualifiers.
After Indonesia lost 3-0 in Iran last week and 2-0 to Bahrain at Gelora Bung Karno on Tuesday, Limbong said the senior team needed to be revamped.
“We will evaluate the performance of [coach] Wim [Rijsbergen] and determine whether Indonesia will benefit from continuing our cooperation with him or not,” he said on Wednesday. “This team has to be overhauled by looking for better players.”
“We’ve also thinking of sending Rahmad Darmawan’s Under-23 team to finish the group qualifying round. That will give international experience to the squad for the country’s future,” he added. “We will recommend that to the PSSI and it’s up to the association to decide.”
The U-23 team, which is coached by Rahmad, has been training in Malang, East Java, for the past month to prepare for November’s Southeast Asian Games in Jakarta.
While blooding youngsters smacks of desperation, such a move is not uncommon in Indonesia. After the senior side lost 4-1 to Syria in the second round of qualifying for the 2010 World Cup, the PSSI decided to send a youth team to Damascus for the return leg, which the host won in a 7-0 rout.
Rahmad, who was formerly an assistant to Rijsbergen before leaving to focus full-time on the U-23s, said he had not heard anything official from the PSSI.
However, he urged the governing body to think carefully before making such a decision.
“This is not about whether my team is ready or not if we have to play in the World Cup qualifiers, but a lot is at stake if we send the youngsters to the qualifiers,” the former Sriwijaya FC boss said.
First of all, he said, it would present an administrative problem as only eight of the U-23 team’s 30 players have been registered for the World Cup qualifiers. The PSSI would have to apply to the Asian Football Confederation to make major changes to its player pool.
“Then there will be training problems. We have our own training blueprint so the team will peak at the SEA Games. Playing in World Cup qualifying will, of course, ruin that,” the coach said. “We also have to bear in mind that being in the national team, especially the senior team, is by merit. Players have been fighting hard in the competition to be able to wear the Merah Putih jersey.”
However, Rachmad did not say he was opposed to the idea.
“I just want everything to be decided with a clear conscience. I know and believe that Wim has his own program to improve the senior team. At the moment, I think it’s better if we stick with that,” Rahmad said.