Queens Park Rangers Enjoys Rowdy End to Tour
Ami Afriatni & Sandy Pramuji
Surabaya. Queens Park Rangers concluded its Southeast Asian tour on Monday in a night its players likely won’t soon forget.
QPR rallied from a goal down to beat Persebaya 1927 Surabaya 2-1 at a sold-out Gelora Bung Tomo, which was hit by three blackouts and the persistent stench of the city’s garbage dump less than a kilometer away.
Persebaya striker Fernando Soler gave the host the lead after 17 minutes, but Adel Taraabt equalized for the English Premier League club 10 minutes later. Bobby Zamora secured QPR’s third victory in three Southeast Asian warmups with a 67th-minute goal.
Before visiting the East Java capital, coach Mark Hughes’ side beat two Malaysian clubs — a Sabah Select XI on July 17 and Kelantan FC three days later — both by a 5-0 score.
Hughes conceded his side underperformed against Persebaya but was still satisfied with his players’ effort.
“That was because of the long trip that we had to endure during the tour. Players’ fitness was declining. Luckily we were able to finish the game in front of [Persebaya’s] crowd,” he said. “There were also the blackout incidents which disrupted players’ concentration.”
Two blackouts threw the 55,000-seat stadium into darkness before kickoff, while the third occurred 37 minutes into the match.
Match organizer Liga Prima Indonesia Sportindo, which also runs the officially sanctioned Indonesian Premier League, said it would investigate the source of the problem.
“We apologize for the inconvenience,” LPIS spokesman Abi Hasantoso told state news agency Antara. “We decided to use generators instead of PLN [state electricity firm Perusahaan Listrik Negara] to power the stadium because we thought they would be more stable.”
He added that it was common in Indonesia to use generators rather than the electrical grid to light stadiums for night matches.
QPR captain Clint Hill did not seem to mind, though, praising the atmosphere generated by the Persebaya supporters.
“It was fantastic. In terms of numbers, it felt like double the 55,000 at some stages throughout the 90 minutes,” the defender told QPR’s website. “They never stopped singing. There were fireworks, flares and even when the blackout happened the atmosphere got even better, with all the fans generating light with their mobile phones or whatever else.
“It was a remarkable atmosphere and I really enjoyed being part of it.”
It was QPR’s first visit to Southeast Asia, arranged by club sponsor AirAsia, the region’s biggest budget airline.
Hughes said the experience gained during the tour would help his club prepare for the new Premier League season. QPR opens its league season at home against fellow second-year side Swansea on Aug. 18.
The London club barely escaped the drop last season, finishing one place above the relegation zone, and the coach said the target for this year was similarly modest.
“It’ll be great if we can stay in the Premier League. However, I strongly believe that we will grow into one of the top clubs in the league,” Hughes said. “We have no doubt in the next five to 10 years we will be more successful.”
To do so, he continued, the club needs commitment from its owners and sponsors.
“We have to be prepared, especially financially, for the Premier League. It is one of the strongest leagues in the world,” Hughes said.
AirAsia, which is owned by QPR majority shareholder Tony Fernandes, has said it is committed to building the club into a title contender.
“When we bought the club, it was based on our intention to develop it into a strong team. We showed that by recruiting world class players such as Park Ji-sung from Manchester United,” said Kamaruddin Meranun, AirAsia’s group deputy chief executive. “But we have to face reality, so next season our target is only to stay in the Premier League.”