Wimbo Satwiko & Sandy Pramuji
Semen Padang etched its name in the country’s football history by mathematically securing the Indonesian Premier League title on Sunday.
The West Sumatra club beat Persiraja Banda Aceh 3-1 at Agus Salim Stadium in Padang to take an unassailable lead in the standings with 43 points and one match left in the IPL’s inaugural season.
Second-place Persema Malang still has three games to go, but it’s impossible for it to catch Semen Padang as the East Java side is 10 points behind.
Striker Ferdinand Sinaga started the Kabau Sirah (Red Bulls) partying with his goal in the 23rd minute. He leads the IPL scoring chart with 15 goals.
Edward Wilson made it 2-0 with a penalty kick two minutes later, and the Liberian forward sealed the victory with a header in the 83rd minute.
Erik Saputra scored a consolation goal for Persiraja during injury time.
It was Semen Padang’s first top-flight title in the club’s 32-year history. Since the team was established in 1980 by Semen Padang, the country’s first cement manufacturer, its biggest trophy was the 1992 Galatama Cup — a knockout competition among semi-pro clubs which played in the Galatama league.
After playing in the second-tier Premier Division since 1994, the Kabau Sirah were promoted to the then top-flight Indonesian Super League in 2010 and stole the league’s spotlight with its sleek passing and attacking on the way to a fourth-place finish.
When Indonesian football was divided due to infighting within the Indonesian Football Association (PSSI), Semen Padang opted to play in the official IPL instead of the breakaway ISL.
It looked like it made the right decision as it dominated the league from the start, losing only twice so far.
Coach Nil Maizar’s departure, after he was appointed as the senior national team coach to replace Dutchman Wim Rijsbergen in April, did not affect the team too badly as former technical director Suhatman Iman took charge of the squad.
“I’ve been working with Nil Maizar for almost five years so I’m familiar with his coaching style. I’ll just continue what he has already started for the team,” Suhatman, who took Semen Padang to its 1992 Cup victory, said when he was appointed as caretaker in April. “I think it will be an easy job for me.”
With Semen Padang’s victory, Sumatran clubs have dominated the country’s football scene this season. Sriwijaya FC secured the ISL title in breakaway fashion as well, laying claim to the title last Wednesday.
However, Sriwijaya didn’t play like a championship team when it visited Persija Jakarta on Sunday.
The South Sumatra club fell 3-0 to its host at Gelora Bung Karno for its first loss since Jan. 28.
Pedro Javier hit Persija’s first goal while Rahmad Affandi added two for the Kemayoran Tigers, who remained fourth in the standings with 51 points in 31 games.
Persija coach Iwan Setiawan said he felt good about beating Sriwijaya, which he called the best club in the ISL.