Sriwijaya Shows Stamina and Class To Snare ISL Title
It’s an old adage that the league table doesn’t lie.
The beauty of football is that over 90 minutes, any one team can beat another. It’s what makes cup football such compulsive viewing.
But to spread that form over a complete season, to find the consistency of performance week in, week out is what every manager strives for and what they want to see on their resume.
Sriwijaya has led the Indonesian Super League for most of the current season. They started the campaign with a bang, winning six out of their opening eight games, a defeat away to Persib marring that near-perfect run, while their last 15 games have produced 14 wins and just one draw.
Their home record is perfect; away they have just three defeats. They have won the most games, scored the most goals and have the fewest losses as well as boasting the meanest defense.
By any measure it’s been an impressive season, brushing aside last season’s champion, Persipura Jayapura, along the way.
What makes that consistency all the more remarkable is that they have achieved it under a coach who remains little known.
Kas Hartadi was appointed going into the season and while he has inherited an experienced squad filled with internationals he has done what more experienced coaches have failed to do in recent years in Palembang; bring home the title.
Sriwijaya, which started life as Persijatim East Jakarta, is Indonesia’s most successful club. Since winning its first ever title, then known as Liga Indonesia in 2007/08, it has won the Indonesian Cup three times as well as the Inter Island Cup and the Community Shield. It has also featured in Asian club competition during those years; valuable experience that is likely to be deprived from it next season given the current off-field bickering that continues to plague the game here.
Its success coincided with coach Rahmad Darmawan’s time at the club; when he left at the end of the 2009/10 campaign, it turned to former national team coach Ivan Kolev but he was unable to continue the team’s winning formula as Persipura steamrollered its way to the ISL title the following season.
The appointment of Kas Hartadi raised a few eyebrows ahead of the present season but with a formidable spine featuring Ferry Rotinsulu, Thierry Gathuessi, Ponaryo Astaman and the ageless Keith Kayamba Gumbs, he hasn’t needed to do too much tinkering with the team.
The evergreen Gumbs, a St. Kitts and Nevis international, has had another outstanding season. The striker turns 40 in September yet his fitness levels put many younger players to shame and his performances this season show he still has a lot to offer the team; little wonder then he has been assisting with the coaching duties.
He scored the opening goal in a 3-0 win over Persela Lamongan in Gelora Sriwijaya, Palembang, on Wednesday, which secured the title for the South Sumatra team. Gumbs now leads the ISL top scoring chart with 22 goals.
The victory sent Sriwijaya to 73 points and an unassailable 11-point lead ahead of Persipura, which only has three matches to go this season. Sriwijaya still has four.
Gumbs, though, is unlikely to allow his teammates much respite. There are still points to be won and Gumbs, along with players like Firman Utina and Ridwan, will demand they get added to their already formidable tally.
There will be plenty of time once the season has ended to savor the title success. Maybe too much time with no clear indication yet of what next season may look like or when it is likely to begin. Even Asian club competition is likely to be denied them as Sriwijaya plays in the breakaway league.
A great shame that a good football club who do things the right way are being hindered by the people charged with taking the Indonesian game forward.