Faisal Maliki Baskoro
As if having Inter Milan in Jakarta this week was not enough, a collection of English Premier League legends will also grace the capital this weekend.
Former stars such as Faustino Asprilla (Newcastle United), David May (Manchester United) and Robbie Fowler and John Barnes (Liverpool) visit Istora Gelora Bung Karno on Sunday to take on a team of former Indonesian stars such as Bima Sakti, Kurnia Sandi and Yeyen Tumena.
“We’re not superstars anymore. We’re not as good or as quick as we once were, but we’re still passionate and we still enjoy it. We love playing in front of the crowd,” Fowler said during a news conference on Friday.
“As long as people come and enjoy it, it will be good fun watching good former players from the EPL.”
Fowler, who said he was considering joining the coaching ranks, said his motivation for continuing to play was that he missed being cheered on by the supporters.
“I suppose a lot of players come over here [Asia]. You meet new people, you see passionate fans and they’re singing. It’s enjoyable,” he said.
The former Liverpool striker spent three years in Asia, playing for the North Queensland Fury and Perth Glory in the Australian A-League before serving as player-coach for Muangthong United of Thailand.
Fowler also offered a few suggestions to the Indonesia Football Association (PSSI) on its effort to improve the country’s football. He said bringing in foreign players did not necessarily help improve the quality of the local league.
“Foreigners are not beneficial for local football. They’re not always good. It’s a matter of getting the right players to improve football,” he said.
Barnes, meanwhile, said that with a population of 240 million people — the fourth-largest in the world — Indonesian football was beginning to receive more recognition.
“If Indonesia wants to really improve, it should follow the discipline and spirit of the Japanese and South Koreans,” Barnes said.
“In terms of physicality, you can’t compete with the Africans and the Europeans. You have to compete with spirit and discipline.”
Asprilla said touring the world meant more than just meeting the fans and experiencing football in other countries.
“It’s the experience to play in other countries and the opportunity to learn about different cultures,” he said.
The former stars also took time out to criticize modern football for being too dependent on money for success.
Fowler insisted that a club having copious amounts of money was not necessarily an indicator of instant success, though he did concede it did help bring in the best players.
He went on to say that a salary cap was inevitable in the near future as players’ wages only continued to grow.
“The wages now are extortionate to the clubs, but the players did not ask for it. A salary cap is only a matter of time,” Fowler said.
Julian Dicks, a former West Ham United defender, said money had ruined football as players earned more than 200,000 pounds ($314,000) a week.
“It’s no longer a working-class sport. There’s too much money in it,” he said.
“Players earn 200,000 pounds a week, but then again it’s a short career. You cant blame them [for taking the money].”