Which Indonesia will show up?

Singapore — Indonesia, they often say, are their own worst enemies when it comes to the ASEAN Football Federation (AFF) Championship.

The critics have a point.

How else does one explain why the Indonesians have yet to win the tournament since its inception in 1996 despite them having such a huge population base and the number of talented players they have produced over the years?

To be fair, the Merah Putih have reached the final on four occasions, only to stumble at the last hurdle.

Unfortunately, football coach Peter Butler believes history will repeat itself at this year’s competition.

Having coached in Indonesia for three years before taking charge of Terengganu in the Malaysia Super League (MSL) last season, Butler is of the opinion that while the Indonesians are a potential championship-winning team, their unpredictability will be their albatross.

“Indonesian football always promises so much but also ends up delivering so little,” said the Englishman, currently coach of T-Team, another MSL side, for next season.

“As a coach, I get so excited seeing the talent they have produced. But the question is whether they can raise their game when they need to.

“The current team is so unpredictable. Brilliant one moment and disastrous the next. Honestly, although I would love for them to win the title, I can’t see them doing so. There is too much instability in the team and in the way Indonesian football is being administered.”

Butler was referring to the discord between the Indonesian Soccer Association, which runs the official Indonesian Premier League and its rival body, the Indonesian Soccer Rescue Committee, which is linked to the country’s breakaway Indonesian Super League (ISL).

The ISL clubs have been reluctant to release their players to the national team. This, in turn, has resulted in the Merah Putih not being able to field their strongest squad for the Suzuki Cup.

Victims of the fallout include goalkeeper Samsidar, who quit the national team’s training camp after he signed for ISL side Mitra Kukar, and Patrick Wanggai, the young exciting forward from Persipura Jayapura, another ISL team.

Despite the country’s footballing troubles, the fact remains that Indonesian coach Nil Maizar still has some young exciting talents and trusted veterans he can rely on in Kuala Lumpur.

Maizar will once again count on his 33-year-old skipper Elle Aiboy to provide leadership and thrust to the team’s attack. Although the veteran of four AFF championship campaigns may have lost some of his renowned speed, he is still expected to play an influential role in midfield.

Veteran striker Bambang Pamungkas, 32, has also been included, and his 38 goals in 85 international appearances will make him a marked man at the tournament.

Indonesia also have Holland-born striker Jhonny van Buekering at their service. The 29-year-old, who has played for Feyenoord and Go Ahead Eagles in the Dutch league, became an Indonesian in October last year and is seen as the perfect partner for Bambang.

Maizar will be hoping the two will be on fire in Kuala Lumpur because Indonesia, in their friendly internationals so far, have not been as sharp upfront as he would have liked. Although they have scored eight goals in eight matches, five of them came in their 5-0 rout of Brunei.

Trusted old hands aside, the Indonesia squad are also brimming with young exciting talents such as 20-year-old midfielder Andik Vermansyah, who was the star of the team at last year’s SEA Games, and 19-year-old defender Arthur Irawan, who plies his trade with Spanish second division side Espanyol B.

Maizar thinks the team can go one better this time and lift the title.

“We are mentally and physically ready for the tournament,” he told the Jakarta Globe. “Everyone always want to give their best to the country.

“They are eager to prove themselves.”

Butler clearly does not agree – and Singapore football fans will be hoping that the Englishman will be proven right eventually.[]

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