In my recent travels in Indonesia, I have learned a lot about the footballing culture of this country of almost 300 million. You can see it everywhere: in ads, TV, and movies. Below are some of my insights on what the Philippines can learn from Indonesian Football.
Establishment of True National League
Please don’t get me wrong here. I love the UFL and its superb contributions to Philippine Football. The reason I put in the establishment of a true national league here is to emphasize the need to align football clubs to the local communities.
We Filipinos, by default, are very regionalistic (even sometimes to a fault). I’ve also seen this behavior in Indonesia and it does wonders for the local clubs in terms of club participation and revenue. The very reason why the Emperador Stadium is empty most of the time (aside from its unique location) is the lack of ‘connection’ of the supporter to a club. Having a local club, say Ceres La Salle FC (Bacolod) be pitted against a club from Iloilo or Cebu would do wonders given that the Bacolodnons will never want to lose against their regional rivals.
Seeing a weekend/weekday crowd average of 10,000 for different stadiums is appalling but is a norm in Indonesia. Capacities of these stadiums could even reach 50k (aside from the Buong Karno Stadium which can host a hundred thousand). Feeding of this regional format, local clubs can actually take advantage of a home and away format similar to the one the Metropolitan Basketball Association did many years ago where the Visayas and Mindanao teams always had a full house.
Indonesia has the Indonesia Super League where 22 teams battle it out to be Indonesia’s number one club team. Due to local politics, the league format is a unique where the clubs play a league-style in their divisions (Eastern & Western) and the top clubs qualify to a cup-style knockout finale. Though the format may be politically induced, I think that it would work in the Philippines as it is logistically and financially sound. Filipinos are still used to cup-style competitions so doing a bit of both would be good for us in the long run.
Club Youth Development
The youth program of PSSI, the National Football Federation, was not obvious during my stay there but what stood out were the youth teams of the established clubs specifically in the club of my city, Persib Bandung. Clubs have their own teams from U14’s up to the senior level and these teams are exposed to different local and national competitions. It is interesting to note that members of the Indonesian Super League (ISL) are required to have an U21 team which has a parallel competition with the main League.
In preparation of the Asian U19 championship in Myanmar this 2014, the TIMNAS Indonesia U-19 team is currently on a Nusantara (Archipelago) Tour where they are pitted against fourteen U21 clubs for the months of February and March. I have seen these players play and I have seen their development in every game given that they are in a hostile environment in the clubs they visit. It is very convenient for the team to have test matches given that there are plenty of U21 clubs in the Archipelago. The clubs are also taking a profit from this tour as I have not seen a crowd less than ten thousand for every venue.
Finally, since it has been known that the National league is already in the works, the learnings from our neighbors can help minimize the learning curve in the establishment of our national league. It will be a real challenge to build this league but I truly hope that I would experience its full growth in my lifetime.