Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Jinx much?

Got an airline that needs killin'? Give me a call.

Something, or someone, is conspiring to keep me from getting off this rock. First there was Qantas and its sudden departure from the skies. I had booked a flight to New Zealand on the Flying Kangaroo and was pretty perturbed when it suddenly grounded all its planes. That situation was temporarily resolved as the labor courts ordered Qantas and its unions back to work, but industrial action is still only a phone call away.

I also had booked a flight home on American Airlines. That plan got changed by forces beyond my control, but I'm told I can still use the credit from the flight. That's nice, but the news that American has filed for bankruptcy doesn't lift my spirits that much.

Now the government down in Kiwiville says it's going to sell its stake in flag carrier Air New Zealand. I'm not sure what that means for the airline's fortunes, but it doesn't sound good. The next time I make a long-distance relocation, I think I'll go by boat.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

PSSI's chickens come home to roost

My unabridged commentary piece on Indonesia's World Cup qualifier with Iran and all the nonsense surrounding it. The piece itself got kicked around a bit, what with the sports front being redesigned twice tonight. Enjoy!


Indonesian Football Association officials watching Tuesday’s World Cup qualifier against Iran must have been proud.

After all, everything on display at Gelora Bung Karno was the culmination of their five months in charge of the country’s favorite sport.

The half-fit players, the nearly empty stands, the choppy pitch at the national stadium — all that and more is the legacy of chairman Djohar Arifin Husin and the new leadership at the association known as the PSSI. All the hand-waving and attempts to deflect blame that will inevitably follow should not obscure the fact that those in charge of Indonesian football have not put the country in position to succeed.

It should come as no surprise that the drumbeat to replace Wim Rijsbergen as coach of the senior national team is already underway. Like his predecessor Alfred Riedl, the Dutchman ruffled feathers when he made the apparent mistake of calling attention to the miasma of indiscipline, arrogance and entitlement surrounding the national team and the PSSI.

Rijsbergen has since moderated his tone, but his point remains the same. While he has not criticized his players in public, he has walked up to that line, informing the press on multiple occasions of the stories he could tell but not elaborating in the interest of “protecting the players.”

What he refuses to say speaks just as loudly, though.

“If there is no discipline outside the field, it’s impossible to be disciplined on the field.” “There must be a lot of talent in a country with 240 million people that is willing to be 100 percent professional.”

Those are not the words of a manager who feels he can rely on his players to show up — on time and sober — when called up to the national team.

To the PSSI, though, what outside observers see as legitimate gripes are just another example of a mouthy bule. Reports have emerged that Djohar will consider Rijsbergen’s position after the Southeast Asian Games, and rest assured that succession plans are already in place.

While the names at the PSSI may have changed, the organization itself is still a political beast and it is not difficult to pick out the favorite son. After the Indonesian Super League finished in June, the Under-23 team coached by Rahmad Darmawan played 16 friendlies ahead of the Games, a youth competition in an event unknown outside this region.

The senior team, which was trying to qualify for the World Cup — the pinnacle of football — played just three times. One of those was against the U-23 team, while the other two needed PSSI and government officials to call in favors to line up friendlies against Palestine and Jordan.

Somewhere along the way, the country that once boasted of plans to host the World Cup decided trying to qualify for the tournament was just too much of a hassle.

That Rahmad is in line to succeed Rijsbergen is beyond doubt. The question is how Djohar and his cronies will justify the switch. Lack of success? Not bringing new talent into the team? Unless the Dutchman’s brief includes uniting the political factions tearing Indonesian football asunder and reviving the domestic league, those charges are unfair.

Too expensive? Making a change would leave the PSSI paying for Riedl, Rijsbergen and the new coach. Poor crowds? It was the PSSI that signed off on the hostile takeover of Persija Jakarta, whose Jakmania supporters make up the bulk of Indonesia’s crowds at Gelora Bung Karno, and spurred the boycott that has left so many seats unfilled.

Indonesia has had six managers since 2000, not including repeat appearances by Ivan Kolev and Benny Dollo. Putting another new face on the senior team’s bench will do little to address the systemic problems holding back the nation.

Most of those problems are long-term concerns, though, and the current leadership would struggle to organize a bake sale. For now, the best thing the PSSI could do is focus on restarting the domestic league. Sacking Rijsbergen and denying any culpability on its part for Indonesian football’s woes will only further entrench a rotten status quo.

Friday, November 11, 2011

So much for that

I guess I forgot where I worked. For a while there, I was under the impression that I'd be able to get out of the office and help with our coverage of the Southeast Asian Games. Of course, the unspoken second half of that sentence is "as long as we have enough people in the office." Given that I work in newspapers, you can imagine how infrequently that happens.

The SEA Games officially started on Friday, though soccer has been going for about a week and rowing was supposed to start on Thursday — supposed to, remember. It doesn't look like my byline will appear very often, though. I'm stuck in the office on Sunday and Monday covering for our international news guy, meaning I'll miss the start of men's and women's basketball, and I'll miss another day on Wednesday as well since one of our other chief copy editors has his day off. The last three days of the SEA Games — the 20th, 21st and 22nd — are out, too, because the other chief copy editor is taking a five-day break.

Of the 12 days of the SEA Games, I'm allowed out to cover events on five of them. It's really four since I'm apparently going to Indonesia's World Cup qualifier against Iran on Tuesday. It's a dead rubber, now that Indonesia is officially out after losing 4-0 in Doha, so the "win or be eliminated" angle isn't an option. Given the putrid attendance at the last few qualifiers and SEA Games matches — due in no small part to the ongoing Jakmania boycott — the atmosphere at Gelora Bung Karno might match its mausoleum-esque decor. (Yes, Gelora Bung Karno. They rearranged the SEA Games matches to free up the stadium, sparing Iran a trip to Papua.)

Honestly, I really shouldn't care that much. I've already told the higher-ups I won't renew my contract at its current terms, and as the odds of the company offering me a better salary are roughly equivalent to those of my getting married in the next week, it looks like my time here is at an end. My flights are already booked, and I'm going to start packing and paring down my things this weekend. You'd think I found some enjoyment in packing up my life and schlepping it long distances, given that I do it so often, but it really is a pain.

On a happier note, by this time tomorrow I should be in possession of my new laptop. The old one would've cost about $650 to fix, and since there happened to be an IT expo not too far away last weekend, I found a new one with more bells and whistles for about the same price. Plus, the new one has a 600 GB hard drive, so even after I get my old files transferred over (Bill Gates willing), it should take me at least three or four months to fill up all that space.