World Cup: Where Indonesian football went wrong

Primastuti Handayani reflected in The Jakarta Post on Indonesia's opportunities for World Cup action:

"Remember Ramang? Most of us will probably say, 'Oh, yes, that's the ninth month of the Islamic year,' or simply 'Ra what?' It is a name only familiar to those who really know their local soccer history ... That name became famous about half a century ago, when Indonesia forced the Soviet Union to a goalless draw in the 1956 Melbourne Olympics ... But even in this millennium, that achievement is the best we can recall of our national team ...

Many people will say 'dream on, we'll be waiting for doomsday to be in the World Cup'. Do we lack the passion or the desire to be among the best? If the four Asian countries can do it, why can't we? It is interesting to hear what some people say. With a population of over 230 million, why is it so difficult for us to pick the best 11?

Indonesia now has two leagues -- Djarum Indonesian League and Copa Dji Sam Soe -- and, in many areas, they have huge support. But that does not help our players improve their skills ... The PSSI has hired a number of foreign coaches, from Henk Wullems to Peter Withe, but almost every new initiative has been a complete flop.

Though soccer remains the most popular sport here, no support comes when it really counts. Not all cities have an international-standard soccer field. Some schools do not even have a soccer roster. Others do not offer physical education. Indonesia has no soccer idol. Unlike Japan, with Hidetoshi Nakata, or Korea, with Park Ji-sung, our players' poor fitness levels and skills are not nearly good enough for a major European league.

It is interesting to hear sports observer Mangombar Ferdinand Siregar's opinion. He suggested the government starting recruiting street children to be soccer players. They live tough lives, he argued, so they will fight their best on the field, 'We need that kind of fighting spirit.' Sounds feasible to me; but will the government listen? We need to do something in a hurry, or else. Perhaps producing a show named Indonesia Soccer Idol would find us some superstars. "