Indonesia vs North Korea
Jakarta, 10 September 2012
FIFA have confirmed that Indonesia will play Unofficial Football World Champions North Korea in Jakarta on 10 September. [NOTE: Fixture has been moved back from original date of 8 September.] The friendly fixture, which is nevertheless a UFWC title match, comes ahead of the scheduled ‘megaclash’ between Iran and North Korea on 9 October. It gives Indonesia a chance to become Unofficial Football World Champions in their first ever UFWC title match. However, it looks like an incredibly slim chance.
Indonesia, the Merah Putih, have been in terrible form in recent times, and are ranked a lowly 153rd in the world by FIFA, some 64 places below North Korea. Of their last ten matches, Indonesia have lost seven and drawn two, winning only one, against Palestine last August. They’ve conceded 30 goals in those ten matches.
Wim Rijsbergen, the former Dutch international defender, was removed from his position as coach in January, and instated as technical director. New coach Nil Maizar, a former Indonesian international defender, was given a clear indication of the difficulty of the task ahead of him in his first match in charge on 29 January, when his side lost 10-0 to Bahrain.
FIFA launched an enquiry into that ‘unusual’ World Cup qualifier, in which Indonesia’s goalkeeper was sent off in the second minute, and Bahrain were awarded four penalties. Bahrain trailed Qatar by three points and nine goals in their qualification group, so needed to win by ten goals to have any chance of qualification. (As it happened, Qatar drew their match 2-2 with Iran, gaining a point that eliminated Bahrain.) In addition, Indonesia had been without several of their best players, who had been suspended by the country’s football association, the PSSI, for taking part in the Indonesian Super League.
Indeed, Indonesian football as a whole is in turmoil, and the country was threatened with international suspension in 2011. PSSI president Nurdin Halid had been running the association from a prison cell after being jailed for misusing funds. FIFA ordered an election, won by Djohar Arifin Husin, who replaced Halid as president. Just a few weeks ago, Everton and Galatasaray pulled out of a pre-season tournament in Indonesia due to organisational problems.
Indonesia can take some encouragement form the fact that they managed a 2-2 draw with the Philippines in their last match in June. Patrich Wanggai and Irfan Bachdim put Indonesia ahead twice, but the Younghusband brothers, James and Phil, each scored equalisers to make the final score 2-2.
A draw against North Korea won’t be enough to take the UFWC title, and a win looks incredibly unlikely. However, anything can happen over 90 minutes, and the Indonesians do have home advantage. Can the Merah Putih overcome the problems that are consuming their favourite sport to become Unofficial Football World Champions? That would make a great story, and if it happens you will read about it right here.