It is fair to say Persija’s preseason hasn’t been the rip roaring success their victory-starved fans had been hoping for.
Fueled by the return of the most successful local coach in the country, Rahmad Darmawan, and arrival of familiar faces such as Bambang Pamungkas, M. Ilham and Greg Nwokolo, Persija has failed to impress in its friendlies so far.
Two blank sheets against Arema and Sriwijaya in front of a sold-out Bung Karno Stadium, South Jakarta, at the Trofeo Persija tournament offered little in the way of promise for a new season and there is little evidence from the games that followed to suggest a first Indonesia Super League title could be bound for Jakarta in 2015.
Saturday’s 4-0 loss at home to Japanese side Gamba Osaka, a side shorn of several top names on international duty at the AFC Asian Cup, came days after exiting the SCM Cup in Padang, West Sumatra, at the group stage, finishing third behind Sriwijaya FC and Persebaya Surabaya.
Darmawan, nicknamed R.D., will no doubt be breathing a huge sigh of relief. While the pressure to succeed at Persija is immense, the club is known for giving its coaches time to do their job.
The same cannot be said at Semen Padang. It was defeated 4-1 by Persija in its last group stage game of the SCM Cup to finish bottom with three straight defeats. Coupled with another poor showing at the Padang Mayor’s Cup and the club decided it needed to shake things up with the new season still a few weeks away.
It sacked Jafri Sastra, who had guided them to the Indonesia Super League playoffs in 2014 and the AFC Cup quarterfinals in 2013 and is set to bring back Nil Maizar.
Nil, who coached Putra Samarinda last season, is a familiar face to football fans in West Sumatra, having began his career with Semen Padang in 1992. He joined the coaching set up in 2000 and remained there in various capacities until leaving to take on the national team job in 2012.
His return to Semen Padang will be welcomed by many supporters but he knows he has work to do restoring confidence in the side as well as looking to sign at least one striker before the new campaign.
Deals for Djibril Coulibaly and Herman Dzumafo fell through and Semen Padang knows time is running out if it wants to finish its preparations in time for the new campaign. It has brought in Vendry Mofu for a second spell with the club while a rumor that it is interested in signing Cameroon-born defender Herman Abanda suggests the club looks to tighten a porous defense.
As for Persija, its preparations were finished a long time ago and in Yevgeny Kabayev it has recruited a striker with a prolific record in Estonia at least. Other new signings like Estonian defender Martin Vunk, over 60 caps to his name, and Stefano Lilipaly offer experience for the middle of the park.
But with just 10 goals in eight friendlies, including a 3-0 win over Cilegon United and 4-1 over hapless Semen Padang, Darmawan will be hoping the club’s reputation for patience holds.