Indonesia won the AFF U-22 Championship in Cambodia on Tuesday (26/02). (Antara Photo/Nyoman Budhiana)
Silver Lining for Indonesian Football as Junior Team Lifts AFF Cup
BY :NOVY LUMANAW
FEBRUARY 27, 2019
Jakarta. Indonesia's junior team winning the highest honor in Southeast Asia should let local football fans find hope again after a tumultuous match-fixing scandal that brought down its football association.
The junior PSSI won the Asean Football Federation U-22 Championship on Tuesday (26/02), beating archrival Thailand 2-1 in a nailbiting match.
The win came on the heels of the U-16 team's victory against the same country last year.
Despite having reached the final of the tournament five times, Indonesia has never lifted the AFF Cup at senior level.
President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo said he was delighted with the Young Garudas' victory. He hopes the title win will kick off a brighter future for Indonesian football.
"I hope this victory signals a new beginning for Indonesian football," Jokowi wrote on his Instagram account on Tuesday night.
The president said the Young Garudas are a shining example of the country's official motto, Bhinneka Tunggal Ika (Unity in Diversity).
"The players come from different regions, ethnic groups and religions. On the pitch, the diversity transforms into harmony and strength which brought the title win," Jokowi said.
The AFF Cup triumph should provide temporary relief to Indonesian football enthusiasts following the disastrous nationwide match-fixing scandal which has so far brought down PSSI chief Joko Driyono along with 15 others.
The same match-fixing network has for a long time been blamed for Indonesia's underwhelming performance at international level, but police investigation has yet to uncover the link.
Indonesia had a slow start in the AFF U-22 Championship. The Young Garudas drew their first two games against Myanmar and Malaysia before eventually beating host Cambodia in the last game of the group stage to reach the semifinal, where they narrowly pipped Vietnam on their way to the final.
On a hot Tuesday night in Phnom Penh, Indonesia beat reigning champions Thailand 2-1 in the final to seize the youth championship.
Both sides failed to score in the first half. 12 minutes after the restart, Thailand skipper Saringkan Promsupa headed the ball in from a free kick to break the deadlock.
Indonesia equalized immediately after Sani Rizki’s shot from the edge of the box deflected off Marco Ballini into the back of the net.
The winning goal came after Luthfi Kamal's free-kick found Osvaldo Haay inside the box. The speedy winger then glanced a header into the bottom corner for his first goal of the tournament.
Writing by Christian Lee