Week in review: World stars cheer up dismal national soccer scene
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Jakarta tour: Real Madrid’s Xabi Alonso of Spain takes the stage during a promotional event in Jakarta on Sunday. The event’s organizers announced that some 15,000 soccer enthusiasts joined the event.(Antara/Dhoni Setiawan)
Although the Euro 2012 ended more than a week ago, soccer hype in Indonesia, especially in Jakarta, looks to be going strong with the arrival of several soccer stars from Europe.
After visits from Real Madrid coach Jose Mourinho, former Manchester United goalkeeper Edwin van der Saar and Barcelona player Cesc Fabregas, Xabi Alonso is the latest soccer star to visit Jakarta.
The Real Madrid defender, who, along with Fabregas, helped La Furia Roja retain the Euro Cup championship, mesmerized some 15,000 soccer enthusiasts at a promotional event tagged “Indonesia Passes the Ball 2012” at the National Monument (Monas).
The arrival of soccer stars is expected to cheer up Indonesian soccer’s dismal outlook as the national association continues its desperate struggle to regain legitimacy after a period of declining public trust.
The enthusiasm that soccer fans have shown looks to be masking the pathetic condition arising from the fact the PSSI, under the leadership of Djohar Arifin, has been under fire for its incapability to unite the two local leagues under one flag.
While Jakarta’s fans cheered the arrival of soccer players from Europe, those in Pekanbaru are being entertained by Asian players in the under-22 AFC qualifying rounds.
Andik Vermansyah and teammates put up their first win in a 2-0 victory over Timor Leste at Riau Main Stadium. The home team was defeated by Australia 0-1 in their opening match.
In the tournament, which also features Singapore and favorite Japan, Indonesia will have to finish in the top-two to advance to the next stage.
• Back in Jakarta, Indonesia shocked Singapore, a traditionally dominant power in water polo in Southeast Asian region, 13-8 in the Betawi Cup. The junior team’s victory might provide a morale boost to the national federation, whose senior team has yet to make headway against the neighboring state after a crushing defeat at the 2011 SEA Games.
• The Junior Chess Championship concluded its five-day competition at Grand Sahid Jaya Hotel on Thursday with the organizers expecting that the successful young chess talents will be able to shape up their games for international challenges. As many as 665 players from 24 provinces joined the tournament, which had 14 categories — seven each for boys and girls.
• From the circuit arena, Ananda Mikola announced on Saturday that the he was ready to race in the final series of the Grand Finale Superstars 2012 at Sentul circuit in November.
“This is my opportunity to become a champion. I will strive to give the nation something to savor,” he said in a press release. The previous two series show the former Formula 3 Asia champion has been improving his performance with a fourth-place finish in Mugello after faltering in Imola, both in Italy.
• In golf, the host had Rory Hidayat to thank for his success in breaking into top-10 standing in the fifth series of the Asian Development Tour (ADT) at the Taman Dayu Golf Club and Resort Pasuruan, on Saturday. His 13-under stroke ensured him a fifth-place finish and a share of US$3,037.
Indian golfer Sujjan Singh emerged the winner by carding a 22-under-par 266 and was entitled to the trophy and a cash prize of $13,125. Michael Moore of Australia finished in second place with a 16-under 272 while Antonio Lascuna of the Philippines and Anthony Choat of Australia ended their games in third and fourth places, respectively.
• The news of the week may be the much anticipated departure of Li Mao as the men’s singles coach at the Indonesian Badminton Association (PBSI) following Indonesia’s debacle in the Thomas and Uber Cups. His decision to leave may have come prematurely, given previous reports that PBSI would not make any decision on the Chinese coach’s fate until after the London Olympics.
In Wuhan, China, in May, the Indonesian men’s women’s shuttlers were, as expected, unable to rise to the challenge and win the elusive trophy, but the fact that the team fell in quarterfinals was an unprecedented low in a 54-year history.
The dismal performance at Wuhan seems to augur badly for the team’s Olympic ambitions to honor the gold-winning tradition established since the Barcelona Olympics.