Monday, July 03, 2006

Stadium refit delays Indonesia's Anniversary Cup

The Indonesian Football Association (PSSI) has decided to postpone its Anniversary Cup tournament from 1-16 August until a future date because of continuing renovations to the Gelora Bung Karno stadium in Jakarta to ensure it meets Asian Football Confederation standards to host part of the Asian Cup 2007 finals. The stadium, the largest in Indonesia, is now not expected to be ready until after September which coincides with the start of the Muslim fasting month, Ramadan. “The tournament is postponed because the renovation is still going on and won’t be complete by August,” said PSSI General Secretary Nugraha Besoes. Unfortunately, because of invited international teams, it will be difficult to shift the tournament. “Other stadiums outside Jakarta are still not properly equipped to international standards. If we cannot hold the tournament this year, we will arrange it on a larger scale next year,” he said.

The PSSI expected the Anniversary Cup would be both a soft launching for the upgraded stadium as well as a trial match against international teams for the Indonesian national side. Besoes confirmed that Malaysia was definately invited as Indonesia will be particpating in the Malaysian Merdeka Cup in August in Kuala Lumpur. In February, Asian Football Business Review reported that PSSI had invited Vietnam to play four friendlies in Jakarta this year, including the Anniversary Cup. Vietnam said that would not be possible because Vietnamese players would be busy with V-League duties. In other eras, however, the Anniversary Cup attracted attractive teams such as the Australia U-23 side in 1975 and Queens Park Rangers and Feyenoord (which featured Dutch legend Johan Crufyin) in 1982.

Besoes saw the Anniversary Cup as the first part of the national teams "long journey" to the 2018 World Cup. “All of that could come true if we have good team work, responsibility and all appreciate the challenge. It is a turning point time for Indonesian football,” he said.

The national team is still scheduled to train in Saudi Arabia from September until December. They will return to South East Asia in January to play in the ASEAN Football Federation championship in Kuala Lumpur then relocate to England for long-term training. Coach Peter Withe has selected Solihull, near Birmingham, as the base to use the physical training facilities at Warwick University. The team will be home for the Asian Cup which will be played in Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam in July 2007. The three co-hosts automatically enter the finals.

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