Southeast Asia

SEA Club Focus – 9th August 2018

Which Southeast Asian clubs have made the news this week? Check out our recap of the region’s top-performing clubs and learn about their history and top players courtesy of Football Tribe’s ASEAN editions.

Indonesia - Barito Putera

League position: 2nd

Coach: Jacksen F. Tiago

Relevant News: Barito Putera have improved under Jacksen's command. From a club that never used to be considered as title contenders, they are now in the Liga 1 title race. Laskar Antasari went unbeaten from match weeks 8 through 11, which led them to the top of the table. However, their form dropped as the end of the first round approached, as they are winless in three matches (2D, 1L), but have only dropped to second place.

Historical Background: Established in 1988, Barito Putera are one of the oldest club in Kalimantan, Indonesia's biggest island. But despite their long history, they aren't a particularly famous club. The club faced successive relegations in 2003 and 2004, ending up in the third division. But after winning the Divisi Utama (2nd div) in 2011-12, they were promoted back to the Indonesia Super League. Barito Putera are usually a stable mid-table side, finishing sixth in 2012-13 and seventh in 2013-14

Key Player - Douglas Packer: Last season the ex-Juventus man was a marquee player, and this season he is one of only five marquee players who have stayed in Liga 1. He has strength, accurate long shots and precise passes, supported by good vision. He has scored eight goals the first 19 games of the season, making him the season's second-highest scoring midfielder behind Stefano Lilipaly (10 goals).

Fun Facts: Until match week 19, Barito Putera only failed to score in three matches. Only Persebaya Surabaya have done better (2 matches without scoring). Midfielders have been the highest goal contributors for Barito Putera this season, as 18 of their 31 goals (58%) have come from the second-line players.

Thailand - Air Force Central

League Position: 18th

Coach: Jason Brown

Relevant News: Although they currently lie last on the table, 17 points away from the safety and doomed for relegation, Air Force Central FC have actually experienced a resurgence in recent weeks. After suffering 11 straight defeats and three managerial changes, The Blue Eagles are now unbeaten in four games. If judged exclusively by last five games (2W2D1L), the side would be in seventh place - above wealthier clubs such as Port FC or SCG Muangthong United, who currently sit third and fourth respectively. This good run is largely thanks to new head coach Jason Brown’s ability to organize the team tactically.

Historical Background: Established in 1937 under the name Royal Thai Airforce, the club was very successful in its early days, winning the Kor Royal Cup (Thai football's first tier at the time) for seven consecutive seasons between 1957 and 1963 along with many other titles. Airforce FC was also home to some of Thailand’s greatest football legends including as winger Prateep Pankao or striker Piyapong Pue-on. Now named Air Force Central FC, the club spent most of the past decade in the second tier of Thai football, only appearing in the top division for the 2014 and 2018 seasons.

Fun Facts: Club founder Air Marshall Vatthanangkun, who was the Commander-in-Chief Royal of the Thai Royal Air Force at the time, was so invested in football he could be seen leading the team training session. It was said that the Air Marshall’s determination was key to the club’s early success as they climb up the division.

Vietnam - Hanoi FC

League position: 1st

Coach: Chu Dinh Nghiem

Relevant News: The league is off for almost a month due to preparations for the Asian Games; the team's latest match was a 3-3 draw against Binh Duong in the first leg of the Vietnam Cup on July 25.

Historical Background: Founded in 2006, the club now is one of the best clubs in Vietnam with three league titles (2010, 2013, 2016). They are currently heading toward their fourth title with a 16-point lead over second place.

Key Player - Oseni Bolaji: Eight Hanoi players have been called up for Vietnam's Olympic team in the Asian Games. But the most important player in the squad Oseni Bolaji, who scored 14 goals this season.

Fun Facts: The club's Facebook page was officially recognized by Facebook earlier this week.

Malaysia - MISC-MIFA (Malaysian Indian Football Association)

League position: 1st in Group C of Malaysia Cup

Coach: K. Devan

Relevant News: MIFA pulled off a stunning upset last weekend as they defeated reigning Malaysia Super League champions Johor Darul Ta'zim in the opening fixture of their Malaysia Cup campaign. The 2-1 result was a real shock given JDT's incredible home record, which rarely sees them incur any defeat, let alone against a second division side.

Historical Background: MIFA only entered the local football pyramid about four years ago. They started off in division 3 (FAM Cup), before getting promoted into the second division (Malaysia Premier League) in 2017. They had a frustrating debut with plenty of scandals off the pitch, including match-fixing. But this year they seemed to have exploded into life under the guidance of K. Devan. They narrowly missed out on a promotion spot after finishing third in the recently-concluded Premier League season. Now, they are ready to take Malaysia Cup by storm.

Key Player - Kpah Sherman: A large reason as to why MIFA have been a formidable side this year is the presence of Kpah Sherman, leading their line upfront. The Liberian striker has been scoring goals for fun - 16 and counting this year alone.

Fun Facts: MIFA's Assistant Coach is Malaysian legend K. Nanthakumar, who was once touted as the finest defensive midfielder in the country. Their club captain is S. Subramaniam, who used to be one of the country's best defenders in his younger days before suffering several injuries.