Southeast Asia Indonesia

5 Things We Learned – Indonesia AFF U22 Championships

Indonesia’s youth teams continue to shine on the regional stage, building on last year’s U16 victory with a potentially more consequential result at the U22 level. Football Tribe Indonesia’s Steven Danis discusses the side’s path to victory, and where the nation’s budding young talents can go from here.

Not An Ideal Competition

First of all, before the party’s over, we must realize that the AFF U-22 isn’t an ideal competition. I want to declare something unusual as an Indonesian, but it's possible that this victory isn’t ideal too. The tournament’s schedule isn't arranged perfectly and caused fatigue for all contestants. Additionally, before it began, three nations withdrew and make this tournament less interesting after its 14-year comeback. But yes, Indonesia can be proud of beating what was put in front of them and winning this championship through their hard work.

New Names Shine

Winning this competition without several players who play outside in Indonesia such as European duo Ezra Walian and Egy Maulana Vikri was a spectacular step. In my earlier interview with Indra Sjafri, he tried to convince me that the players he took to Cambodia were the best available. Now, people might not only know more about Osvaldo Haay - they may also begin to follow Marinus Wanewar, Sani Riski, Gian Zola and others. After their performance during this tournament, some of these players may even follow Ezra and Egy to Europe soon.

Player’s Mentality Must Improve

Since the match against the hosts Cambodia, the team felt so much ‘heat’ on and beyond the field. A red card in the last minutes of the final was a warning that there may be an issue with the player’s mentality. I know they all are young, but as a professional, there’s no place for unfair-play and ill-disciplined actions. I would like to see Marinus control himself and change his persona from a bad boy to a good boy, and I hope that this team will grow together not only into good players but also into good men on and beyond the field. They will need to discipline themselves for the pressure they will face in the future will be bigger than in this regional competition.

Garuda Trampled in a Cage of Expectations

Who are the most to blame for the stagnation of Indonesian football in the last several years? Maybe it isn’t the Federation, nor the players or coaches. Maybe we must blame ourselves as supporters for asking too much. We always urge the team to go to the final, to win, to be a champion - which inevitably puts them under pressure. But look at this tournament, without any target and expectations, with a series of draws before heading to Cambodia or even in the first two games. Surprisingly, under these conditions, the Garuda could fly higher and higher. It’s time for us to respect our players, release them without any targets and let them play happily on the field like the boys who always play on the dirt pitch every afternoon.

The Real Battleground Awaits

Last but not least, as I said in the beginning that this championship might not be the ideal one because it’s only a tournament to filling a gap before the real battleground: the qualification for the AFC Asian Cup U23 Championships and the 2019 SEA Games in Manila. Indra Sjafri clearly said that the target is to prepare the best team for those two tournaments. But for now, enjoy your party, but don’t forget to fasten your seatbelt, that the long journey awaits in front of you. Good luck, Garuda!