Southeast Asia Indonesia

Robert Alberts: Huge Difference Between Malaysian and Indonesian Football

Omar Zin

Football Tribe Malaysia


As Persib Bandung gear up for Asia Challenge 2020 tournament in Shah Alam, Malaysia, head coach Robert Alberts shares his experience of managing football clubs in both Malaysia and Indonesia.

The 65-year-old Dutchman arrived in Malaysia for the first time in 1992, managing Kedah for three years.

Alberts returned to Malaysia again in 2007 to take charge of the National U-19 side, before joining Sarawak as head coach a year later.

He then managed Arema who won the Indonesian league title in 2009-2010 season, making him the first foreign coach to win the league in that country.

Alberts joined PSM Makassar in 2010 before returning to Sarawak for the second time in 2011 and stayed there for five years.

Following Sarawak relegation to the second division,  Alberts returned to PSM for the second time in 2016 before he joining Persib Bandung last year.

His lengthy career in both Malaysia and Indonesia has given him insights into the huge difference in terms of mentality, infrastructure, organization across the two countries.

“In Malaysia, clubs will start their pre-season and know when the actual season will start, but in Indonesia, we don’t know when we are starting. That’s already a huge difference.

“Malaysia is ahead because, in professional football, it is essential to know all these things. We would want to set our target and work towards it.

“In terms of infrastructures, the majority of the stadium in Indonesia have a lot of spectators, they really love their clubs, and you don’t see anyone going to the stadium with a Barcelona jersey – they wear their club jersey, Persib Bandung, Arema, and PSM Makassar. They really live for the club, its a culture, they do everything to support their club.

“Every town has a stadium, even the smallest villages have their own grounds, they have a pyramid system, they have structured league format, division 1, 2 and 3. Whereas in Malaysia, they have a limited number of teams and stadium so there’s a huge difference in the league system.

“In terms of organization, Indonesia is just trying to build what Malaysia already has. If it can be done, they will be giants because the country has the passion, talent, and clubs.

“So it’s our job to make sure that we will have better infrastructure and organization.

Speaking ahead of the 2020 Asia Challenge cup in Selangor, Persib had the chance to face the hosts and Vietnamese champions Hanoi FC. 

“It is a good opportunity for our young players to show what levels they have reached against international clubs because we are preparing for the AFC Cup this year.

“We will not be playing our usual first-team players because the season ended on the 22nd of December. As such, our pre-season only starts on the 22nd of January.” 

Having been in charge since May 2019, Alberts led Persib to a 6th-place finish in the league last season, and will be hoping to build on that result in the 2020 campaign.