The Southeast Asian footballing community was shocked by the passing of Alfred Riedl at the age of 70 on Tuesday night. Riedl, who was well-known in Southeast Asia for his tenures with both the Indonesia national team and the Vietnam national team, died in his native Austria from cancer.
Despite never winning any major honors with Indonesia, Riedl was well-loved by the football-mad Indonesian public and the feeling was reciprocated, with the Austrian serving Timnas Garuda in three separate tenures – from 2010 to 2011, 2013-2014, and 2016. Riedl brought Indonesia to two AFF Cup finals in 2010 and 2016, losing both to Malaysia and Thailand respectively.
Other than his stints with Indonesia, Riedl had also taken charge of Vietnam in three separate tenures as well – from 1998 to 2000, 2003, and 2005-2007. Riedl’s last stint with the Golden Dragons saw him and his Vietnam squad marching their way to the quarterfinal of the 2007 AFC Asian Cup that was hosted by Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand – the only host nation to advance out of the group stages in the tournament. Like in Indonesia, Riedl was also well-loved in Vietnam, to the point that a fan was more than willing to donate his kidney to the Austrian in 2007 when Riedl was undergoing kidney transplant.
The likes of Khatoco Khanh Hoa, Hai Phong FC, PSM Makassar, CS Vise of Belgium, Egyptian giants Zamalek SC, and the Laos national team had experienced at first hand Riedl’s tactical expertise, joining both Indonesia and Vietnam in the Austrian’s decorated CV. Riedl’s last job was being the head coach of Persebaya Surabaya in 2019 – a job he never took due to his health issues that require him to undergo cardiac bypass surgery in Austria.
Soon after news of Riedl’s death made their waves across social media, countless tributes began to pour in as Riedl’s former colleagues, players, and colleagues remembered the Austrian’s life and achievements. Longtime colleague Wolfgang Pikal was one of the first to pay tribute, recalling Riedl as both a friend and a mentor. Both Pikal and Riedl were virtually inseparable since the latter’s first tenure with Indonesia, with Riedl acting as head coach and Pikal as his assistant. Pikal stayed by Riedl’s side throughout the latter’s three separate tenures with Timnas Garuda, even temporarily covering for Riedl when his health issues meant that he was unable to take the Persebaya job in 2019.
Datuk K. Rajagopal, the man who led Malaysia to victory in the 2010 AFF Cup at Indonesia’s expense, tweeted his utter devastation over the news of Riedl’s death, honoring the Austrian as a friend and worthy opponent.
“It was an honor to have shared the stage with you in 2009 during the SEA Games semifinal and our matches during the 2010 AFF Suzuki Cup,” tweeted the 64-year old, who last head-coached the now-disbanded PKNS FC in the 2019 Liga Super Malaysia season.
PT Prachuap’s Indonesian defender Yanto Basna paid a touching tribute for Riedl on his Instagram, sharing a post that recalled a moment in Basna’s career when he stormed off from an Indonesia practice. Riedl personally came to the stands and talked Basna down, underneath the watchful eyes of then Indonesia captain Boaz Solossa. Boaz himself also paid tribute to Riedl, with the Persipura Jayapura legend also taking to Instagram to voice his respects. A number of Riedl’s other former players in Indonesia, such as Ahmad Bustomi, Irfan Bachdim, Evan Dimas, Bambang Pamungkas, Firman Utina, and Abduh Lestaluhu, also paid their tributes to their former head coach. Even Persib Bandung legend Atep, who failed to make the cut into Riedl’s national team selection for the 2010 AFF Cup, voiced out his own tribute.
“He’s the type of person who always gives that extra attention that makes players more confident. He also does his best to protect his players,” said Atep, who’s currently running to become the vice-regent of Bandung Regency, to detikSport on Tuesday, “He has a very high standard in coaching. We’ve indeed lost a very great head coach.”
Tributes for Riedl are also pouring in from Vietnam, with former Duoc Nam Ha Nam Dinh head coach Nguyen Van Sy speaking to VNExpress about the fond memories that he had with the Austrian when he was still a player, all the way back in the 1998 AFF Cup.
“We’re all beginners when Riedl started his tenure in Vietnam. That’s why a lot that we have today is also Riedl’s,” recalled Van Sy, who left the Nam Dinh job on June, “He has received lots of love here. He’s a very enthusiastic and professional person. It’s unfortunate that he could only finish second in 1998.”
Vietnamese football legend Le Cong Vinh also had some parting words for Riedl. The 34-year old, who was also the former deputy manager of Ho Chi Minh City FC, was a key player for Riedl’s Vietnam squad in 2007.
“I was shocked. I never thought that he would be gone this soon. It’s only recently that I saw him in an interview,” said Cong Vinh, who had scored 51 goals for the Golden Dragons throughout his national team career, “I have so many memories with him throughout his four years with the team, both good and bad. What he’s done for Vietnamese football and for me will live on forever.”
Rest in Peace, Coach Riedl. We at Football Tribe Asia would like to say our deepest condolences to Riedl’s grieving family. He has done a very great job in life and after his passing may his legacy lives on forever.