Southeast Asia Indonesia

Persija Crowned Menpora Cup Champions After Seeing Off Arch-Rivals

Persija Jakarta have been crowned as champions of the 2021 Menpora Cup after beating Indonesian El Clasico rivals Persib Bandung 2-1 on Sunday’s final second leg at the Manahan Stadium. Riko Simanjuntak’s injury time winner meant that the Macan Kemayoran triumphed 4-1 on aggregate over the Maung Bandung, allowing Sudirman’s men to hoist the Menpora Cup trophy aloft to conclude what has been a successful pre-season tournament for Indonesian football in the COVID-19 era.

Having won the first leg 2-0, Persija would only need to play for a draw to win the inaugural Menpora Cup, while Persib would have to work hard to overturn the two-goal deficit should the Maung Bandung wish to bring the pre-season trophy to Bandung. However, Persib’s aspirations for a comeback were dented in the 22nd minute after Bayu Fiqri was sent off after his foul on Marco Motta earned him a second yellow card from the referee.

Despite playing the remaining 23 minutes plus stoppages with 10 men, Persib managed to survive through the first half, with the score at half-time reading out 0-0. A result that would favor Persija due to their first leg win, however at the same time Persib’s chances in this tie remain alive for the time being.

Until the 51st minute that is. Both Riko and Osvaldo Haay took advantage of a lax Persib defense to allow themselves deep within Maung Bandung territory, with Riko launching a through pass towards Osvaldo. Outpacing the Persib defenders pursuing him, Osvaldo slammed home a shot that went beyond the reaches of Persib goalkeeper I Made Wirawan, giving the Macan Kemayoran the 1-0 lead on the night and extending their lead 3-0 on aggregate.

Substitute Ferdinand Sinaga threatened Andritany Ardhiyasa’s goal in the 68th minute with a free-kick, however “The Dragon” could only struck the crossbar with his effort. There was no denying Ferdinand in the 84th minute though, as another free-kick of his managed to find its way into the back of Andritany’s goal, drawing the scoreline level and reducing the deficit on aggregate for Persib.

However, once again Osvaldo and Riko combined together into a lethal unit to ensure both the win and the Menpora Cup trophy for Persija in the first minute of injury time. This time the roles were switched from Persija’s first goal – once again the Persib defense was left wide open to allow both Osvaldo and Riko easy access into Maung Bandung territory, with Osvaldo receiving a long ball from the Persija half before darting his way towards Wirawan’s goal. Osvaldo then laid the ball off towards an incoming Riko, who had all the freedom in the world to launch the decisive shot that sealed Persib’s fate. 2-1 on the night, 4-1 on aggregate, and Persija ended both the match and their Menpora Cup campaign with glory in their hands.

Overall, the 2021 Menpora Cup has been a successful test event for the Football Federation of Indonesia (PSSI) and league operators PT Liga Indonesia Baru (LIB) in establishing football within a COVID-19 stricken Indonesia. More than 7000 rapid tests were done on players, staffs, officials, tournament organizers and selected media staffs alike, all of them presenting negative results. This means that COVID-19 was unable to breach its presence into the Menpora Cup, something that give both the PSSI and the PT LIB cause of optimism in proceeding with their plans to hold the 2021 Liga 1 Indonesia and Liga 2 Indonesia seasons.

Additionally the various supporters groups of clubs within Indonesia have done their part in adhering to the established health and safety protocols. Only two notable gathering of supporters were recorded throughout the Menpora Cup and those happened after the final match, with police dispersing a group of Persija supporters celebrating their team’s triumph at the iconic Hotel Indonesia Roundabout and a group of Persib supporters attacking the club’s headquarters at Graha Persib in Bandung out of frustration over their team’s failure to clinch silverware.

Regardless of those two incidents, President Joko Widodo alongside the Indonesian government were impressed by the successful organization of the Menpora Cup, to the point that Jokowi has mulled plans to reintroduce supporters into stadiums in limited numbers. Jokowi’s plan would see stadiums allowing 20%-30% of their capacity to be filled with supporters, emulating similar measures implemented worldwide.

Should the PSSI, PT LIB, and the Indonesian government agreed upon the commencement of the 2021 Liga 1 and Liga 2 seasons, the former would kick-off its campaign on July 3rd 2021.