TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - Alfred Riedl, 67, has proven himself again. The strategy of this Austrian trainer managed to take the Indonesian national football team to the finals of the 2016 AFF Suzuki Cup. This was certainly an achievement given that Riedl trained the 23 players in the team for only four months, following FIFA's suspension on the All-Indonesia Football Association (PSSI), last May.
The Garuda team transformed itself into an unbeatable team during the early competitions. At every game, from the qualification phase to the first leg and on until the peak, Boaz Solossa and his fellow players scored two goals. Indonesia's step was only stopped in Bangkok, after it lost 02 to Thailand, the defending champion, two weeks ago. "The national team did its best," said Riedl. It was the second time he trained the Indonesian team, on both times reaching the top. At the final of the 2010 AFF Cup, Indonesia lost to Malaysia when it was playing its best.
Prior to going back to his European home for a break, Riedl spoke with Tempo reporter Raymundus Rikang and correspondent Bram Setiawan at Nusa Dua in Bali, last week. It was a rare occasion, given that as the national team trainer, he rarely gave special interviews.
He responded openly to questions on the national football scene, concerning the players' discipline, about the lack of earlyage training and the new PSSI management as well as the process of selecting players for the recent AFF Cup. "That's the problem with football in this country: conditions stay the same from time to time," said Riedl.
He spoke in English throughout the 40 minute interview, with very little change of facial expression, his forehead furrowed as if in deep thought. This is exactly the way he looks whether his team wins or loses. He only raised his voice when asked about suspicions of bribery during the 2010 AFF Cup, as well as the government's support (or lack thereof) towards the national team. His sense of rage was still with him when he was asked to smile for the photo session. "No, a big no!" exclaimed Riedl. Excerpts:
Congratulations on the Indonesian national team reaching the 2016 AFF Cup finals. Are you happy with the runnerup position?
I think it was the maximum the team could reach in 2016, because in 2016, the Thai team was very strong during the entire tournament. Only Indonesia could challenge them. At least we scored in the four matches. We scored four goals, but we also got some goals from them. So they did their best.
During the entire tournament, the national team always scored two goals, except for the second leg of the final. Is something wrong there?
Tournaments are especially difficult playing fields, and players must be aggressive and in good condition to play against their Thai opponents, who are bigger and taller. Our players are comparatively small in stature.
How do you compare our strength this year with that during the 2010 AFF tournament?
In 2010, there were 12 players playing on the national team, before I came. There were Firman Utina, Muhammad Ridwan and Bambang Pamungkas. They were mature, quality players; we also had good preparation: the two reasons why we were the best team in the tournament. This time we had nine or 10 quality players.
Yet Indonesia lost to Malaysia 42 in the aggregate in the finals.
The national team lost because of one player, the mistake of one individual. I would never blame this player, because in football, mistakes happen. Of course the other side killed us with its total touch.
There were reports some of your players were involved with scorefixing during that game.
Tell me their names! I have no proof of that, so how can I know? If I knew, I would already be jailed.
How do you compare our football today to that in 2010? What is the reason for this stagnation?
Because nobody wants to change. The biggest change is to start (developing) youth football.
In other words, building players at an early age in Indonesia has not worked?
Youth football is not popular because it doesn't bring fame or money. You need patience and 10 years to see results. But the (PSSI) doesn't have the power nor the money to provide youth with gradual training. Even in my country, a coach would only peanuts for money. Only idealism motivates trainers and club managers to train kids. Otherwise, they will do something else. (*)
Read the full interview in this week's edition of Tempo English Magazine