Wed, Jul 25, 2018 - Page 16 News List

Indonesia aims to reboot soccer team at the Asian Games

Reuters, JAKARTA

Indonesia hopes hosting next month’s Asian Games will help revive the fortunes of its troubled national soccer team and act as a springboard for their qualification for the 2024 Paris Olympics, the nation’s soccer association said.

Indonesia were barred from international soccer in 2015 due to government meddling in their domestic league, shutting them out of qualifying for this year’s FIFA World Cup and next year’s Asian Football Confederation Asian Cup.

FIFA lifted the ban in 2016, but the men’s team has been languishing at 164th in the world, slotted between Belize and Fiji, despite the game’s huge popularity in a country of more than 250 million people.

“Asian Games is a starting point and PSSI [Football Association of Indonesia] wants to achieve more than that. If we have to set a short-term plan, that would be the Olympics in 2024,” PSSI deputy chairman Joko Driyono told reporters.

The PSSI and the government were committed over the next three to five years to improving infrastructure for soccer in the nation at all levels to support the target, Driyono said.

Spain’s former under-21 coach, Luis Milla, was appointed manager of Indonesia at the start of this year in order to overhaul the national squad.

The Asian Games, which are scheduled to run from Aug. 18 to Sept. 2, are expected to draw nearly 17,000 athletes and officials, and more than 100,000 spectators.

The 24-team men’s soccer tournament, which has an under-23 age limit, but permits up to three overage players, is to be played in four stadiums in West Java Province, while the women’s event is to be held in Palembang in Sumatra.

“Of course, we always try to win and become a champion, but our primary target is to win the heart of Indonesian people with our performance,” Montenegrin-born Indonesia forward Ilija Spasojevic told reporters.

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