Kids' soccer dream needs PSSI support
By Ivy Susanti
JAKARTA (JP): Ten-year-old Dimas practices soccer once a week at a field near his home at Pamulang Permai 2 in Tangerang after he spends a "draining" six days at Sarua 6 state elementary school in Sarua village.
A fan of Italian soccer player Alessandro Del Piero from Juventus and former Indonesian national player Ronny Pattinasarani, Dimas sits glued before the TV screen with his father when the Serie A is aired live on certain private TV stations late at night.
He set a high goal for himself from an early age.
"I want to play for the big clubs one day. I will start from an Indonesian club like Pelita Solo, Persita of Tangerang or Persija Jakarta. When I am popular enough, I want to play in Italy. I like Italian soccer because it boasts fair play," he said on the sidelines of the Under-13 Aspirin Cup soccer tournament in Senayan on Saturday.
His parents registered him in Pamper 2, the shortened form of Pamulang Permai 2, a small soccer club which was set up two years ago. The club now has 125 members, and each child pays a monthly fee of Rp 3,500 (US 40 cents).
"I'm sure I can sharpen my soccer skills at the school. I want to be a good player. I want to be just like Oom (uncle) Ronny," said the youngest of two siblings.
Dimas may not realize that the road to becoming a top player in Indonesia is a long and winding one. And neither do many parents.
Hajjah Ruminah, a resident of Ciracas district in East Jakarta, has given her full support to son Mohammad to become a soccer player. Mohammad, a student at SMP 257 state junior high school in Kampung Rambutan, East Jakarta, another fan of Del Piero, joined the AS-IOP Apacinti soccer school.
"I hope, and I'm sure he can be a national soccer player if he improves his skills. My son is a soccer maniac. From an early age he has enjoyed collecting soccer balls and sport T-shirts displaying soccer balls," she said enthusiastically of the youngest of her four children.
At AS-IOP, children pay Rp 40,000 a month. There are 200 children registered in the schools which were set up in 1997.
The mushrooming of soccer schools for children under 13 has been a good sign for the continuity of Indonesia's most popular sport. Unfortunately, the competitions for juniors to measure their skills are very limited.
The Soccer Association of Indonesia (PSSI) stages under-16 and under-19 competitions, but there are none to gauge the development of players in the under-14 and above 19-year age brackets before they move to a senior team.
The association has found it difficult to recruit the best quality players. If they are successful in setting up a national team, the public would assume the move was based more on preferences, and not players' skills.
After a series of failures in various international tournaments over the past few years, PSSI has been blamed for neglecting the development of junior players.
Former national player Ricky Yacobi, who owns a soccer school bearing his name, called on PSSI to initiate an under-13 competition.
"PSSI should stage age group competitions twice a year so it can spot new talent. We used to have National Games for Students (POPSI) and the Suratin Cup tournament for the under-19 teams as a means to scout for new talent, but the events have stopped for a long time."
He said PSSI had no intention of developing soccer schools, particularly those for children who decide to pursue a future on the soccer field.
"Almost all soccer schools are independent. We don't know what the children will be when they grow up. I hope they can continue," he said.
Ronny, the PSSI official in charge of technical affairs and also the head coach at AS-IOP Apacinti soccer school, said competitions should be initiated because at the age of 13, children start to develop consistency in plays.
He also admitted that PSSI had thought of including junior competitions in next year's agenda. "We want to make a regular tournament but that requires hard work."
He said he was sure many companies would be interested in sponsoring the tournament. "Without the help from private institutions, we wouldn't be able to go on."
Regarding the schools' curriculum, Ricky urged PSSI to standardize the curriculum for all soccer schools.
"I asked PSSI a long time ago to create a standard curriculum, so each coach could give the same knowledge and skills to their players."
Ronny said PSSI was taking the suggestion into consideration. He said PSSI would issue guidelines on coaching methods for soccer schools. "Hopefully, the guidelines will be completed early next year."
He said he was also concerned about educating coaches who would be training children.
"Our main concern is how to improve the quality of coaches. We want to standardize their skills. Unfortunately, not all available coaches are willing to train children."
He said he wanted to see his juniors emerge as top players five to ten years from now. "If we are serious in dealing with the development of juniors, we will see the results in five to ten years."