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 By John Duerden

Indonesia must build on AFF Cup run and harness team spirit of 2016

TCL presents the story of Indonesian footballer Martunis, who after the 2004 Tsunami was offered the chance to meet Cristiano Ronaldo and train with Sporting Lisbon.

This has been a good year for Indonesian football, despite only coming back to the international fold towards the end of 2016.

The national team's surprise run at December's AFF Suzuki Cup demonstrated the country's potential to return to the top of Southeast Asian football.

Alfred Riedl's charges went all the way to the final only to lose out to eventual champions Thailand, but there is enough quality to build on from there. Stefano Lilipaly and Andik Vermansyah must continue to form the core of the Garudas while Riedl, or his successor as national coach, has to harness the positive vibes from 2016 to help improve their fortunes.

Here are five wishes for Indonesian football in 2017:

1. Build on the feel-good factor

The most important challenge for Indonesian football is to learn the lessons from the 2016 AFF Suzuki Cup. A team who were discounted before the big kickoff managed to surprise their opponents, delight a country and enthrall an entire region.

There were plenty of reasons why the Garudas made it all the way to the final, but the main one was team spirit. Despite all the issues that blighted the football scene in the past, and the uncertain preparations, the squad pulled together.

Spending time with the team in their group stage hotel, it was easy to see that there was a solidity of spirit that was the foundation from which belief began to flow.

This is the feel-good factor that has to be harnessed in 2017 from all levels of football, from to the bottom to the very top. On the pitch, and especially off it, all of Indonesia have seen that only by working together can real success be achieved. It is a simple lesson but one not often heeded in the past.

2. The new president to make his mark

All who know that Indonesia has a checkered past when it comes to presidents of the PSSI, as the national federation is known locally. But there is a little optimism surrounding Edy Rahmayadi.

The former general took the post in November, and has had some experience in the game after helping to turn a military team into a professional one in 2016. He showed and at least some understanding of the nuances that are present in the country's football scene.

His vice president has plenty of football knowledge. Much depends on such people. They need to set up an official football league that serves the interests of clubs, national teams, sponsors, media, players and fans while ensuring that all stakeholders are satisfied.

There is much work to be done at the development level while taking care -- but not being seduced by the attraction -- of the national teams

Indonesia made it to the 2016 AFF Cup final before losing narrowly to Thailand over two legs.

3. Some good international friendlies

Indonesia should not rest on their laurels. The team have performed above expectations and, given the age of many in the roster, there is real potential for improvement. For that to happen, it is important that the national team face quality opposition as often as possible.

The exploits of the past few weeks should make it a little easier to arrange friendly games against decent opposition. After the isolation of the FIFA ban that ended in May, as much engagement with the rest of Asia is imperative.

There will be no qualifiers for the 2019 Asian Cup, due to the earlier suspension. But there has to be as much international football as possible, and against good teams. Indonesia have shown they can handle strong opposition, so it would be a real shame to waste the potential.

4. Talk to Alfred Riedl

The Austrian has come into his own in this tournament, taking an ill-prepared and inexperienced team all the way to the final. He gave Thailand a test that no other team were able to offer.

The contract is up and it remains to be seen what happens. Riedl has helped to forge a fine team, full of pace, spirit and belief. Usually, that would be enough for an extension. Yet Indonesian football doesn't really do usual. Already, Robert Alberts, Dutch coach of PSM Makassar, has been linked with the post.

First though, the PSSI should talk to Riedl. He is ready to return home to Vienna after almost a quarter century of globe-trotting, and perhaps there is something to be said for a younger coach ready to spend years building all the structures.

A little more Riedl would be a good thing, however. He knows the situation, what is needed and knows the players. Having the 63-year-old stay on a little longer would be wise, and he can look ahead to handing over to someone else a year or two down the line.

5. An end to violence

The passion all around the archipelago for the beautiful game is well-known and Indonesia is rightly famous for it. Yet, there is a flip-side to that coin. Such passion attracts those who want to get involved in football to further their own ends and ambitions. It can also boil over into something much uglier.

According to Save Our Soccer, a local campaign group, 54 fans have died in crowd violence since 1993. There have been a number of deaths in 2016, too. If there is to be just one wish for the New Year then it has to be that every single person who goes to watch a football game in 2017 makes it back home.

Asian expert John Duerden is the author of Lions and Tigers: Story of Football in Singapore and Malaysia.Twitter: @JohnnyDuerden.


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