Ami Afriatni & Sandy Pramuji
National team manager Habil Marati announced his 22-player squad on Tuesday, with hopes that the football players will win the Asean Football Federation Suzuki Cup for Indonesia.
“They are the best that we have right now and we believe they will fight hard to present the best for the country,” Habil said at the Indonesian Football Association (PSSI) office.
The Merah Putih will go to Kuala Lumpur, where it will play in Group B against co-host Malaysia, Singapore and Laos.
The team will play its first match on Sunday against Laos.
There really weren’t any surprises on the final roster, as all of the players have been working with coach Nil Maizar for the past two months at training camp.
Elie Aiboy, 33, will captain the team while 19-year-old defender Arthur Irawan is the youngest on the squad.
Goalkeeper Samsidar, defender Diego Michiels and midfielder Raphael Maitimo are not traveling with the team but for different reasons.
Samsidar quit training camp last month after he signed with the breakaway Indonesian Super League club, Mitra Kukar. The ISL clubs are affiliated with the rival body, the Indonesian Football Savior (KPSI), and have been reluctant to release their players for the national side.
That left Nil with Endra Prasetya and Wahyu Tri Nugroho as his only goalkeepers.
Taking only two goalkeepers to the tournament could be costly for the Merah Putih, especially if one of them is injured but Nil didn’t have a choice.
Habil is still hoping that Samsidar will rejoin the team by Friday.
“I heard that [Samsidar] has yet to sign with Mitra Kukar so there’s still hope,” Habil said. “I’m ready to find him a new club if he wants to come back to the national team.”
Diego is still being detained by the Jakarta Police after allegedly assaulting a university student in a nightclub earlier this month. The 22-year-old Dutch-born player is facing at least two years and eight months in jail if found guilty, police said.
Raphael, a 28-year-old Dutch-born midfielder, has yet to receive his Indonesian passport.
“We are still waiting for immigration to grant him his passport,” Habil said. “He still has the naturalization administrative process to go through. I hope he’ll get his passport on Friday so we can still register him for the AFF Cup.”
If Samsidar and Raphael are able to return on time, Habil said, coach Nil will decide if he wants to strike two players from the current roster. AFF rules allow only 22 players on a team.
“The players registration deadline is on Saturday, so, we’ll see,” Nil said.
Two recently-naturalized players Tonnie Cusell and Jhonny Van Beukering, who had their debuts in a friendly against East Timor on Wednesday, are also on Nil’s list.
Indonesia’s match against Laos will be followed by a contest against Singapore. That will be played on Wednesday.
Indonesia will close out its group competition on Dec. 1 when it plays against arch-rival Malaysia.
Group A, which will play in Bangkok, consists of co-host Thailand, Vietnam, the Philippines and Myanmar.
The top two teams from each group will qualify for a home-and-away semifinal series.
Indonesia’s best finish in the biennial regional tournament was as a runner-up in 2000, 2002, 2004 and 2010.
Despite all of the problems that have been hampering the team’s preparation, Nil hopes the squad can do better.
“We are mentally and physically ready for the tournament,” he said. “Everyone always want to give their best to the country. They are eager to prove themselves.”
However, the coach admitted that there is still lots of room to improve if the Merah Putih wants to advance from the group portion of the tournament.
“The strikers, especially, need to be more ruthless in front of the opponent’s goal,” he said.
Indonesia has scored eight goals in its last eight matches but five of those were against Brunei Darussalam in a 5-0 rout on Sept. 26.