Focus on youth or fall further behind, ex-Indonesian chief warns

“If (Indonesia) don’t do anything with setting up youth leagues, nothing will change.”

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That is the stark warning from former Indonesian technical director Pieter Huistra, who has implored governing body the PSSI to continue with the programmes he put in place before the country was suspended for almost 12 months by FIFA.

After (the FIFA ban) all the projects we started came to a halt. So that was a big setback

Huistra, who played for FC Twente, Rangers and Sanfrecce Hiroshima in a career that spanned 17 years, was appointed technical director by the PSSI in December 2014 and promptly set about implementing a number of key programmes aimed at improving youth development in the country.

“To be honest when I started it looked quite good, it looked like they made a new start, a fresh start,” the 49-year-old told FourFourTwo from his base in Japan, where he is now coaching newly formed Iwaki FC in the local league in Fukushima Prefecture.

“They had quite an ambitious plan over four or five years. They also brought in some foreign people to try to put some structure into developing football.

“We had a clear idea of what to do and what to develop and everything changed in April [2015] with the election of the new president of the PSSI.”

It was those elections, and the interference of the government, that prompted FIFA to suspend the PSSI.

Huistra has major concerns over Indonesian football

The ban lasted almost 12 months and ended the many initiatives Huistra and his team had begun to implement, as well as Huistra’s tenure at the PSSI.

They need football people to come in and take control and put programmes in place that they actually stick to

- Robbie Gaspar

“After that all the projects we started came to a halt,” he explained.

“So that was a big setback. We had this programme for Indonesia under-16s and under-19s, they were already for nine months working together at our youth training centre.

“It was a good programme, they played good games – the under-16s beat Japan under-16s. So this looked very promising and because of the suspension they couldn’t play international football anymore.

“Everything came crashing to a halt and (there was) no income anymore, it was difficult to pay all the people and it declined very rapidly from there.”

In a country that is mad about football, Huistra’s biggest obstacle was convincing those in power of the importance of youth development, claiming they only cared about the top of the pyramid.

“It’s more difficult to convince people that to build the house you have to start at the base of the house,” he said. “Because if you start with the roof then a little bit of wind and rain comes from the side and it still gets wet inside.

“You won’t achieve anything and in Indonesia every time they first think about the roof – about the professional league, about the national team – and for the long-term that’s not good.”

Gaspar spent seven years playing in the country

It’s a sentiment shared by former player Robbie Gaspar, who spent seven years playing in the country and has kept a strong connection with it since retiring from football three years ago.

“It needs a complete overhaul,” he said of the football system in the country. “They need football people that aren’t there for their own personal gain to come in and take control and put programmes in place that they actually stick to.

“When I was there they used to put all these programmes in place, but after six months if it wasn’t working they’d scrap it. Things take time, things don’t happen overnight.”

Gaspar says they need a ‘white knight’ to take control of the sport.

“It’ll take someone who’s passionate about the game to come in and say ‘alright, we’re going to do this, this and this’ and then everyone works together,” the former Persib Bandung midfielder told FourFourTwo.

“I’m hoping that Erick Thohir gets involved.”

Gaspar does see some reason for optimism, however, pointing to one of his former clubs, Persib Bandung, as a beacon of hope.