Exclusive: Indonesia's familiar face ambitiously targeting Suzuki success
It's easy enough for others to invoke the spirit of Leicester City and their lifting of the 2016 English Premier League title just over a year after looking like relegation certainties. Yet if there is any country that deserves to come back from rock-bottom to achieve something special, then it must be Indonesia.
The litany of misfortunes that the nation's passionate fans have experienced would have made the relegation the Foxes were faced with last year seem trivial.
The PSSI did not give me a target. The one I give myself is to go to the final of the AFF Cup.
The list is lengthy: a federation boss in prison for corruption, political infighting that Europeans can scarcely imagine, rebel leagues, rebel national teams and rebel federations, and foreign players dying as a result of unpaid wages.
Not only that but in May 2015, FIFA issued a ban from international football due to political interference in the running of the game in Indonesia. It resulted in clubs being thrown out of the AFC Cup and the national team tossed from qualification for the 2018 World Cup and 2019 Asian Cup.
That sanction was lifted by the world governing body in May – and now comes the hard work. Consequently, it is not a surprise that PSSI, the country's football federation, has turned to coach Alfred Riedl. The Austrian is in charge for a third time and the job, never easy, is harder than ever before.
The Merah Putih have not played a game since March 2015. Throw in the lack of league football throughout that year and the challenge of competing at November's AFF Suzuki Cup, Southeast Asia's big biennial bash, is there for all to see.
“The PSSI did not give me a target,” Riedl told FourFourTwo. “The one I give myself is to go to the final of the AFF Cup.
“Leicester were 5,000-to-1,” Riedl said.“It is possible, though I have no idea what the squad will look like. When we get the right willingness and discipline then we will be one team like Leicester.
I am very happy and a little proud that they chose me again. The federation trusts me
“The stars came during the season. There were none at the start but you saw how the players improved and became stars. That is what we have to do.”
Riedl's first spell in Jakarta ended amid political turmoil in July 2011 after just over a year. He was back in December 2013 and lasted 12 months.
“I am very happy and a little proud that they chose me again. The federation trusts me. They think that I am professional and experienced and know the situation here. I was here two times before and with clubs too.”
The last time did not end well. At the 2014 AFF Suzuki Cup the team failed at the first round. The 5-1 thrashing of Laos was too little, too late (it was also Indonesia's last competitive game), coming after a 2-2 draw with Vietnam and a traumatic 4-0 loss at the hands of the Philippines.