Chris O (follow on Twitter: @COakleyFtbl)
Sat 4 July 2009

World Cup Bid 2018: Indonesia

Think of the countries that have hosted World Cups in the past and you'll soon find yourself contemplating some of the legendary names from football history. Brazil, England, Germany, Italy, Argentina… the list goes on, but can you imagine that same list featuring Indonesia? If FIFA's committee of representatives decide to take a more adventurous and imaginative line, you might just find them on it in the years to come.

It's only been seven years since the World Cup first decamped on the Asian continent and if truth be known Indonesia may be overlooked in favour of near neighbours Japan for 2018. That said, many may find it an affront to return to Japan again so soon, so it’s possible Indonesia will benefit from playing the novelty card.

As it is, Indonesia can rely on rather more than just novelty to convince their doubters. Its population of 235 million are football mad and television audiences regularly top everything else on offer. It has one of the fastest growing football markets in the world, and the Indonesian Super League (Indonesia's top flight football competition) is expanding more and more with every passing year.

If FIFA wanted to ride the wave of outright passion and enthusiasm for the game over there, the 2018 World Cup might be the best excuse to do so. There are, however, many question marks hanging over key aspects of Indonesia's bid which FIFA will need some assurances over.

Stadia
As far as stadia are concerned, there are only three of any note which could be used if a World Cup had to be held in Indonesia tomorrow. The government-owned Bung Karno Stadium (left) in Jakarta is where the national team play. It has a capacity of 88,000 and was the setting for the Final of the 2007 Asian Cup competition. Elsewhere there's the 60,000-seater Palaran Stadium in Samarinda where local team Persisam plays, plus the multi-use Sriwijaya Jakabaring Stadium in Palembang which can seat 40,000.

Many other stadia in Indonesia have capacities between 25,000 and 30,000 and some of these will be upgraded to meet FIFA's minimum limit of 40,000. In addition, many venues have a running track which the world governing body generally frowns upon and would like to see used only sparingly.

So once the existing stadia are upgraded and the new ones are built, Indonesia will have a decent selection of venues available for the tournament, but with so much work to do to turn them into the finished article, FIFA's bid committee will need a lot of convincing that such a huge project can be completed on time.

Transport
Of course it's all very well having the stadia, but what if you can't travel easily between them? Here lies another issue for the Indonesian bid. Made up of over 17,500 islands, the country relies heavily on air travel to shuttle anyone affluent enough in and out of the country and between any of its major cities. Here, however, Indonesia is well set up with 161 airports and an extensive domestic airline network. What isn't so impressive, though, is the fact that Indonesia has one of the worst air travel safety records in the world. Hardly inspiring, you'll no doubt agree.

Elsewhere, the only decent rail facilities can be found on Java and Sumatra and all the motorways are tolled - not that that'll be a concern as the cost of privately owning a car makes them a rarity on Indonesia's roads.

Passenger ships run regularly between the islands and the best way to get from A to B is undoubtedly by bus but when half the world descends on this place for a World Cup, you have to wonder whether the existing transport infrastructure will be able to cope.

Dishonesty and devastation
Aside from the stadia and transport issues are some altogether more sinister concerns. Indonesia, like several other south-east Asian countries, has a problem with corruption that infiltrates various aspects of everyday life such as politics, economics and, specifically, football.

Anyone hoping to make a living from coaching can expect to be frustrated and put off reaching any level of greatness. Many of the people that run football in Indonesia are administrating the sport to their own financial benefit, as has been reported by foreigners that have witnessed this first-hand.

Peter Butler, a former West Ham player and coach in Asia was recently quoted as saying: “I myself am owed over $45,000 by my ex-club, Persiba Balikapapan, and over 50 players are presently fighting their cases with FIFPro at FIFA to receive what they are owed.

“There is no protection for coaches and players, and sadly many club officials manipulate the system for their own personal gain, sack coaches and players at will and refuse to pay what is owed on their contracts. The Indonesian FA turn a blind eye."

Whether FIFA choose to turn a blind eye remains to be seen, but the spectre of terrorism is one issue that you can be sure they won’t dismiss. In 2002, the island of Bali was rocked by a bomb explosion which killed 202 people and injured a further 209. The bombing was said to be the work of a violent Islamist group and though several people were convicted, a second incident three years later resulted in 20 more people dying from the work of three suicide bombers.

Indonesia has witnessed several other bombing incidents over the years that may or may not have been carried out by the same terrorist organisation, and security has naturally been stepped up to counter this threat. Only a sustained period of calm, however, will assure FIFA that a World Cup can forge a more peaceful path if it arrives in nine years time.

Summary
Let’s not delude ourselves then. Indonesia is without question the rank outsider of all the bidding nations for the 2018 World Cup, and though it isn’t a complete impossibility that the competition will be held there, it is difficult to look beyond the negative issues that need to be resolved.

Yet Indonesia have cleared the first hurdle on the road to hosting glory: believing that they have a right to be ambitious and to submit a bid in the first place. They know that on the football map they are a small entity with an incredibly low profile, but that needn’t always be the case. They are a nation of football-loving people and their appetite for the game deserves to be recognised. FIFA’s body of decision makers will certainly be quick to acknowledge that fact, but the less-palatable realities of Indonesia’s bid will be probably prove a little too hard to swallow.

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