Football: Indonesia in triumphant return to international competition

Indonesia's Andik Vermansyah (back) challenges Mohd Azrif Nasrulhaq Badrul Hisham of Malaysia during their friendly football match in Solo on Sept 6, 2016.
Indonesia's Andik Vermansyah (back) challenges Mohd Azrif Nasrulhaq Badrul Hisham of Malaysia during their friendly football match in Solo on Sept 6, 2016.PHOTO: AFP

SOLO, Indonesia (AFP) - Indonesia's coach on Tuesday (Sept 6) praised his hard-working team after they made a triumphant return to international competition following a year-long Fifa ban with a thumping 3-0 victory against regional foes Malaysia.

World governing body Fifa suspended Indonesia last year over government meddling after the sports ministry became embroiled in a bitter row with the country's football association.

Fifa lifted the suspension this May after the government ended a freeze on the activities of the association, called the PSSI.

Indonesia returned to international competition with a friendly against Malaysia on home soil in the city of Solo on Tuesday, and looked like they were trying to make up for lost time as they tore into their opponents.

With thousands of supporters cheering them on in a packed stadium, Indonesia scored three goals in the first 22 minutes, with captain Boaz Solossa netting two and Irfan Bachdim one.

The Malaysians seemed unprepared for the Indonesian onslaught in the early stages of the match but looked steadier in the second half, although they never appeared a real threat.

Indonesian coach Alfred Riedl praised his side as "very good" in the first half, and said "our players have worked very hard".

But he added: "We still have a lot of homework in the future, we will keep getting better."

However, he accused the Malaysians of playing "very rough" for a friendly match - a claim denied by Malaysian coach Ong Kim Swee.

Ong admitted his side made mistakes and praised his opponents: "For the Indonesian team this is pretty amazing. They haven't played for a long time.

"They wanted to prove they were better and the result showed they were indeed better."

The row between the Indonesian government and the PSSI that led to the Fifa ban was over which teams should compete in the top league.

As well as the ban from world football, the crisis also caused domestic football to grind to a halt.

Football has been dogged by problems for years in the country, from the creation of a breakaway association that tore the football establishment apart to cases of foreign players dying after going unpaid and being unable to afford medical treatment.