- Capital: Jakarta
- Official Languages: Indonesian
- Regional Languages: Over 700 languages
- Nicknames: Merah Putih (The Red and White); Tim Garuda (The Garuda Team)
- Association: Persatuan Sepakbola Seluruh Indonesia (PSSI)
- FIFA Code: IDN
- Best World Cup Result (Men): Round 1 (1938) [as Dutch East Indies]
- Best World Cup Result (Women): Not Qualified
- Best Asian Cup Result (Men): Group Stage (1996, 2000, 2004 & 2007)
- Best Asian Cup Result (Women): Fourth Place (1977, 1986)
- Best AFF Cup Result (Men): Finalists (5 times)
- Best AFF Cup Result: (Women): Fourth Place (2004)
- Highest FIFA Ranking (Men): 76th (September 1998)
- Highest FIFA Ranking (Women): 58th (July 2003)
- Lowest FIFA Ranking (Men): 191st (July 2016)
- Lowest FIFA Ranking (Women): 138th (March 2015)
- Most Capped Player: Bambang Pamungkas – 87 caps
- Top Scorer: Soetjipto Soentoro – 43 goals
The Republic of Indonesia (Republik Indonesia) is the world’s largest island country spread across 17000 islands in southeastern Asia, with the large archipelago located between the Asian continent and Australia. It has the fourth highest population in the world and is the most populous Muslim-majority country on Earth. Even though it is an island nation, it does share a number of land borders with three countries; Malaysia on the large central island of Borneo, the OFC member of Papua New Guinea on the eastern island of New Guinea, and with Timor-Leste on the southern island of Timor. The country proclaimed its independence in 1945 and it was recognised by its former master, the Netherlands, in 1949 before becoming a full member of FIFA in 1952, and the AFC in 1954.
Indonesia has a long history with football, with records stating that the game was played on the islands from as early as 1921. They were the first Asian side to have played, and are the only ASEAN country to have appeared, in the World Cup when they competed in the 1938 edition under their former colonial name, the Dutch East Indies, ending up on the wrong side of 6-0 scoreline against eventual finalists Hungary in the first round. Alas since independence they have been unable to qualify for a second World Cup, with the nation only competing in World Cup qualification from the 1974 edition after withdrawing from or not entering previous tournaments. The nearest Indonesia have come to getting near to World Cup qualification came during the 1986 World Cup, when they progressed to the second round of the AFC qualification by finishing ahead of India, Thailand, and Bangladesh in the group stage, before suffering a 6-1 aggregate defeat against South Korea in round two of qualifying.
Indonesia have had some success in the regional competitions having qualified for four consecutive Asian Cups between 1996 and 2007, with the latter Asian Cup being one they co-hosted with three other ASEAN countries. However in all four Asian Cup appearances, they were unable to progress from the group stage, winning just two games from their combined twelve group games. Unfortunately they have not qualified for any Asian Cup since co-hosting it in 2007, with the country disqualified from qualification for the 2019 edition due to being suspended by FIFA due to government interference in the country’s national league. Thankfully that suspension has since been rescinded. In the ASEAN region’s AFF Championship, they had some more success by having finished as runners-up on five separate occasions but are yet to lift the trophy.
Alas Indonesia will not be competing in the 2022 World Cup having been already eliminated from progressing after they lost their opening five group games. Being ranked as Asia’s 32nd best team, they were one of the lower ranked team in the draw and were thus placed in a tough group with fellow ASEAN countries Vietnam, Malaysia and Thailand, as well as the United Arab Emirates, which has seen the Merah Putih gain no points from qualifying (at the time of writing). However they could still potentially qualify for the 2023 Asian Cup, although it’s looking increasingly likely they will have to progress through the tricky playoff rounds if they’re to make their fifth continental appearance.
To talk about one of the ‘sleeping giants’ of Asian football who appeared in the 1938 World Cup and have appeared in four Asian Cups but not progressed beyond the group stage, we interviewed the excellent Alvino Hanafi. He is a Indonesian-based football journalist with extensive knowledge and rich experience in covering Indonesian and Southeast Asian football. To find their social media accounts and website, follow the links below:
- Twitter: @_vino_alvino
Q. Who would you say is your country’s best player and coach/manager of all-time, and the reasonings behind the choices?
Alfred Riedl, because when the national team was trained by him, he created a national team that could make the public pay more attention to Indonesian football, especially the national team. In terms of quality, he also brought the national team to play in the 2010 and 2016 AFF Cup finals even though there were several times when the football association [the PSSI] was in chaos at that time.
Q. Who could be regarded as a ‘cult hero’ in terms of the national team both in the past and present?
Cristian Gonzáles, he scored a lot of goals in the national team from not too many appearances [12 goals in 29 appearances], and made history as he was the first naturalized player in the national team [having been born in Uruguay and playing for their under 20s side originally]. He started a new history in Indonesian football.
Q. Of the current team, who would you say is the best player in the Indonesian national side currently?
Boaz Solossa, as many players have respect for him. He has proven his quality as one of the best strikers in the Indonesian League [a legendary striker with Persipura Jayapura having scored nearly 200 goals with them] and in the national team.
Q. How would you describe the current state/performance of the national team?
Very complicated. The federation cannot share the same focus between the national, senior, youth and women’s teams.
Q. Are there any Indonesian players who you think we should be focusing on for the future – who would you say is the most exciting up & coming talent from the country?
Saddil Ramdani because he’s still young but he has many experiences [22 year-old winger currently playing at Malaysian side Sabah]. He has played in the national team at all levels and at the age of under 23, and he has already played abroad.
Q. Looking at Indonesia’s international history, what would you say has been the best game, result or performance for the national team in your opinion?
At the 2004 Asian Cup, Indonesia defeated Qatar 2-1 during the group phase whilst Qatar were the higher seeded team.
Q. Likewise, is there a performance or result which is regarded as the team’s lowest point?
The AFF Cup 2012. At that time there was a football political conflict in Indonesia so that the national team did not compete with its best squad.
Q. What are the best and worst things about being a fan of the Indonesian national team?
The best thing is the patriotism. The worst thing is the sometimes chaotic nature.
Q. Have the fans adopted some kind of unofficial anthem to sing along to before/during/after matches?
Yes, always. At home and away game.
Q. Do you have a favourite or iconic shirt from the whole time of the national team?
The jersey in AFF 2010 tournament is very iconic.
Q. Finally, what are your hopes for the future of the Indonesian national team?
Synergy, harmony, consistency, continuity.
A massive terima kasih banyak to Alvino for answering our questions on the Merah Putih. Remember you can find his excellent social media accounts in the links at the top of the blogpage.
If you have any comments, suggestions, reactions, or even your own answers to the above questions, please write them in the comments box below. Likewise, you can either email us at email@example.com or send a message at @The94thMin on Twitter.