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South Korea warn against LVG, AVB rumours

South Korea
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 By John Duerden

Evan Dimas returns home after Spain trial but should look abroad

Midfielder Evan Dimas is considered the best player of Indonesia's new generation.

When Evan Dimas went to Spain in February to start a 100-day training stint with Espanyol's B team, a press release from La Liga said that the Indonesian was the first footballer to join the league's global scheme. The aim was to give opportunities to outstanding players so they "can develop their abilities in the best possible environment."

From the best to the worst? After his time in what has been described as the world's strongest domestic championship, he is soon to be heading home to a country that does not have an official league at all.

Indonesia is soon to enter the second year of its FIFA ban. The nations was sanctioned in May 2015 for political interference in the running of the sport after the government suspended the Indonesian Super League, run by the sport's controlling body, the PSSI. Indonesia is still waiting, and hoping, that the ban will be lifted soon.

A FIFA delegation will visit the country later this month to report back to the world governing body ahead of its congress in Mexico in May. It is far from certain that Indonesian football will return to normal.

So, it only made sense for Dimas to head to Spain. There was nothing for one of the country's biggest prospects at home.

The expectations that a player from Indonesia could make the jump to La Liga were not high. No Asian in the modern game, with the exception of Javad Nekounam of Iran, has settled and shone in Spain's top tier.

If Shunsuke Nakamura struggled with Espanyol after seven years in Europe, the Champions League and World Cups, Evan Dimas was never going to make the step. But a training stint that also acted as a lengthy trial was no problem. It would have been nice to have received some minutes on the pitch, but it wasn't to be.

Indonesian football fans
Indonesia were banned by FIFA in May 2015, forcing their expulsion from 2018 World Cup qualifying.

Never mind. It was never the point. There's nothing wrong with a stint training in Spain for a young player. Time spent with different coaches, players and experiencing a whole different culture is sure to be beneficial, especially when, just as his international career was starting, the national team were unable to play.

The midfielder has plenty of potential. Nobody in Indonesia or South Korea will ever forget his hat-trick in the 2013 Asian U19 Championships. It was a suggestion of something special to come and he continued to impress. With no league to play in, and no international competition for Indonesian clubs or the national team, it was wise to get out.

Spanish coaches praised his attitude and desire to improve. It is to be hoped that his spell in Barcelona will make him a better player. Whether the experience turns out to be a valuable one, however, may depend on what he does next. The sojourn in Spain can be useful if it can be built upon in a competitive environment. Now 21 years old, he is making a mistake by coming back home. Evan Dimas should look elsewhere.

The country's football scene is dysfunctional and no place for a rising star. Instead, other young talents should be following in his football steps because the ban does not prevent Indonesian players going abroad.

Instead, he is coming home to join a new club United Bhayangkara Surabaya, the result of a merger between Surabaya United and PS Polri. There is a new league being set up. This is not being run by the Indonesian FA, known locally as PSSI, but league administrator Gelora Trisula Semesta.

Evan Dimas scored the goal that knocked hosts Singapore out of the 2015 SEA Games.

The Indonesian Soccer Championship will kick off on April 29. It will feature 18 teams who will play each other, home and away, until November. While it may be described as an unofficial league, or even a 'rebel' one, there is no doubt that there has to be some kind of football in the country. Last season, there were some cup competitions and while a breakaway league is not enough to keep Indonesian football ticking over, there has to be some place for some of the country's players, coaches and fans to get involved in.

What should be the priority is, of course, getting the ban lifted as quickly as possible. But the government has appeared fairly sanguine about it all over the past 12 months. Jakarta has said that it will only restore the PSSI's status if it agrees to elect a new leadership. This is not music to FIFA's ears and not the kind of stance that will help the ban get lifted in the immediate future.

Even without the suspension and the lack of official football, the country must aim to send more players overseas. Evan Dimas needs to be using his talents, and new found experience, away from home: Thailand, Malaysia, or even further afield, to South Korea.

A few months spent in the mess that is Indonesian football and the benefits from his time in Spain may never be felt.

Asian expert John Duerden is the author of Lions and Tigers: Story of Football in Singapore and Malaysia.Twitter: @JohnnyDuerden.

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