Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Is it a train? Yes it’s a train. But not just any train! The Far East Express is entering it’s final stages with Louis from DP-FM as it’s driver before OffTheBarFM takes over at the next stop. What will he be taking over I wonder? Will Tiga Naga still even be in existence or will he be taking over unemployed as our 70 year old manager Cha Bum-Kun looking for a new role? Put it this way, I can absolutely guarantee he will not be expecting to find what he does when he jumps aboard.
If you haven’t read any of The Far East Express series so far then I would recommend checking out our journey from the very start with our Preview Episode from Season 1. If you have been following from the start but haven’t caught up on Season 3 at all yet the I highly recommend you check out Episode 1 from Season 3 as it will give you an insight into the sort of season we are predicted to have here with Tiga Naga.
In the last episode (Episode 2) we were defying all expectations and had somehow ended up sitting in 6th place, 8 points clear of the relegation zone and only 4 points off of a playoff place after 15 games (only 22 games in the first phase). For context we were predicted to finish rock bottom due to the quality of our squad and the fact we are the only remaining semi-professional side in Indonesian football, yet with the most insanely attacking tactic possible we have somehow ended up in a fantastic position.
It could all change yet of course… It’s a long one ladies and gents and I promise you that you will want to read all the way to the end.
One thing I didn’t go through in August of last episode was the transfers, which consisted of no one coming in for us but 2 more of our best players leaving for professional deals with professional clubs. Niko Malau (CM/CAM) and Rahma Nico (LB) decided to move on in the search for pastures new.
Frustrating as both provided real quality in their positions that we just couldn’t replace from the handful of 1.5 or 2 star rated players who were willing to join us.
September brought with it 5 league matches, so at the end of the month we would have played 20 matches which means only 2 remaining. This really was make or break, we had done fantastically well so far to avoid any talk of relegation despite being predicted to be the league’s whipping boys, we just needed to stay strong in the final 7 matches and pick up a couple of points to guarantee survival. Could we do it?
Um… right… there’s wanting to get a couple of points to guarantee survival and then there’s picking up 10 points from 5 games. Does this mean that the very opposite of relegation is possible? Could we actually be in with a chance of a promotion playoff place? Well I don’t think we could have done much more.
However before we get into the league table with 2 games to go you can see from the below that it was a very good month of performances from our boys at Sinaga kept rolling back the years with 8 goal contributions in 4 matches, and his strike partner Fadil Kurnia picked up 3rd place in the young player of the month awards. Finally our best individual rated player, Mohammad Ulhaq (RM) picked up the goal of the month award. Incredible efforts all round gents!
Right back to the 10 points from 5 games. There were only 2 matches remaining in the first phase which means wherever we sit now is crucial in terms of what’s possible for the rest of the season. If we have no hope of finishing in the play off places then our season would end immediately after the last 2 matches, ultimately a ridiculously successful season given the circumstances, but I would love to have the opportunity to be the first one to experience the ridiculous structure of the promotion play offs here in Indonesia. Anyway, let’s see how we were looking:
In the words of Thierry Henry, oooo blimey! First things first this is the highest points tally we have had so far in this journey as Scott finished on 30 points and Lee on 29 points, so happy enough with that. However incredibly we were still in with a chance of sneaking into the final play off place! A slim chance albeit as the game between 4th and 7th was only 6 points and Persis Solo in 7th still had a game in hand.
But there’s no denying we’re in the mix, and with our final 2 games coming against relegation threatened PSIR & already relegated Persibat there is a real chance we could take 6 points from our final 2 games and at least give ourselves the best chance to sneak into the play offs.
We had 2 extremely not noteworthy signings in October, Yogi Pahabol (CB) & Amin Marzuki (CAM), they won’t play any part for the remainder of this season unless there are issues with fitness and injuries, but at least they are ‘bodies through the door’ and with significant potential could potentially be of use to someone during this shared journey.
End of First Phase
2 games remaining then. The situation is very simple, get 6 points from 6 and have the smallest of chances to sneak into the promotion play offs for the first time during this journey. It’s funny that we’re almost calling these ‘easy games’ due to both teams being in the relegation zone, however easy is certainly not the case as every single player in these squads would walk into our starting XI! But still, I back my lads to go all out attack and bring home maximum points…
Oh no! We managed to ease past PSIR with a comfortable 2-0 away win before facing what should have been a guaranteed 3 points from rock bottom Persibat at home on the final day. However they went out playing for pride and my word they were excellent, completely dominating us in every department and but for a 91st minute equaliser from that man Sinaga it could have been a very humbling defeat.
So that was it, we tried out best but ultimately it wasn’t going to be enough to sneak into the last promotion play off place… OR WAS IT?
It literally came down to the last few seconds but that goal from Sinaga in the 91st minute with the last kick of the season meant we somehow snuck into the play off places…you couldn’t write it! Honestly can we just take a moment… I was 450-1 at the start of the season, more than double any other teams odds and predicted to finish rock bottom, not just of Group B but the total points across both groups, so 24th. How has this happened? I have played pretty much the entire season with 2 defenders! Honestly I love this team and this journey so much it’s unreal.
Ok this is where it get’s complicated, I will do my best to explain the structure of the play offs as we go through it, if you get a bit lost don’t worry, just stick with it until the end and you will see how it all works.
Basically the top 4 teams from Group A & B get drawn at random to create two separate mini leagues made up of 4 teams each for the second phase. So even if the team finished 1st after 22 games in the first phase it doesn’t matter, they are not champions or anything, they just go into this new mini league like all the other teams in the top 4 across both groups.
Unfortunately I was drawn into a mini league with PSMS (who finished 2nd in my league) and then two teams from the Group A which brings with it the fear of the unknown. Put it this way, they are still going to be much better than us no matter what! So the other 2 teams in our group were Persela, who finished 3rd in Group A and Persiba who finished top of Group A and most certainly look like the strongest team of the remaining 8.
In terms of rules within the second phase mini league, each team plays each other once and then the top 2 from each group progress into a semi final, and the bottom 2 of each group get knocked out and their season finishes.
I mean I have literally zero expectation at this point, I’m just delighted to be here and the money we will receive from having any involvement in the playoffs could potentially be massive in terms of convincing the owner to turn us professional next season. I feel like whenever that happens it will be the turning point of this save, where we can really kick on and try to win something and then move our way up The Far East managerial ladder.
Anyway, as I said there are 3 games in the second phase, so let’s see how we got on:
Wow we actually won a game, and convincingly too! We were unfortunate not to come away with a point against PSMS before before completely torn apart by Persiba who are certainly the best team remaining at this stage. Unfortunately 1 win and 2 losses are most likely not going to be enough to take us into the semi final and keep this ridiculous promotion dream alive…
HANG ON! Due to the demolishing of Persela and results elsewhere we somehow scrape through on goals scored… I am so happy I chose to channel my inner Ian Holloway at the start of all of this and play extremely attacking football, literally nothing but good things have come from it!
Once again the players were amongst the awards in October with Sinaga finishing runner up in the Player of the Month and Goal of the Month awards, as well as Dedi Hermawan (CAM) & Ahmad Yulianto (CB) finishing 1st & 2nd in the Young Player of the Month award.
At the start of November we got this awful reminder through in our inbox:
I honestly cannot believe he is going to retire, I tried my best to convince him to stay on but he decided the legs couldn’t take it anymore. I mean look at this stats this season as a 2 star rated, 41 year old striker:
19 goals and 7 assists, 26 goal contributions in 23 starts and 3 sub appearances… an absolute legend of this save who will not be forgotten!
Right back to the football. The semi final was pretty straightforward, played over two legs, the teams who win are both promoted and progress on to the final to battle it out to become the champions, but even the loser of the final is still promoted… weird I know.
The two losers from the Semi Finals go into the third place play off against each other, where the winner of that tie will also be promoted. So basically 3 out of the 4 teams at this point will be promoted, which sounds like the odds are in our favour, however you’re forgetting we should literally not be in existence anymore, we have somehow won some games to get here but all of these teams should beat us no problem.
However saying that, I felt we had a decent chance in the semi final if we could avoid Persiba. We will probably lose regardless but against Cilegon United I feel like we could have a chance as I know how they play now, and even though they beat us both times in the league with an aggregate score of 0-6, the familiarity could help us, and if we got Persik I would be confident of an upset as they finished in the last play off place in Group A on 36 points, only 1 point ahead of our final tally.
So basically I just wanted to avoid Persiba at all costs…
Ahh come on! How’s your luck? Less than ideal but all we can do is go and enjoy it, we’re potentially just 180 minutes away from promotion to the top division of Indonesian football, all whilst still being a semi-professional outfit. I held a team meeting and told the players that no one expected us to be here so it didn’t matter what happened, they were lifted and went out to play with no pressure:
Unfortunately it wasn’t enough as we lost 4-6 across the two legs, but what an incredible effort to only lose by 2 goals against a side like Persiba, who have guaranteed promotion and in my opinion will more than likely be crowned champions.
Still we would now progress on to the third place playoff for a one off match and shot at promotion. Unfortunately we were coming up against Cilegon United who had dominated us in both games during the league season, I really wanted a crack at Persik but they had won their semi final and also confirmed promotion to League One.
Regardless of what happens though I am pretty sure we have already secured what should be life changing amounts of money for the club. First we secured £80k for finishing 4th in the initial first phase, then we secured £100k for making it through the second phase group stage, before taking in another £105k after losing in the semi final. In my opinion this should be enough for us to not have to worry about the finances involved in turning professional next season, we just have to hope the owner goes for it.
Thankfully we had some great news at the start of the month, Sinaga being the absolute legend that he is decided to postpone his retirement for a couple of weeks due to the third place playoff final taking place at the start of December.
Third Place Playoff
Right it all comes down to this, I couldn’t believe we even made it into the playoffs, then out of the group on the back of one massive win, I’m just delighted to be here and now we have a one off 90 minute match which could see us win the most unlikeliest of promotions.
I mean we would need to work out how to score or concede goals against them first, but saying that, in the league we lost 0-4, then 0-2, so there has been improvement each time. I would have taken a draw and gone through the lottery of a penalty shootout before a ball was kicked if I’m honest. However I tried a tactical tweak, told the players to go out and enjoy it and held my breath…
What? No. Wait. WHAT?!?
This hasn’t happened… THIS HAS NOT HAPPENED. Someone end this completely unfair and not funny joke…
OH MY LORD IT HAS ACTUALLY HAPPENED!!! I can’t… I am completely lost for words.
We’ve done it.
Post Season & Club Updates
Where to start? So much followed after the ridiculous events above in such a short space of time. I mean first and foremost the fans and board were delighted at the ‘unexpected’ promotion… unexpected is putting it lightly!
Unsurprisingly there were awards all over the place given the level our players needed to perform at to pull off the ridiculous achievement we have. I was disappointed the league didn’t band together to make sure Sinaga won Player of the Year in his final season, but given then class of the man I am sure it didn’t concern him for one second as he finished runner up, he didn’t have to wait long for 1st prize however as he won the golden boot with 18 goals.
Lee’s gift to us when handing over was the signing of striker Fadil Kurnia, only rated 2 star but much like Sinaga, he played far beyond his level and took home the young player of the year award. We even won Goal of the Year courtesy of Ulhaq’s strike in September, it was class to be fair. Finally the main man Cha Bum-Kun got the recognition he deserved for pulling off this ridiculous feat and took home the Manager of the Year award.
We were also given a sneak peak into our youth intake, which suprise suprise is another golden generation for the club!
The owner’s vision of moving into the Tiga Naga Stadium was realised as construction work finished and a brief ceremony marked the occasion. I hope to see lots of success in this stadium over the coming seasons!
Right… here’s the big one, the one we’ve all been waiting for. If at first you don’t succeed then try and try again, or in this case get promoted and force it upon them:
We are officially a professional club. FINALLY RUDI YOU MAD MAN! But he didn’t stop there…
Oh Rob (OffTheBarFM) I have done absolute wonders for you here my friend! As you can imagine my first step was to sign every single player at the club to a professional deal so we can put an end to letting all of our good players leave without being able to put up a fight. I then followed that up by signing a new deal myself.
With our new scouting system in place and the promotion to League One we all of a sudden there were players being recommended to us left, right and centre. So I did the only sensible thing and took half of Indonesia on trial so Rob can make his decision on them, I also made a couple of very good signings but I’ll let him tell you about those.
I honestly don’t know where else to end than with the man who almost single handedly made this all possible. It’s time for us to say goodbye old friend…
Just look at his record across all 3 managers so far, like the finest of wines he only got better with age and I wish we could have convinced him to stay on, but equally what a way to bow out.
Rather fittingly, he was the only Tiga Naga player named in the League Two Team of the Year.
A career which started in 2000 and ended in 2023, a player who I had never heard of until recently but will never forget from this magical FM journey. Enjoy that retirement pal, you have changed Tiga Naga forever.
I mean normally I try to write something really gripping here, but come on, what do I even say after all that? I love this game and this journey.
That is me done for a good few seasons and I now hand over to OffTheBarFM (Rob) to take control of Season 4 and our first in the top division of Indonesian football… FYI – we are 2000-1 to win the division. Anyone know the names of the Indonesian Jamie Vardy & Riyad Mahrez?
Make sure you check out the other content creators on the links below:
FirstEmperorLee – Twitch: https://www.twitch.tv/emperor_fm – Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCj5uNW6M8qoBpe5sLbu6N6w
OffTheBarFM – Twitch: https://www.twitch.tv/offthebarfm – Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCWTLmf7GIQMgraZxoanKQXg
SadPanda333 – Blog site: https://www.sadpanda333.co.uk/
FM-AP – Blog site: https://fmadvancedplaymaker.co.uk/
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