Thursday, September 13, 2007

Astro hopes to score big with English Premier League soccer

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Pay-TV operator PT Astro Direct Vision had some 80,000 subscribers signed up as of the end of the first semester, and hopes to more than double that figure by the year-end now that it has secured the rights to broadcast the hugely-popular English Premier League (EPL).

Astro Direct Vision, the local unit of Astro, a Malaysia-based pay-TV company, is now the sole holder of both the pay-TV and free-to-air TV rights to EPL matches.

While it also offers other channels, Astro is pinning its hopes on the EPL to help the company sign up at least 200,000 subscribers by the end of the year.

"The number of Astro subscribers has significantly increased since we purchased the EPL rights. We expect that we will be able to achieve our full-year target," Astro's corporate affairs vice president, Halim Mahfudz, told The Jakarta Post on Tuesday.

The demand for Astro is so big that a would-be subscriber has to now wait for two weeks before the service can be installed.

Before Astro purchased the EPL rights for the 2007-2008 season, Indonesians could watch the matches free on terrestrial TV.

Now, EPL fans will have to pay around Rp 200,000 per month to subscribe to Astro -- in addition to a one-off Rp 200,000 installation fee -- if they want to watch their favorite teams.

For the first three months, however, Astro will waive the monthly subscription fee.

While the company is hoping to benefit hugely from the EPL, some hurdles have emerged.

On Tuesday, Indonesian Broadcasting Commission (KPI) chairman Sasa Djuarsa Sendjaja said the commission had sent a letter to Astro asking for the EPL coverage to be opened to the public.

It had also asked the Business Competition Supervisory Commission (KPPU) to examine whether Astro's exclusive rights had breached the antimonopoly law.

"There are two aspects to this matter, business interests and the public interest. What we have done is designed to protect the public interest," said Sasa.

Responding to that, Halim said Astro was currently negotiating with ESPN Star Sport (ESS), which holds the rights to broadcast the matches in Asia, to share access with Indonesian soccer fans.

"ESS is now developing packages to be sold to local TV stations. It takes quite a while as they need the consent of various parties."

Besides the EPL, Astro also provides other forms of entertainment.

During Ramadhan, for instance, the channel will broadcast movies from different parts of the world, including movies from Iran and Uzbekistan.

"We want to give our audience other movie alternatives besides Hollywood movies so that they can learn about the cultures in other countries," said Alexander Siregar, senior programing executive of Astro Kirana, Astro's movie unit.(14/02)

Indonesian volleyball sets new target for upcoming SEA Games

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Though the men's volleyball team failed to qualify for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, the team has more than enough talent to medal at the Southeast Asian Games in Thailand in December, said assistant coach Machfud Irsyada.

"If nothing happens to the members of the team in the last three months before the SEA Games, our chance is 50-50 of beating Thailand in the final," Machfud told The Jakarta Post on Monday.

Machfud said Thailand, Vietnam and Myanmar were seen as the biggest threats to Indonesia at the SEA Games, with Thailand being seen as especially dangerous because it has home advantage.

"Experience tells us that Thailand is usually dominant if it hosts a game," said Machfud.

After the recently concluded Asian Volleyball Championship, an evaluation of the team determined they lacked a fighting spirit and big game experience, Machfud said.

"In the first three matches we played very well. We had some hard-fought games against tough teams like Chinese Taipei and China. But after three matches, the team's receiving went bad and we kept losing; it was not because the team was tired, but they lacked fighting spirit," Machfud said.

He said the team would use most of the time before the SEA Games improving their skills and spirit.

Coach Hu Xin Yu will lead the team to a training camp in China's Si Chuan province from Oct. 10-21, where they will play Chinese club teams.

"Looking for a real event in the last three months before the SEA Games is impossible. Therefore we will have our players face local teams in Sichuan province, which is considered competitive enough. This is more real than just conducting training in Indonesia," said Machfud.

He said Vietnam had also invited all the SEA Games teams to participate in a warm-up event before the SEA Games, but Indonesia had not yet decided whether to participate.

"The timing is too close to the SEA Games ...," Machfud said.

Indonesia failed to gain a berth in the Beijing Olympics after its poor showing in the Asian Volleyball Championship, held from Aug. 31 to Sept. 9 in Jakarta.

As the host, Indonesia started in the round of the final eight by edging Thailand 3-2 in a five-set thriller on Sept. 3. It then lost to Chinese Taipei, powerhouse China, Japan, Iran and South Korea.

In the last match on Sunday, Indonesia to South Korea 3-0 (17-25, 17-25, 21-25), which marked the end of Indonesia's ambition for Olympic qualification.

"We tried our best, but this is the result. We will evaluate everything including using match statistics," Machfud said soon after the last match. (02)

Angie likely to join SEAG squad

Friday, September 07, 2007

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Although Angelique "Angie" Widjaja has not set a return date from her long hiatus from professional tennis, she is most likely to join the national tennis squad for the 2007 SEA Games in Thailand this December.

"I haven't signed a contract yet (to play in the SEA Games). But I have told them (the committee) I'm 95 percent ready to play," said Angie on the sidelines of a tennis coaching clinic program with nine-time Wimbledon doubles champion Todd Woodbridge of Australia.

The coaching clinic was held as part of a promotion for the Commonwealth Bank Tennis Classic, previously known as the Wismilak International, which begins next week on the resort island of Bali.

Angie said that earlier this year the national task force for the SEA Games had sent her a letter requesting she join the tennis squad, but she rejected the offer.

She changed her mind following several intent approaches made by the task force and Indonesian Tennis Association (Pelti) bigwigs.

"They tried to persuade me. Finally, I agreed to play but I said I couldn't play singles as it would be too late to prepare (for singles)," said the 22-year-old 2001 Wimbledon junior champ.

Pelti deputy secretary-general August Ferry Raturandang confirmed Angie's statement.

"Angie will join training along with other players Sandy Gumulya, Romana Tedjakusuma, Lavinia Tananta and Wynne Prakusya in the women's team and Christopher Rungkat, Elbert Sie and Suwandi in the men's team," Ferry told The Jakarta Post over the phone.

Ferry said Angie would possibly play women's doubles, teaming up with 2005 Philippine SEA Games gold medalist Wynne Prakusya, or mixed doubles, pairing with Elbert Sie or Christopher Rungkat.

Indonesia has set a lower target of two gold medals, compared to the three gold medals won at the Philippine SEA Games amid injuries to its main athletes, like Angie and Wynne.

Angie, whose world rank dropped to 390th as of Aug. 27 due to a seven-month layoff, said despite her participation in the SEA Games, she is still undecided over whether or not she will hang up her racket or continue her pro tennis career.

"I don't know whether to just stop for a short while or take a real break. I don't know if I will continue after that (the SEA Games)."

She said she would not take the wild card offered to her by the organizers of the Commonwealth Bank Tennis Classic to play in the tournament she once won in 2001 in order to "give the chance to her juniors".

"Commonwealth has a different class of quality. Three months of preparation is not enough for me. My principle is if you don't prepare properly, then you'd better not participate," she said.

"Moreover, I should not take the chance away from the juniors. Their ranks might lift (given the chance), as happened for me when I was given the chance a few years ago." (02)

Indonesia hosts first ASEAN golf event

Thursday, September 06, 2007

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Around 120 golfers from Southeast Asia are participating in the inaugural event of the ASEAN Golf Tour being held at Imperial Klub in Tangerang, Banten, from Sep. 5-8.

Organizers said the tournament was designed help professional and amateur golfers in the region hone their skills.

"Many talented golfers do not have enough chances to play competitive golf. We hope this tournament will therefore be one they have to put on their schedule," tour chairman A C Wong told reporters Wednesday.

Wong said the first tournament was held exclusively for golfers from countries grouped in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, but organizers would eventually open the event to participants from outside the 10 ASEAN member countries.

"We will bring in additional players as the competition gets stronger. Although it will be of course within Asian countries," he asserted.

Indonesia Professional Golfers Association (PGPI) chairman Nursalam A Tabusala hoped the tournament could become a stepping-stone for the development of golfers in the region to compete in the higher level Asian Tour.

On the first day of the tournament rookie Lim Eng Seng of Malaysia took charge with a three-under 69.

One shot back was Filipino Marvin Dumandan.

Two Malaysian golfers Danny Chia and S. Sivachandran shared third place at one-under-par 71.

The Tangerang event is the first of five events scheduled by organizers of the tour. After Indonesia, the tour will move to Thailand, the Philippines, Vietnam and Singapore.

Each event will offer total prize money of US$30,000.(02)

IMI promises fast track for motorsports talents

Thursday, September 06, 2007

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The State Ministry for Youth and Sports Affairs and the Indonesia Motorsports Association (IMI) on Tuesday launched the Indonesia World of Motorsports, a task force to train young and talented drivers to compete internationally.

The task force was established under a decree by the state minister and will be responsible for selecting drivers with potential, especially those with limited financial means, and providing them the necessary assistance to participate in international events.

"We aim to provide a fast track for potential drivers. We are focusing on athletes who are likely to become champions in international events," the task force's chairman, Juliari P. Batubara, said Tuesday.

"There are lots of such athletes but usually it is hard for them to acquire sponsorships and financial support," he said.

Batubara, who also chairs the IMI, said the task force would immediately start identifying talented drivers from all branches of motorsports and help them find sponsors and participate in international events.

"The task force will also decide on priority races or events we will take part in and the human resources needed for those races," said Batubara.

So far, he said, the task force has identified the GP2 and Speed Car series as the most suitable grounds for Indonesian drivers to gain experience and grow.

"There are lots of international events, but we have to choose those which help our drivers gain experience as well as get world ranks," said Batubara.

Earlier, State Minister for Youth and Sports Affairs Adhyaksa Dault said Indonesia would not host the A1 Grand Prix of Nations again after negotiations broke down between the host and the management over the franchise fee.

Adhyaksa said the organizers wanted Indonesia to pay US$6 million in fees, an amount considered too costly. (02)

Indonesia loses to China by whisker

Thursday, September 06, 2007

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Minnow Indonesia proved itself to be a team worth reckoning with after pushing three-time Asian champions China to five sets at the Asian Volleyball Championship here on Wednesday.

However, the host missed the chance to stun the Asian heavyweights after dropping the last set to lose 3-2 to the much-taller Chinese volleyballers.

"We lost the first two sets as our players were too nervous," Indonesian assistant coach Mahfud Irsyada said at the post-match press conference.

"Fortunately, they got their confidence back in the third and fourth sets," he said.

China romped to an easy 25-16 win in the first set and then took the second set 25-15.

Playing in front of more than 4,000 vociferous fans, Indonesia caught its stride in the third set and began playing more relaxed.

Indonesia won the third set 25-21 and then evened things up 2-2 by taking the fourth set 25-23.

However, the upset was not to be, as China regained its form and dominated the deciding set 15-10.

"Despite the loss, I am still pleased with the way the team played. The players performed their best. We are just unlucky," Mahfud said.

China's head coach Zhou Jian'an said he was a bit surprised by Indonesia's solid defense.

"I think we are lucky. Indonesia played very well especially at blocking. Even if we broke in to their blocking, their defenders were ready to receive the ball," said Zhou.

He said the shorter Indonesian players used good timing to block the smashes by the taller Chinese. (02)

RI suffer narrow Taiwan defeat

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Indonesia was forced to bow out to Chinese Taipei (Taiwan) in a tough match Tuesday, despite a strong game marked by energetic blocking and smashes by the likes of spiker Muhamad Riviansyah.

"Indonesia played very well. We didn't think we could play five sets with Chinese Taipei. But we made some mistakes, especially when we were at that critical point," Indonesia's head coach assistant Machfud Irsyada said after the match.

"Maybe this was because our players were not confident enough," he added.

Chinese Taipei, which managed to recover to top form after an earlier 3-1 defeat from favorite China, was dominant in the first set thanks to a combination of skills and good blocking, winning the first set 25-17.

In the second set, Indonesia, which enjoyed strong support from the 1,500-odd crowd at the Bung Karno main stadium, worked against the pressure, managing to steal the second set 25-17.

The third set belonged to the much taller Taiwanese, who won the dramatic set by a nail-biting 33-31.

Unperturbed by the setback, Indonesia fought back to even the score 2-2 by winning the fourth set.

But the comeback was short-lived, with exhausted Indonesian players in the final set making several unforced errors that handed the set to the visiting team 18-16. (02)

RI, Oz shine in Asian volleyball matches

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Host Indonesia edged traditional rival Thailand 3-2 on Monday in the round of eight at the Asian Men's Volleyball Championship.

With the support of a boisterous crowd at the Bung Karno main stadium in Senayan, Central Jakarta, Indonesia came storming out in the first set and managed to hold on to take it 25-23.

Thailand set the pace in the second set, which it won 25-22.

The two sides split the next two sets, with Indonesia rolling 25-18 in the third before Thailand evened things up again by taking the fourth set 25-22.

In the fifth and deciding set, Indonesia took charge from the beginning and won the set and the match 15-12.

"The team played very well. Every thing seems to be proceeding as planned. The defense was good. The attack was also quick," said Indonesian assistant coach Machfud Irsyada at the post-match press conference.

Although happy with the result, Machfud said Indonesia's next opponent, Chinese Taipei, would be tougher because the players are taller and the overall team defense better.

Indonesia will meet Chinese Taipei on Tuesday.

Monday was not a good day for defending champion Japan, which fell to Australia 3-2.

Japan, seeking its seventh title at the tournament, looked out of synch as it dropped the first set 25-21.

Japan bounce back and grabbed the second set 25-19 and then extended its lead by taking the third set 25-20.

The Australian players, however, fought back, playing an aggressive brand of volleyball to take the next set 25-20 and even things up at two sets apiece.

In the decisive set, Australia flexed its muscles and dominated with strong blocking. Big serving David Ferguson and spiker Benjamin Hardy helped Australia take the set and the match 15-9.

"We lost a little effectiveness on the outside positions, we had Howard killing the ball but we needed some support from the other guys to also kill the ball and attack," said Australia coach Russel Borgeaud.

"Japan played very well to counter our attacks."

"Japan is a great team and to beat a team like Japan you have to play very well and consistently. We had our ups and downs throughout the game, but there were outstanding efforts by many of our players to turn the match," said Borgeaud.

He said the team was now focused on upcoming matches with South Korea and Iran, which he said would be a test.

Australian captain Benjamin Hardy hailed his team's solid play.

"We were doing a good job, building toward this game," he said.

"Japan is a good team. It was good to have them in the first match and beat them. It's a pretty good day for us," Borgeaud told reporters after the game.

Japan's coach Tatsuya Ueta said Australia played very well, especially with their blocking scheme.

"We had difficulty breaking their blocking," he said.(02)