Bambang Pamungkas: Champions – why not?
Jakarta: AFC Cup fever is gripping Indonesia after more than 49,000 spectators turned up at Gelora Bung Karno Stadium to see Persija Jakarta claim their first ever win in the competition following a stunning 4-1 victory over Singapore’s Tampines Rovers last Wednesday.
With expectation now high that Persija can reach the knockout stage, the-AFC.com caught up with club legend Bambang Pamungkas to find out the striker’s views on his side's chances in the continental competition.
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Q. After such a long wait, how did it feel when you finally appeared for Persija in the AFC Cup?
To play on the big stage such as in the AFC Champions League or the AFC Cup is a dream for every Asian player, and that’s the same for us. We were very excited, but unfortunately the result was not so good in the first game.
Q. After a disappointing start against Johor, how important was it to win against Tampines Rovers?
The home games are always important, especially at the Gelora Bung Karno in front of 45,000-50,000 of our fans. If we want to go far we have to take three points at home.
Q. How important are the Persija fans for the team’s success?
Persija fans are among the best in Asia, or maybe in the world. They are willing to do everything to support the team, not only at home games but also in away games. I think they are very, very, very important for us.
Q. As a striker, what did you think of your teammate Marko Simic’s hat-trick performance? What did you say to him afterwards?
Of course, I congratulated him in the locker room after the game. If the team keep playing like they have in the last two games against Bali United (in the final of the Indonesia President’s Cup) and Tampines, and he keeps scoring goals, I believe another trophy will come. He plays a very important role in the team at the moment.
Q. Next you have two games against Vietnam’s Song Lam Nghe. What are your thoughts ahead of the matches?
We travel to Vietnam not to lose the game. Three points would be great for us, but one point will be considered good. When we play at home, three points is a must if we want to qualify for the next round. With the support of our loyal fans, I believe we can deliver a good result.
Q. Persija have now won the President’s Cup and gained their first win in the AFC Cup. What are your expectations for the season ahead?
After struggling in the past three years, finally we got good results last year. This season we want to fight very hard to win the league is because the last time was in 2001. In the AFC Cup, I think the first step is to see if we can qualify for the next round. After three points against Tampines, we are very confident that we can go through.
Q. What targets have Persija set for this AFC Cup?
As I mentioned before, in the AFC Cup our first priority is to qualify for the next round, after that, we’ll see. But, of course, we want to go as far as we can. Champions – why not?
Q. And on a personal level, have you set yourself an individual goals target?
We want to go as far as we can but, to be honest, I don’t have a personal target. As long as the team get a good result, I don’t care who scores the goals.
Q. You have played in the AFC Cup previously – 12 years ago with Selangor FA. What memories do you have of that tournament and has the level of play improved since then?
We qualified for the last eight, then we lost to a Lebanese club (Nejmeh SC). But now there has been a big improvement in the quality of the competition. To reach the last eight in the AFC Cup will not be an easy job, but I also believe it is not impossible.
Q. Finally, as one of the experienced players on the Persija side, what advice do you pass on to the younger players?
Keep dreaming, keep learning and keep working hard. If they keep doing those things, the results will come.
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