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Pikal doing his part for Indonesia


24-Dec-2010
Jakarta: Indonesia coach Alfred Riedl has been noticeable in his absence from his team's pre-match press conferences during this year's AFF Suzuki Cup. But the Indonesian press have had few complaints with assistant coach Wolfgang Pikal filling in for his boss.

Responding effortlessly in fluent Bahasa Indonesia and English, the Austrian appears like a well-seasoned international coach who has been handling press duties for the national team for years. However, it is a role that Pikal has only been involved with since May, when he signed a two-year contract with the Indonesia Football Federation (PSSI).

But the 43-year-old has proven to be an invaluable member of Riedl's staff during that time, taking care of the pre-match press duties, translating for the head coach in the post-match conferences, and assisting his compatriot in many aspects of the day-to-day coaching of the team from taking charge of some warm-up and training sessions to preparing the PowerPoint presentations to outline Indonesia's tactical plans for upcoming games.

"He (Riedl) knows that my Indonesian is quite good and that I can also coach football," said the affable Pikal to www.affsuzukicup.com.

"I know how he coaches and what he wants from our tactical sessions. So I try to do a presentation on the computer and after he looks at it, we discuss it before we present it to the players. I will then make the presentation to them in Bahasa Indonesia and coach Riedl will stop the presentation at certain times to make his own points to the players."

"Coach Riedl also prefers not to attend the pre-match conference. He said it is not compulsory for him to attend so he asked for me to go and he trusts me enough to allow me to speak on the team's behalf."

Born in Vienna, Pikal was a midfielder for Austrian second division side SR Donaufeld and third division club SK Baumgarten before an ankle injury ended his playing career in 1989 at the age of 22. He then made a fateful decision that was to change his life.

"I had some money so I decided to travel around the world," he explained. "I visited many countries and I eventually ended up in Bali where I met my future wife. I had an opportunity to start a textile business with her in 1990 and I began to live in Indonesia.

"I was not involved with football for about 10 years but in 1999, I started to coach in Bali. Dick Buitelaar, a Dutch coach formerly with Eredivisie side NAC Breda, who was then in charge of local professional club PS Perseden Denpasar, spoke to me and told me that I had a talent for coaching and encouraged me to get involved and to do my coaching licences."

Thus began Pikal's love affair with football coaching in Indonesia. He has taken charge of clubs in his adopted home of Bali and has also run coaching clinics and football academies in Indonesia on behalf of European clubs like Real Madrid.

A keen student of the game, Pikal has more than 20 football coaching certificates to his name and has visited a number of clubs in Europe including Arsenal, Aston Villa and Ajax Amsterdam in order to improve his coaching ability.

It was in 2008 that Pikal first made contact with Riedl after getting his email address from a friend.

"I spoke to him about coaching and I passed some coaching DVDs to him through his sister-in-law in Austria, a gesture that he really seemed to appreciate. He was then coaching at (Vietnamese leagues club) Haiphong and I travelled out there to meet him.

"I spent two weeks there following what he was doing and we ended up becoming close friends. When I left to return home, he told me that he would call on me if he were to work in Indonesia."

Before he was even in the frame for his current job, Pikal had already been doing his own research on the Indonesian national team. It's something that he did out of his own passion for the game in his adopted homeland.

"I know all the players in the Indonesian professional leagues," he said. "For the last couple of years, I have watched every Indonesian league game on TV and I have flown around the country a bit to watch the teams playing. I have done a lot of research but then I am man with very few passions. All I have is my work, my family and football.

"I still feel more Austrian when it comes to football coaching in terms of the discipline and the work ethic that must go into training and playing.

"But I also feel very Indonesian, having lived here for so long. I have now lived here for 20 years. I am married to an Indonesian, I have Indonesian children and I love the country and I love the people. To help Indonesia to win the AFF Suzuki Cup would definitely mean a lot to me."