The millions of Indonesians who tune into Euro 2012 are watching an event in which footballers from 16 nations combine elite skills with breathtaking audacity in their ability to apply boot to ball.
This exhilarating international festival of sporting prowess, strategy and tactics is hypnotizing Indonesia with the glitter of Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo, France’s Samir Nasri, the Netherlands’s Arjen Robben, England’s Steven Gerrard, Spain’s David Silva and Germany’s Mesut Ozil.
Indonesia is taking a break, at least, from the multi-faceted problems facing the nation — including politics, a leadership crisis, corruption, poverty and separatism in Papua. Also threatening Indonesia’s multi-religious and plural society are deteriorations in each of idealism, the principle of unity in diversity and historic and cultural values.
But it is not only Indonesians who are taking a break. Europeans see the championship as a temporary relief from the hardship resulting from their lingering economic crisis. The rest of the world, too is enjoying Euro 2012 with great enthusiasm, regardless of the outcome of the games or any crises in their respective countries.
European football has developed very well. The great players of old have been replaced by younger generations. They are all paid well and the club owners are very rich while the business of football flourishes. Whether it’s Denmark, Russia or the Netherlands, each nation is displaying its achievements, pride, strength and honor.
In Indonesia, meanwhile, football is politicized and bogged down by infighting and threats. The Indonesian Football Association (PSSI) has been disqualified by FIFA once for the failure of officials to carry out a crucial vote that would chart the future of football in the country. FIFA is also close to banning Indonesia from international competitions.
Then there was a controversy over whether a former Army general could become association chairman. Then there was political jockeying for incumbents or political party stalwarts running for chairman. There was even controversy over regional government-funded football clubs. Politics has not only damaged the reputation of Indonesian football, but the reputation of the whole nation.
When Portugal hosted the Euro 2004, Indonesia was also hypnotized by the magic of football. The archipelago’s politicians made use of the tournament for political campaigns. The event coincided with the presidential election campaign, serving as the perfect campaign gimmick to win the sympathy of voters.
Running as presidential candidates were Amien Rais, Wiranto, Megawati Sukarnoputri and Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. Amien Rais was at the Barbados Cafe in Kemang attending a “nonton bareng” (viewing gathering) with the public. Wiranto was at the Tee Box cafe in Kebayoran Baru, while Megawati had a special tent erected at her home on Jalan Teuku Umar in Central Jakarta to watch the match with close acquaintances, including the Greek ambassador to Indonesia. Only Yudhoyono, who was offered to watch the games at the Omni Batavia Hotel, refused to participate in such a stunt, instead saying he would stay at home and pray. Yudhoyono went on to win the presidency.
In Indonesia, there is still a distinct lack of strategy and forward thinking on the part of ministers and bureaucrats. Things seem to have simply stayed as they were, despite schemes such as the Master Plan for the Acceleration and Expansion of Indonesia’s Economic Development (MP3EI). If there is development, it is not significant. There are also many inconsistent policies. Yudhoyono forgets that winning, just like in football, needs sound strategies, not just public relations campaigns.
Indonesia had better wake up and change. Otherwise, when the magic of Euro 2012 wears off and people return to their public and private senses and realities, they will realize the football magic was nothing but a break and the country is back to square one.
Yanto Soegiarto is the managing editor of Globe Asia, a sister publication of the Jakarta Globe.