We Need More Indonesian Footballers To Play Abroad
One of the most common opinions on Indonesian football players is “they can’t play as a team, but they’re very skillful individually.” Every time the national team faces stronger teams, commentators will underline the individual strength, instead of solid team work, as the lifeline for the Red and White to get anything from the match.
This thought on our football players begs a question: If they’re so good individually, why is there so few of them playing abroad in better leagues?
In the midst of another national football brouhaha – this time the genius in the Indonesian FA (PSSI) and its off-shoot KPSI decide to form two separate national teams for the upcoming Asean Football Federation Cup – an Indonesian footballer, Andik Vermansyah will undergo a trial in USA’s Major League Soccer club, DC United. There’s no doubt that the fact that some of the shares of the Washington-based club owned by Indonesian business tycoon, Erick Thohir, has a major part in this, but none should be taken off from Andik regarding his ability.
Andik has been lauded as the brightest Indonesian prospect in his generation. His performance, both in club and international level, has wowed the fans. He stole the attention when he debuted with Persebaya Surabaya and has given a nationwide introduction when he played in SEA Games with the national U-23 side. Operating on the flank, Andik’s pacy acceleration gives headache to opposing defenders, even there’s a famous incident when none other than David Beckham robustly clipped Andik’s leg when LA Galaxy came to Jakarta for a friendly match. The incident led to Beckham sympathetically handed his jersey to Andik after the match.
If Andik is as good as he seems to be, then the troubles within Indonesian football structure will not do any good to his development. He’s still 21 and has impressed many international coaches who happened to witness his ability. Andik has been linked with several European clubs who were said wanted to take him for trials, although the rumors turned out to be rubbish. Then came the opportunity for Andik to fly to Washington to prove himself in 12 days and hopefully he will be there to stay. If he is that good, there’s no need to return to the slum that is Indonesian football.
Andik’s trial with DC United rings a memory of the Indonesian footballers plying their trade abroad. In the 90s, the Primavera program saw the likes of Kurniawan Dwi Julianto and Kurnia Sandy in Italian club, Sampdoria. Goalkeeper Kurnia Sandy only made it as far as match-day squad meanwhile Kurniawan moved to Swiss to play for FC Luzern. He had a couple of modestly successful seasons with the Swiss club – including scoring in old Intertoto Cup but went back to Indonesia due to a couple of problems, one of them is said to be addiction to night life. Another Indonesian, Bima Sakti played in Sweden for Helsingborg but went home after just a season.
Indonesian football poster boy Bambang Pamungkas went to Netherlands to play for 3rd-division club, EHC Norad, yet returned after only 4 months. Leaving Persija Jakarta, Bambang and another Indonesian footballer, Ellie Aiboy, moved to Malaysia to play for Selangor where he achieved cult status but opted to go home after 2 years. Bambang was linked to an Australian league club a few years ago but his transfer didn’t happen in the end.
The most adventurous Indonesian footballer, however, is the eccentric Rocky Putiray. He once went to France for a trial with Auxerre although he didn’t make it. Easily recognized thanks to his bright-colored hair, Rocky played for 4 Hongkong clubs; Instant Dict, Happy Valley, South China and Kitchee, where he famously scored a brace against Paolo Maldini’s AC Milan in a friendly.
The fact that only few Indonesian players play abroad suggests two things: They easily get homesick and don’t have the courage try their luck in foreign soil or maybe they’re simply not good enough.
Last month, Titus Bonai’s transfer to Thai club, BEC Tero Sasana, fell through after an administration problem. Such a shame, considering playing in different league will nurture Titus’ already decent footballing skill to another level.
If Andik impresses the officials of DC United, hopefully there won’t be another similar paper problem that will deny him the move.