Chinese Faces in Indonesian Football: Celebrated Past, Humble Present

The shorter, edited version of this article is featured at In Bed With Maradona, February 8, 2012.

Ramang vs Soviet

There are many meanings one can attribute to the word ‘achievement’. But in football there are only two. For behemoths, it’s trophy. For underdogs, it’s either that or making a top team suffer. Currently sitting 143rd in the Fifa ranking, Indonesia clearly belongs to the latter category. So as Brazilians recall of their glorious past by counting silverwares in their trophy cabinet, Indonesians can associate their greatest time in football with the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne, Australia.

One of the two games they played in the competition turned out to be the best page in the over a century-old book of Indonesian football. It was against the mighty Uni Soviet. Powered by the great Lev Yashin, team captain Igor Netto, and genius attacker Eduard Streltsov, this was Soviet’s golden string playing under Gavril Kachalin as coach. Indonesia played fearlessly throughout the match and managed to survive the opponents’ bombardment. They even nearly scored one themselves through Rusli Ramang, the country’s legendary forward. Yet, neither side conceded a goal.

Indonesian football story actually began long before that match. It began since the country was still referred to as the Dutch East Indies, involving a kind of players that have become rare today: the Chinese.

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PSSI Akhir Minggu Ini

Di tengah cuaca Sabtu siang yang menyengat begini, saya memilih memantengi layar komputer di dalam rumah. Linimasa Twitter pun mulai berputar tak henti-henti, dan sayup-sayup suara handai tolan mulai terdengar, membisikkan rencana-rencana akhir pekan mereka. “The Cranberries akan pentas nanti malam… Briliant at Breakfast akan main di Teater Garasi… Sebuah bazaar makanan sudah buka dari pagi tadi di kawasan UGM…” Dolores dan zombienya akan terdengar mengasyikkan di malam hari, begitu juga biasanya pertunjukan musik dan bazaar makanan. Duh, andai saja nanti malam tidak ada pertandingan Indonesia vs Turkmenistan.

Saya, dan mungkin banyak yang lain, lebih menunggu-nunggu akan pertandingan itu dibanding acara lain akhir minggu ini. Bukan karena ingin menyaksikan pembalasan dendam atas kekalahan kita akan Turkmenistan sebelumnya, tapi karena pertandingan itu menandai kembalinya striker terbaik kita, Boaz Salossa, serta dimulainya sebuah era baru PSSI.

Era baru? Sebentar, saya yakin banyak yang akan mengerenyitkan dahi.

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Messi Needs a Gago to Tango

Gago dan Messi setelah pertandingan melawan Kosta Rika

Argentina membutuhkan kemenangan atas Kosta Rika agar lolos dari babak kualifikasi setelah dua hasil imbang sebelumnya. Dengan tidak mengecilkan performa Bolivia dan Kolombia, yang memang tampil sangat solid, penampilan Tim Tango ini banyak dibilang mengecewakan. Hasil imbang yang didapat bukan akibat kesialan, tapi lebih karena alasan teknis.  Rasa frustrasi mulai membumbung di kubu tuan rumah Copa America 2011 itu. Sang megabintang Lionel Messi pun dijadikan kambing hitam, meski ia bukan pemain terburuk di dua pertandingan itu.

Fans Argentina layak kesal saat peluit wasit menyudahi pertandingan melawan Kolombia. Skor berakhir kacamata dengan Sergio Romero sebagai pahlawan. Ia-lah yang menghalau sepakan kencang pencetak 15 gol di Piala Europa musim ini, Falcao. Sebuah lelucon terjadi ketika Messi mengarahkan tendangan bebasnya jauh ke atas. Ia mungkin mengincar burung yang sedang lewat.

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On Last Night’s Game

It’s been years I didn’t sing the national anthem. And even back then, I often sang it in false tunes, while giggling with friends during the flag ceremony every Monday morning. Last night, when I watched the national team singing “Indonesia Raya” and some players cry, I could feel the shiver. I sang it with my whole heart and, no kidding, almost shed tears.

I was with hundreds others that night in an eating place in Yogyakarta. It was not my first time to watch football in a public place but I saw Indonesia’s games only at home or at a friend’s house before.

Each of us knew that winning the cup would be heavy after suffering the 3-0 defeat in Malaysia. It did not hold us back, though. We shared the same agenda, supporting our football heroes in the final game of the AFF 2010 Tournament no matter what.

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Calmer and Stronger Gunners (Bar Set-Pieces)

Theo Walcott

Chelsea succumbed in  the latest  London derby showdown in Emirates Stadium on Monday night (12/27). The score was 3-1, victory for the good Gunners courtesy of Song, Cesc, and Walcott goals. The Blues hit Fabianski’s net only once, not through Drogba, Lampard, or Malouda, but thanks to the sturdy Ivanovic.

Arsenal had been bullied by the big clubs this season (some may say, in the last two years). Losing to the other title contenders—except Manchester City—is not a good precedent for a champion candidate. The lack of concentration as well as weak morale and muscle seem to be a serious problem in big games.

That night was different, though, as the boys looked to have matured. They played calmly and efficiently, just like a man. The first goal was typical Arsenal: unpredictable moves in a sporadic attacking play. A throng of players in red-and-white overloaded Terry’s area when Song  was running in at the end of the first half. The defensive midfielder lost himself, springing up in the opponent’s box and rolled the ball past Petr Cech with a well-placed left-foot shot. Beautiful.

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