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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