James is a qualified teacher in the field of Indonesian studies, and he found an advertisement for the job of AFL Development officer with the Jakarta Bintangs which enabled him to combine his love of football with his love of Indonesian Culture.
There are currently three teams in AFL Indonesia that are composed primarily of expatrtiate Australians – based in Borneo (Bears), Jakarta (Bintangs) and Bali (Geckos). The National side is the Garuda’s who play some international matches for the most part, although they have played in Anzac Day matches. James hopes to have regular matches between the Garudas and the expat sides on a regular basis soon.
The expatratiate based sides can attract anywhere from 50-60 players, while the Garuda’s have access to about fifty Indonesian nationals. The amount of players fluctuates. For expatriates its work or studies that dictate when the move on. For the Indonesians, many have to stop playing altogether when they start working.
James tells me about Boy Pasaribu, an Indonesian national who has been part of the Bintangs side for the last seven years. He came across Australian football when he was looking for a sport to keep fit, and fell in love with the sport. James says that while volunteer staff come and go, Pasaribu has been a fixture in Indonesian footy, having worked as a development officer since 2008. He’s now been on a number of tours with both the Bintangs and the Garudas. James credits Pasaribu with being a major reason why the Garudas will make it to the International Cup next year.
Matches are held on rectangle fields or even basketball courts, although Jakarta do have access to an oval they share with Jakarta cricket. The Indonesian teams meet monthly with some occasional assistance from the expat sides. The expat clubs play five or six games a year as part of AFL Asia, while the Garudas play a series of internal matches every month. James would like to see that change to full 18 a side matches against other Indonesian sides in the future.
Development programs are run in schools and orphanages throughout Indonesia. Much of James working day is spent in these places trying to introduce kids th the sport. Most kids look at the oval ball and assume they’ll be learning rugby or American football. Weekly training sessions are held that bring in between 20 and 40 people in several locations. James tells me that the kids in particular are extremenly enthusiastic about the sport, throwing themselves into contests heedless of the danger.
Amongst the biggest challenges can be the availability of equipment. There can be difficulties getting in basic necessities such as footballs, as Indonesian customs will impound any large number, and so the clubs are restricted to individual players and others bringing footballs over two and three at a time. However at times, the shortage of balls is acute – James says they’ve had to do Garudas training with not enough footballs to go around from time to time.
For the time being, the Garudas rely on donated equipment. Clubs like Wembley in Perth have donated boots and other gear to the team.
Actually getting into schools at the moment is troublesome, as the sport is not officially recognized as a national sport by the Indonesian Olympic Committee. As a result may schools wont allow the sport onto the premises.
The Garudas are planning on making their debut at the International Cup in August, which will be quite a big deal for the young side. James says not only are they fearless – bordering on crazy – but they have some good speed and skills, even if they are lacking in the height department with few players over 6 feet tall. They have a good ruckman but his availability is subject to work. The larger grounds and extended game time will also be a challenge.
If you’d like to know more about the game in Indonesia there is additional material here on the Jakarta Globe website.
If you want to become involved in footy in Indonesia, the easiest way is to get hold of the AFL Indonesia facebook page, or to the individual club websites.