Thursday, April 27, 2006


Arsenal in Indonesia

It was 1983. The signing of Charlie Nicholas was weeks away and Arsenal chose to wind down a depressing season with a visit to Indonesia. This was long before Beckhammania took a hold and introduced a whole new generation of Asian fans to the English game. The game was shit, money was in short supply and fighting on the terraces was more common than exciting football. It was the end of the season where we reached a couple of semi finals, losing to Manchester United both times, it was the season we wore Green and Blue for our away shirt. It was the season of bloody Lee Chapman!

We started off in the North Sumatran city of Medan. Today PSMS Medan are holding their own at the top of the Western Division but 23 years ago we played VSP and won 3-0

Team: Jennings, Hill, Sansom, Talbot, O’Leary, Whyte, McDermott (1), Nicholas P, Chapman (Meade(1)), Sunderland (Lee(1)), Davis.

Next up was a game in Jakarta against VSPSSI which I guess was a composite Indonesian league team. We won again, this time a more convincing 5-0.

Team: Jennings, Hill, Sansom (1), Talbot (Robson), O’Leary, Whyte, Lee, Sunderland (1), Meade (1) (Chapman (1)), Davis, McDermott (1) (Rix)

The final game was at the Eastern city of Surabaya. This season Persabaya Surabaya are missing from the top league after kicking up a fuss in the Big 8 last season, they are probably most famous for their large hooligan following. Anyway we lost there 2-0 against VSNIAC Mitra!

Team: Jennings, Hill (Robson), Sansom, Talbot, O’Leary, Whyte (Lee), McDermott, Sunderland, Meade (Chapman), Davis, Rix

The team line ups were strong suggesting either we took the trip seriously or we didn’t take many players! The only non first team player involved was Terry Lee and he must have been pleased as punch playing with the first team. And then we signed Nicholas!!!

Today there is no chance of Arsene Wenger allowing such a grueling schedule. We played 60 games that season and 6 weeks after touring Indonesia we were off to Germany.

Beyond these facts which I got from Arsenal – A Complete Record, I know nothing about these games or the trip. What I will do is contact Ken Friar at Arsenal and see if he can shed any light on the games and the circumstances. If I hear back from him I will do a follow up.

I watched the Arsenal - Niac Mitra game in Surabaya. It was the farewell match for Fandi Ahmad and David Lee, the striker and goalkeeper from Singapore. The stadium was packed. Niac Mitra, Galatama champion at the time played well. I still remember Fandi made a backheel pass to Djoko Malis in an attack to Arsenal's goal. Other Mitra players were Rudy Keltjes and Syamsul Arifin. Niac Mitra fans were no hooligans, unlike the current sorry state of Persebaya fans.

In the 1980s the Indonesian pro football league Galatama was separate from the amateur (PSMS Medan and Persebaya were amateur), that's why you saw neither playing in Medan and Surabaya, because they only had second tier players.
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