Monday, June 04, 2012


Arthur Irawan

Indonesia is no place for an ambitious young footballer to learn his trade. The domestic league is a mess at the best of times with clubs having difficulties paying players salaries and bonuses; training methods come from the Stone Age with coaches, often under  pressure from club management, prioritizing stamina over ball skill and appalling match officials occasionally under pressure to ensure bias towards a certain team.

Many clubs have a strong manager who is often a political figure using football as a vehicle to boost his standing in the area and they use their influence to interfere at all levels within the football club even to the extent of telling the coach which players to pick and which to drop.

You only have to look at players like Yongki Aribowo, a promising striker, who moves club seemingly every season as coaches are under pressure to prioritise older, more expensive players, often imports.
Poor infrastructure does nothing to develop a player’s technical ability; most pitches are owned by local government who spend nothing on the upkeep or care of the playing surface meaning players must perform on pot holed surfaces risking injury.

Then there is the travel. In a country of 17,000 islands spread across three time zones travelling to away games can be a chore and with clubs perennially starved of funds the cheapest possible option is chosen meaning it can take 24 hours to get to a game using cramped economy class on budget airlines followed by a night or two in the cheapest hotel possible.

All in all a very disheartening landscape for a young player to make an impact.

And yet despite the problems at home, very few players move overseas. A handful have had short spells in Malaysia, a country with a shared culture and similar language to Indonesia but high salaries combined with the strong pull of the family, most players come from poorer backgrounds with their strong links, mean many find it easier to just stay home and bite the bullet.

Amid this background there was therefore some surprise when it was announced RCD Espanyol in Spain’s La Liga had signed a young Indonesian player. Arthur Irawan signed professional terms for the team based in Barcelona in January of this year after impressing at the youth level and was recently called up for training with the first team ahead of a friendly against Al Ahly.

The reaction in his homeland was one of Arthur who? For sure, his background marks him down as different to most of his compatriots. While they learnt their trade with local SSBs (Sekolah Sepak Bola or Football Schools) Irawan was studying at an international school in Jakarta.

Despite only being with the Spanish club a short time, Irawan has impressed with his attitude. Under 18 coach Fran Navarro, who has seen the youngster progress, says “Arthur’s got great versatility and sometimes he’s had to play as second striker and has demonstrated not only his speed but his discipline.” He added that it was “very easy to work with him because he always wants to learn and it has enabled much progress in recent months.”

With several first choice first team players unavailable, Irawan was called up by coach Mauricio Pochettino and of course the Surabaya born defender who has also played as a second striker, was left feeling very proud, commenting “It was an amazing experience to train with the first team. We’re talking internationals and guys who’ve played dozens of games in La Liga. It was an unbelievable feeling.”

Indeed, so excited was Irawan after that first training session his agent Paul Hodgetts, said he couldn’t get him back to earth! To add to the excitement, Uruguayan legendary striker Walter Pandiani was the first to congratulate the youngster after the training session.

Irawan is one of a handful of players from Indonesia being given a chance in Europe. CS Vise, a second division team in Belgium, has Syamsir Alam, formerly with the reserve team of Uruguayan CF Penarol, Yericho Christiantoko and Yandi Munawar. Perhaps, finally, recognition that for any promising young player to fully develop their talent they need to escape the constricting domestic environment.

Training with the first team for an end of season friendly does not mean Irawan has made the breakthrough. It does mean that he has been noticed but his future development is still down to him. And he knows this. As Navarro says “he’s got a strong commitment to improve day by day.”

COMMENT - first appeared in the Jakarta Globe

one big question for this player. Why Riedl didn't called him for Sea Games last year?
Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?