Monday, December 10, 2012


Jakarta Globe Column

Not many in Indonesia’s expat circles would have heard of Diego Mendieta. The 32-year-old Paraguayan would have gone unrecognized had he ventured into the regular haunts of the varied oil and gas types, diplomats or teachers who call Indonesia home. 

Mendieta was a footballer. He had left his family in his native Paraguay behind to come to Asia to ply his trade. He certainly got to know this region fairly well with short stints with Aceh’s PSSB Bireuen, Persitara North Jakarta and Johor in Malaysia. His travels would have taken him to the furthest flung edges of nusantara , usually by the cheapest mode possible. 

I think it is fair to say had he ventured into a regular expat hangout one could have spent an enjoyable couple of hours in his company and probably come away wondering whether you were both living in the same country. 

Diego Mendieta died on Monday evening in the Central Java city of Solo. 

How had a fit, healthy young man wasted away so dramatically? It was reported he had lost 17 kilograms in his last three weeks. And what a tragic last few weeks he faced as he was shifted from one hospital to another. 

Last season he played for Persis Solo in the unofficial Divisi Utama. His club didn’t pay his wages, thought to be $3,000 a month, for a few months; a common enough occurrence in both the official and unofficial set ups. 

Diego would lie in his government hospital bed telling his few visitors he didn’t want to be in Indonesia. He didn’t want to die here. He wanted to go home but he was owed money and couldn’t afford it. The tragedy is no one beyond the hospital staff, a few Paraguayan colleagues and his agent were listening. 

Despite his life slipping away neither his club, the governing body nor his embassy seemed to be in a rush to help him. Apparently his colleagues had tried to contact the embassy but to all intents and purposes he was left to die alone, far from his family and loved ones. 

A few Persis fans, known as Pasoepati, did their best. They raised just over $300 to help their former player. But it wasn’t enough. He was slipping away and no one bothered to help him. 

He died and the loyal Persis fans posted it on Twitter. They at least would not just let him go and be forgotten. They bombarded the players’ unions, FIFPro, trying to get something done because as he breathed his last, lying in that Solo hospital in a Real Madrid shirt, there was no idea what to do next. 

Common sense, humanity, dictated his body be returned home but moving a corpse and coffin by air is a complicated and expensive activity. The Persis fans kept the story online while the agent bemoaned the fact that no one seemed to be willing to come to Solo and actually do anything. 

The Persis fans’ efforts started to pay off. The story was picked up and even run on The Guardian website. The international football players union was scathing in their statement describing the treatment of Diego a “disgrace.” 

Earlier this year a Premier League footballer stopped breathing on a football pitch in North London and the social networks went crazy with messages of support for Fabrice Muamba. 

The Bolton Wanderer was guaranteed the best possible treatment of course, and as we know, he recovered. 

Diego lacked that publicity. He ceased to exist even before he died.

SOURCE - Jakarta Globe

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