Tuesday, August 27, 2013


Pro Duta - Indonesia's European Ambassador

The German Bundesliga recently celebrated its 50th anniversary and just one team has been in the most watched league in Europe since its inception. Not Bayern Munchen as many might suppose given their dominance of the league but Hamburg SV.

The city of Hamburg, a onetime Hanseatic trading state, has always looked to the seas with its large port. The Beatles played there before achieving fame and of course HSV signed Kevin Keegan .

The eclectic nature of the city continues. Today the football team boasts one of the few English players on the continent, Michael Mancienne while Zhi Gin Lam has a Chinese German heritage.

It seems therefore appropriate that it should be Hamburg that bucked a trend this summer. With the likes of Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool heading to Jakarta to be feted and adored little fuss has been made of the Indonesian team that made the return journey.

Pro Duta aren’t the biggest name in Indonesian football. In fact it is true to say they are one of the smallest clubs. A minnow among minnows. Don’t bother trying to find them on a map, they aren’t there. One of the few privately run clubs in the country Pro Duta have moved homes as often as Pelita Jaya. From Bandung to Yogyakarta to Medan they have travelled in search of home and security and it is this transient nature that has contributed to their status.

There is a large ethnic basis to many Indonesian clubs. PSMS Medan are closely identified with the batak people, Persib Bandung with the Sundanese. Pro Duta? No one!

So it was a surprise to many when it was announced Pro Duta would be heading to Europe during the Indonesia Premier League’s mid season break to take on German giants HSV as well as a few other friendlies. Here at last was an Indonesian club doing something that could help Indonesian players and not just hosting the mega stars of the super wealthy on their highly choreographed jaunts.

In keeping with their anonymity even at home Pro Duta is a club with few stars. Keeper Deniss Romanovs is a Latvian international as is striker Girts Karlsons. And that is about it. The rest of the squad that travelled to Europe was made up of journeymen pros who don’t even warrant a Wikipedia entry!

The tour started spectacularly with a 7-0 win over local side TSV Winsen! In the absence of a travelling media party one of the team’s players, Rahmat Hidayat, informed a local Medan newspaper of the result by Blackberry Messenger, advising the goals had come from Yusuf Effendi, Ghozali Siregar with a couple, Rahmad himself, M Syamir, Arif Sajali and M Nur Adli.

Next was the big one. Given their 50 years in the Bundesliga it would be tempting to suggest HSV promote their game with Pro Duta as a commemorative game but it was no such thing of course. Indeed, the game wasn’t even played at their impressive Imtech Arena.

Instead Pro Duta had to make do with HSV’s training ground although some advertising hoardings had been set up and the game was shown live in Indonesia.

With many players away on international duty the home team fielded a team depleted of its big names but still had too much in the tank as they overcame the visitors 4-0 with goals from Dennis Aogo, Godjo Kacar, Maxi Beister and Valmir Nafiu.

Next up was a game against HSV Under 23 and Pro Duta lost by the same margin.

From Hamburg the team travelled south, across the Alps, to Italy for a couple of friendlies. They celebrated Independence Day in the capital, Roma with a game against AS Roma’s youth team, falling 4-1 with Ghozali scoring again from the Indonesian team.

Their second game in Italy came against AS Pro Cisterna and was a much closer encounter. Despite losing 3-2 (Karsons and Hidayat) the team felt they deserved a draw and indeed could have managed one had not Karlsons missed a penalty.

After their Italian tryst the team headed back north for one final game against Ajax Jong suffering a narrow 1-0 loss at the home of the Dutch masters despite being cheered on by a section of the sizeable Indonesian community residing there. Also watching were Ajax legends Marc Overmars and Edwin van der Sar, two figures who embody the continuity that runs through that football club. Like the Chinese saying, falling leaves return to the ground. Overmars received their football education with Ajax, added to that knowledge when they moved abroad and now return home to pass their experiences on to the next generation.

A continuity sadly lacking in Indonesia.

Pro Duta have now returned home to the uncertainties of the Indonesia Premier League. They sit fourth and are striving for a top three position that could see them take their place in the Super League next season.

Their European trip will certainly have given them an edge over their rivals. While they were left behind training on bumpy pitches, Pro Duta were flitting between Hamburg, Rome and Amsterdam pitting wits against some of the finest young players on the continent on some of the finest playing fields.

They were imbibing a professional football culture far different from the rough and ready world of Indonesia they are used to at home and they return with a 101 memories and experiences that could stand them in good stead if Indonesia ever loses its football insularity.

SOURCE - first appeared in Jakarta Globe

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