Tuesday, January 28, 2014


Irfan's Turning Japanese

Back in 2010, Irfan Bachdim was the hottest thing in Indonesia since colour TV. He shone at the ASEAN Cup and played a major role in Persema's success in the inaugural, and shortlived, Indonesia Premier League.

The gossip pages were filled with news of him and his celebrity girlfriend soon to become wife and screaming girls waited outside the hotel when the team played away.

But like the IPL, Irfan's fame was short lived. People soon forgot he was a footballer and as the IPL faded into irrelevance he struggled to get into a poor Persema side.

In 2013 he got a move to Chonburi but after half a season was farmed out on loan to Sri Racha and at the end of the season was released.

Now, he has signed for Japanese side Ventforet Kofu.

Excellent news you might think on the face of it. But the more you read about it the more you scratch your head.

When he had trials with the club last year, along with Syakir Sulaiman, the Indonesian players were as often photographed wearing samurai gear as playing football.

And the circumstances behind the official announcement of the signing are not what you would expect in international football.

The announcement took place at the offices of Indonesia's national airline and featured prominently at the head table was a representative of the airline as well as the Japanese ambassador to Indonesia both looking spiffing in their Ventforet Kofu shirts.

Last October, Indonesia's national airline signed an MoU with Yamanashi Prefecture to 'stimulate tourism this year through the areas of scholarship, culture, sports, sightseeing, and local products'.

So, you wonder. How much is this deal about a footballer pursuing his career overseas? Or how much is it about an airline and a local government promoting their own products?

For Irfan, the benefits are obvious. He puts himself in a bigger shop window...and who knows, he may even force his way back into the national team.

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