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Monday, February 22, 2016

 

Age Shall Not Weary Him

Cristian Gonzales turns 40 in August. The Uruguayan born barrel chested striker has been scoring goals for fun since arriving in Indonesia back in 2003 when he signed for PSM. He perhaps enjoyed his greatest success when he moved to Persik, helping them win the Liga Indonesia (before the Indoneia Super League was set up) in 2007 as one of the Three Amigos (Danilo Fernando and Ronald Fagundez made up the trimutive).

The unfancied Macan Putih played wonderfully attacking football that season under Daniel Roekito and followed their title success with an adventure in the AFC Champions League that saw them go toe to toe with the likes of Sydney and Urawa from Japan.

Of course football clubs such as they are in Indonesia are not built to last and the club soon faded as owners found themselves unable to raise any money to keep their title winning side. But while Persik have slid towards oblivion, they failed to meeting the licensing criteria for the 2015 season and faced another spell in the second tier before the leagues were suspended, Gonzales, or El Loco as he is nicknamed locally, went from strength to strength.

He left East Java in 2009 and moved to Persib where his two seasons saw him continue to rattle home games before a season in Eask Kalimantan with Persisam in 2012. By now a naturalised Indonesian international making his mark at the ASEAN Football Federation Championships in 2010, in 2013 he signed for Arema.

Many players in their late 30s joining a big club may do so with an eye on a coaching future. Not Gonzales. He wants to play and he wants to score goals. And while 2015 may have been a write off as far as domestic football was concerned he still played for Arema in the competitions that flowed thick and fast. He hit six as they reached the semi finals of the General Sudirman Cup and a further five in the President's Cup.

Now Arema are in the Island of the Gods supported by the usual large number of travelling Aremania and they have started the competition with a bang. In their first game they beat hosts Balis United in the Bali Island Cup 3-1 and that man Gonzales scored twice. Yesterday they thumped PSS 5-2 and he shows no sign of faing away peacefully into retirement; this time El Loco hit a hat trick!

It has not been a career without controversy and at times his frequent brushes with officialdom and officials threatened to end his career. There is something of the Mark Hughes, as a player, about him, short, powerful upper body strength which he uses to great effect and of course the ability to sniff out a chance inside the six yard area. Cliche time, he also is pretty nifty in the air for a little guy. If he may have lost a yard or two of pace it is obviously not proving too great a handicap in Indonesia's current landscape and while there has been talk of a move elsewhere in Asia he has stayed loyal to his adopted home, even being linked with political parties, hinting at a career path when he finally does hang up his boots.

Next up in the Bali Island Cup Arema meet Persib with El Loco coming up against one of his old clubs. Gonzales doesnt do sentiment, not when there is a chance of a goal and who would bet against the veteran predator adding to his tally when they meet later this week?

Comments:
Hi Antony,
Personally I already wrote him off when he signed up with Arema but I've seen El Loco playing here in Malang and I must say he still putting in his yards too. Maybe not as fast as the younger guys but definitely smarter so at least as effective. Cheers, Frank
 
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