Monday, January 22, 2007


Jakarta's Schools Football

I’ve touched once or twice upon kid’s football but I’ve never really looked at it any any great depth. I just assumed there was nothing going on out there without thinking about it too much. Luckily, bearing in mind recent disastrous results on the national stage, there is some work going on in schools to promote football and develop skills.

The other week the Jakarta Schools Football League kicked off, sponsored by Coca Cola and Greenfield Milk. This league brings together a number of schools in regular competition across a variety of age groups and is the kind of thing we regularly find in the west. Kids football on Saturday is a bit of a no brainer but it always takes someone to organize it so fair play to these guys for stepping up to the plate (© Paul Masefield).

By providing regular games among kids of their own age groups has so many obvious benefits they really don’t need retelling here. But apart from winning the various leagues and medals, what else can the children expect of football here in Indonesia?

A big problem with school’s football, certainly in England, is touchline parents telling little Willie to get stuck in, to welly it, to have a go. Judging from the game I saw on Saturday over enthusiastic parents isn’t going to be a problem here. There were none watching. Just a few girl students, the organizers and the coaches. Nothing from the parents. Maybe they’re not interested? They have no time? Or they think it’s pointless when little Ari has been earmarked for Medicine?

While looking at the website I found out about Asian Soccer Academy. Football academies are very popular in the west where kids entertain the dream of being signed up by watching scouts but what about here?

Obviously Indonesian football needs something and obviously it has to come from the private sector and that is what the Jakarta League and the ASA are doing and they deserve all the encouragement, and publicity, they get for their efforts. But I touched earlier on parents. Supposing a lad is good enough, here in Jakarta, to be taken on by a professional club, say Persija Jakarta. What kind of support could he expect from his parents? The League and Academy mentioned earlier are targeting the middle classes and most middle class parents have their sons’ lives mapped out while they (or their pembantu) are still breast feeding them.

How can ambitious parents with dreams of foreign universities and MBA’s reconcile their cherished hopes with their little darling playing in the cynical Indonesian League where the fans will get you if the opponents don’t. Domestically the reputation of the beautiful game sucks and there is no sign of it improving. Poor pitches, poor facilities, poor discipline, poor fan behaviour, it’s going to be a hard sell and it’s going to take very supportive parents indeed to allow their son to go through that on the off chance a big overseas club will come calling.

Still, maybe all it will take is for one to open the door, to get taken on by some European club and the band wagon will be ready. In the meantime I’ll be watching as many games as I can and I hope others do to.

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