Monday, July 08, 2013


Middlesex, Medan and Marah Halim Cup

Twitter is a buzz. Indonesia only really fell for English football in the last eight years or so. Before that the Italian game was very much in vogue and replica shirts from Milan and Juventus were more widespread than Manchester United and Liverpool.

Just as Indonesia came to the EPL party late so the EPL is discovering Indonesia late with three clubs, Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool touching down over the next fortnight or so.

Arsenal are first and fans across the country are twittering reminders and arrangements as they prepare to take to the country’s creaking roads and rails to get to Jakarta in time for the game Sunday plus various other activities they have lined up.

The players of today are well known. The likes of Walcott, Terry and Gerrard stare moodlily and meanly down from billboards across Jakarta; back in 1983, the last time Arsenal visited, no one would have recognized the likes of Raphael Meade, Rhys Wilmott or Terry Lee.

There is one English team though who were quite regular visitors to Indonesia during the 1980s. Only, this team have no website, no supporters and incredibly, in this cyber day and age, no Wikipedia entry!

The team is Middlesex Wanderers, a hotchpotch of non league players brought together during the summer months for a tour overseas, a tradition that had begun in 1905 and it so happened 1988 was there centenary tour. And to celebrate they were invited to the North Sumatran city of Medan, famous for  not much really beyond being close to some very nice places.

The occasion was the Marah Halim Cup, an annual event that had first been held in 1972 and usually featured a handful of Indonesian clubs alongside some Asian teams and selections.

Middlesex Wanderers had been twice before, losing in the 1984 final against Iraq’a Al Jaish on penalties and to a South Korea XI 12 month later 2-1.

1988 they were going for third time lucky.

Not much is known about the competition that year and I am having to make do with the brilliant as well as the Official FA Non League Club Directory 1989.

Apparently there were eight teams taking part with Middlesex Wanderers drawn with Hungary Under 21, Indonesia Under 23 and Hallelujah from South Korea. The other would have featured PSMS, they were the hosts after all, along with a Japan XI.

The Middlesex team were drawn from across the non league with clubs like Billingham Synthonia, Kidderminster Harriers and even Scottish club Queen’s Park represented.

There were some familiar names who made the long trip east. In goal was Andy Pape, with Enfield at the time but seemed to line up for pretty much every club with a goal kick of the M25 during almost two decades in the game including a solitary appearance for Queen’s Park Rangers.

Defender Paul Rogers was just making his name with Sutton United and would return from Indonesia to star in their giant killing over Coventry City in the FA Cup, catapulting him into the nation’s consciousness at a time when the Cup received more publicity and hype than today. He was later signed by Sheffield United, Notts County, Wigan Athletic and Brighton and Hove Albion.

Another familiar name was Steve Butler who had enjoyed a prolific season with Maidstone United hitting 31 goals in all competitions before joining the backpacker trail to Indonesia.

The Wanderers were unable to repeat the success of their earlier visits though.

They lost their first game on 27 May against the Hungarians 2-1 with Butler scoring their only goal before drawing with Indonesia Under 23 1-1 in their second game, Stafford Rangers’ Gary Simpson getting on the scoresheet. Simpson currently manages Lincoln City in the Conference, English football’s fifth tier.

Their last game came against the Koreans, Hallelujah and it was definitely hallelujah for the Wanderers as they finally managed their first win with Kidderminster Harrier’s prolific Paul Davies getting the only goal.
Davies had been released early in his career by Cardiff City but went on to enjoy a 16 year spell with Harriers, scoring 307 goals in 656 games. Plus one for the Wanderers in Medan!

The poor results meant Wanderers failed to get through to the semi finals. A Japan XI eventually defeated PSMS 3-1 in the final but in a sign of the times the Wanderers decided against returning home early and went on a road trip, taking in two more friendlies!

Just imagine Arsene Wenger doing that this summer!

They headed north in the province of Aceh and played a game against some outfit called PT Arun, a state owned enterprise based n Lhokseumawe. And won 13-2 with hat tricks for Butler and Davies.

Their final game came against PSI Bireuen. At least that is what the Non League Directory says. I’m gonna go out on a limb and suggest this is in actual fact PSSB who now play in Divisi Utama. Wanderers ended on a high overcoming PSSB 2-1 with goals from Crooks and Boyland.

And there you have it. A little known tour by a little known team. Thrilling, romantic stuff and a far cry from the highly choreographed appearances by today’s superstars.

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