Saturday, July 04, 2015


Tsunami Boy's Tale Is A Tale Of Indonesian Football

Back in 2004 an eight year old lad was playing football in Aceh. Then came a tsunami that wiped out most of his family along with nearly 240,000 other people and he was pictured wearing a fake Portugal football shirt looking lost and forlorn. That was when the world first heard of Martunis.

The image of this tsunami survivor spread around the world even without Twitter and came to the attention of the Portugal football team. Cristiano Ronaldo and co flew to Aceh to meet the youngster still coming to terms with the tragedy he had narrowly survived.

More than a decade later and Martunis has signed for Portuguese side Sporting Lisbon's academy.

It is a heartwarming story but it is also the tale of Indonesian football and perhaps even South East Asian football. Martinus' wiki page suggests he spent some time with PSAP Sligi but how long and how many games he played for them is less clear.

Indra Sjafri, former coach of Indonesia U19, has posted an image on Twitter showing the young lad at trials for the national side in 2013...trials Martinus ultimately failed. It was probably just as well. Alumni from that side now have no professional career to look forward to thanks to the piss fest between the government and the PSSI that has resulted in Indonesian football being suspended.

Imagine Martinus had qualified and gone on to represent Indonesia at Under 19 level. His career would now be at a brick wall with little hope of going anywhere anytime soon. Indra Sjafri, while not recognising his talent, has done him a favour. If Martinus is going to develop as player he is better off away from the stifling atmosphere of a domestic game where some players pay the coach to play and some clubs don't even pay the players to pay.

Reading between the lines it seems Ronaldo has kept an eye on that young tsunami survivor and kept his interest quiet. We may never know the true story of the help one of the world's best players has provided, along with his team mates, but young lads from the boonies of Indonesia don't get picked up by European clubs willy nilly. Arthur Irawan made the move because his parents believed in him and had the wherewithall to help make his dream come true.

Too many talented players will never have that fortune. They are condemned to spend their career as mere chattel for others. And for all the potential people like to talk about in Indonesian football that is the bare truth. Evan Dimas' career has stalled, hostage to the bickering blighting the game.To develop a player must look beyond the teh botol and bakso of his kampung and look overseas.

As news broke of Martunis' Portuguese adventure the sports minister was mocking FIFA. 'Where is FIFA now?' he asked. 'This is Indonesia' as if Indonesia sits astride a football legacy second to none. Yes, this is Indonesia where a player is not considered good enough for local teams, even if there were any, or their country but is good enough to move to one of the biggest clubs in Europe.

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