Tuesday, May 24, 2016


Arema's New Aussie Loving Life In Malang

There is something special about Arema. Despite only being founded in 1987 they have become one of the biggest football clubs in the country and while their exploits on the pitch may not always earn top billing their fans, the Aremania, are always there to provide some of the most passionate support around. 

Sign for Arema and you sign up for a football culture unlike many other. St Pauli perhaps. Newcastle United. Clubs where the badge isn't just a measure of support, it is a mirror into your soul. Satu jiwa sing the Arema fans, One soul. Arema is more than a club, they become part of your soul. 

It is so appropriate that when one time Singapore wild child Noh Alam Shah moved to Indonesia it was to Arema. The Crazy Lions were a perfect match for Ah Long. Their attitudes suited each other to a tea.

The fans exploits are legion. The day 60,000 filled Bung Karno Stadium in Jakarta to see the team win the Indonesia Super League for the first time in 2010. The riots and pitch invasion that halted a play off against Persiwa in nearby Kediri. And the movie, Conductors, where a humble water seller is compared to the conductor of a large orchestra. 

Malang is a small town nestled in the foothills a couple of hours south of Surabaya. Go somewhere and people will know about it. Do something and people will know about it. Persema may be the oldest club in Malang but everyone supports Arema.

Into this world has stepped Gustavo Giron Marulanda. Colombian born the striker started his career in his native land. 'I played for Once Caldas in Colombia for their U17s U20s then moved to Deportivo Pereira for a couple of seasons only playing for their reserves tea,' he told me.

Without really making much of an impact at home when someone asked him if he would like to play in Australia he jumped at the opportunity and signed for Bayswater SC in the Western Australia National Premier League. His performances made people sit up and take notice. 'Playing for Bayswater made me a name in Australia, despite being a second tier or just semi-pro football i got noticed by a few pro teams and also Budi who was the agent who contacted me and told me about Arema intentions, I was also contacted by Bali United at the time but I thought Arema would of (sic) been the right move because I liked the way they play and the fan base! I watched a few videos before I came here and really liked the style of soccer we play.'

Indonesia is never far from the news and the news is rarely positive but when Giron made the move it seems he wasn't aware of the PSSI suspension by the government and FIFA. 'Before coming to Indonesia i knew very little about their football, not even that they were banned by FIFA at that time.. I only found out while here, but it didn't change the perspective of things, because Arema always looked to be a serious and (promising) club, the league started (ISC) as such and this club is always striving for glory, now that we are back on FIFA things will only be better.'

Ok, the bags are packed and Giron is know in Indonesia. How has he found settling in? The game can be, what's the word, unrelenting at times. Brutal at others. His first ISC outing came against Persiba on the opening day of the season when the visitor's alleged rough house tactics saw Dendi Santoso and Cristian Gonzales injured early on. Giron started the game on the bench but came on at  the start of the second half to replace Gonzales.

'I played a friendly against Persija and though they were really honest and clean, the game went really "smooth" not many problems or hard tackles so that was my impression of football here, then 1st league game was a bit brutal, they came to clean everyone up and the referee really allowed that to happen..  Have the referee made better decisions at the right time I guess he would of prevent this situations to happen, but that's the game and it looks like that's the only way they thought they could beat us, in the end we are strong and good with the ball so that always gives you rewards!!!'

That was a home game. Next up was Madura United and nothing he had seen in Colombia and Australia could have prepared him for his first away game. 'When we were gonna play Madura, I got told by some of my team mates that fans were told not to come over due to the rivalry with the people from Surabaya and that two people had died recently due to fights between each other.'

'At that time I started to realise how serious the fans take the game, and then later in the afternoon looked out of my window to find out we were travelling in the Army's armoured personnel carrier so it was really impressive for me. I have never experienced something like it before and I can assure that no many people have. 

'Once we were on the road it was all about banter and laughs, we took it the good way, take pics with the army-man, and relaxed while traveling on the ferry, but can't deny that it was an impressive night. 

'Madura fans were also unreal, they sang for the whole game and really made it a special night. I thought Madura played a good game, they were really strong and didn't allow us to play our game. It's one of those games were you just gotta shake it off and carry on.. I was quite frustrated because didn't have much contact with the ball, but it was a really intense game where we had ... to chase them for long periods of the game!!'

After two tough games Giron finally broke his duck, scoring as Arema comfortably defeated Bhayangkara Surabaya United 3-0 at the Kanjuruhan Stadium to go top of the ISC. They lost t heir next game, 2-1 away to Mitra Kukar but remain handily placed sharing second spot and just a point off the pace.

With the football being a bit of an eye opener initially Giron is now settling down to life in malang and is enjoying his new surroundings. 'Arema and its people really know how to make you feel welcome and comfortable, they have rally looked after mean my family. I am really enjoying this beautiful experience here in Malang, its such a nice city with so much to explore, its full of coffee shops, restaurants, and a few good shopping malls. I keep calling myself lucky because I have come to a great place and club, i wouldn't have it any other way i am happy here Malang is really nice, the weather is perfect! And its people are so kind and sociable.'

From Bayswater to Malang, the last few months have been quite a footballing journey for the Colombian born striker. It seems clear he is settling down nicely to life in Malang with his family and his first goal and all round performance against BS United were an indicator of what he is capable of in his day job. 

Arema fans like their strikers. In recent years they have seen Keith Kayamba Gumbs, Alberto Goncalves, Noh Alam Shah and more latterly Gonzales himself. Time will tell whether Giron will carve out his own piece of Arema history.

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