Despite not being in contention for the top trophy – they finished in 7th place after going out 6-2 to Mexico in the Cup quarter finals – Indonesia have nonetheless won hearts and minds at this week’s tournament in Glasgow.
While the rain may have been coming sideways across George Square, team manager Rijki Kurniawan was still smiling.
“Of course we’re enjoying our time here,” he assures, “even though it’s very cold. In our country there are only two seasons, summer and raining, but every time we have sun at least!”
The personification of calm, steely determination and respect, Kurniawan’s players have turned on the heroics on the pitch, none more so than the two goalkeepers, 27-year old Eman Sulaeman and the more experienced, at 44, Wira Danu Hendro Prasetyoko.
“I loved football when I was a kid,” says Danu, “and I always wanted to be a goalkeeper but when I got older I stopped playing in that position until now, because I prefered to use just my feet instead of all my body!”
Team Indonesia was organised by Rumah Cemera (Pine Home) community organisation for people living with HIV/Aids and suffering substance abuse and that’s a cause close to Wira’s heart.
“As someone living with HIV and a former drug user I have the motivation to decrease the stigma and discrimination in Indonesia, especially for me,” he says. “Rumah Cemera has a campaign, Indonesia Without Stigma, and I am really excited about it. I want to spread the message around the world and lessen the stigma of these things. That is why I’m here.”
Manager Kurniawan goes on to explain how regional organisations in the country were invited to send players, like Wira, to try out for the team, with selection based, “not just for their capacity regarding football skills. More than that they have to have the willingness to become a better person in the future.”
While his players are inspired by their journey to Glasgow, Kuriawan turns the conversation to keeper Sulaeman, who was born without feet, challenging perceptions in his own way due to his physical disability.
“He has already inspired me,” says Kuiawan. “He’s a really good person – not just a good player – he’s really confident. The first time I met him I didn’t believe he could play football but he’s great. I hope he can inspire people at the tournament and back home in Indonesia – showing that despite limitations like that you can still do anything.
“It’s good for him, for our team and for inspiring other players as well.”
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Words by Isobel Irvine - firstname.lastname@example.org