The World Cup 2014 has just finished, leaving behind loads of intense emotions, screams, sleepless nights, tears of happiness (or anger) and tones of beercans and pizza boxes. Most of all though, it showed again the indisputable magic of sport and the impact it can have on a life of an average person, regardless of gender, age or nationality. There is very few other things able to go so deeply to the bones and to take control over minds and hearts so easily, as sport is.
Indonesia is proudly claimed to be a country, where sport as an activity is strongly incorporated in peoples' lives on the grounds of the essential philosophy (balance between the mind and the body), rituals and performance (dance activities) and self-defence (tradition of pencak silat). On top of that, Indonesians are truly passionate about sports events and tournaments on the local and international level and show their interest through active cheering and online support for their favourite teams and players (i.e. Indonesians were the most active commentators from Asia on World Cup in social media, top 5 sport pages on Indonesian Facebook are dedicated to: 1.Christiano Ronaldo, 2.Manchester United, 3.FC Barcelona, 4.Real Madrid, 5.Leo Messi)
The most popular and beloved sports discipline in Indonesia is...surprise – football. A senior official at the Indonesia National Football Association stated, 'if you can control football, you are half way to controlling Indonesia'. Indonesian domestic league is known as 'Indonesia Super League' and gathers all major local clubs representing various regions from all around the Archipelago. Some of the important teams include: Persija Jakarta, Persib Bandung, PSM Makassar and Arema Malang. Taking a look back, the football league started here in 1930 and Indonesia was the first Asian team qualified for the FIFA World Cup in 1983 as Dutch East Indies. On the continental level, there are some ups and downs as Indonesia usually makes it to the Asian Cup, but is unable to move beyond its first stage.
Football is being played, watched and cherished across the country: on stadiums, on the streets, in video games, everywhere. Well-scoring players automatically gain a celebrity status and a special place as, quoting president Yudhoyono: 'football players are like modern warriors, who compete for the glory of their countries'. Football is also an important part of schooling curriculum, especially with its indoor variation – futsal, which can be played regardless of the weather conditions and with the fewer people on the field.
The second most valuable sport in Indonesia is badminton. Discipline introduced by the British in the early XIXth century has been gaining popularity ever since. It was probably because it's quite cheap and easy to play. In contrast to football, throughout the years Indonesia has enjoyed some incredible success in badminton. Starting from 1992, when badminton has been included in the Olympics, the Islanders have been winning gold medals continuously until 2012.
With no doubts, badminton as a discipline is highly valued in the country. There is a lot government and private investments in supporting young talents as well as senior players by providing them National Training Centres (PELATNAS) with intensive coaching and professional development plan. Every Indonesian player's dream is to win one (or all :) of the major badminton tournaments such as: Thomas cup, Uber cup and Sudirman cup.
And why badminton turned out to be so successful in Indonesia? The usual answer from the locals is: 'if you are Indonesian, you can't help but to love badminton. It's how it is'.
At this point, don't be misled by the impression that in the Archipelago everything is about football and badminton. There is a lot going on around basketball, pencak silat, and recently rediscovered golf and cricket. Yet another story is the water world with all its great disciplines admired and practiced by locals and tourists with equal enthusiasm like surfing, water skiing or kite surfing.
We promise to keep the sports story going, but now... it's the high time to go out!
Go, kick some ball, get some rockets, play a game!