While much has been made of the exodus of top players from Indonesia over recent weeks owing to the uncertainty of the status of the 2020 season, now cancelled, we should remember there are still a few young players trying their luck overseas even during the pandemic. It has long been a bugbear of ine. Undoubtedly one of the reasons why Thai football has become so preeminent in the region over the last 25 years or so is down to the willingness of the likes of Kiatisuk Senamuang, Therdsak Chaiman and Tawan Sripan to remove themselves from their comfort zone and embrace new cultures.
Indonesian footballers have also done this but all too often they have swapped the nasi goreng of Indonesia for the nasi goreng of Malaysia, hardly the most challenging of culture shocks. No, for a player to be really challenged as a person they need to leave their kampung far behind and embrace a totally alien way of life. That’s easier said than done.
The news the that Asnawi Mangkualam has signed for second tier Korean side Asnan Greeners has to be good news for Indonesian football. The versatile 21 year old was born in Makassar and previously played for Persiba, where he made his debut as a 16 year old, and more recently PSM and has featured in the various national teams since then.
Undoubtedly Shin Tae-yong, the national team coach, has been influential in the switch but we can at least be assured this move will be more for football reasons than anything else. We have seen on numerous occasions in recent years where players have signed for clubs overseas on the say so of club owners looking to burnish their reputations domestically rather than genuinely develop promising footballers.
The news that Asnawi has put the icing on a couple of profitable days for young Indonesians trying their luck overseas. In Poland, Eky Maulana scored for Lechia Gdansk in a friendly while further south Witan Sulaeman scored his first goal for Croatian side FK Radnik Surdulica, also in a friendly.
No one is expecting this talented trio will go on to take their new leagues by storm but there can be little doubt they will grow as people and footballers from their adventures. And hopefully they can act as pioneers, mentors, to other young players who are unsure whether they should try their luck overseas or have a domestic career where they are shunted around the country from club to club at the whim of rapacious club owners.