06 Januari 2011

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To Malaysia, with love

Dear Malaysia,

I congratulate you and especially your national football team for winning the AFF championship for the first time since its inception in 1996. How outstanding that your team has been recognized as the best squad in Southeast Asia, in football, the most popular sport in the region.
You deserve it!
Forget the complaints of Indonesian players who threatened to walk out in the second half of the first leg of the final at Bukit Jalil Stadium. I think they were just looking for an excuse for their defeat. Lasers, they said, right? What lasers? It was just supporters trying to find a means to celebrate Christmas inside the stadium. Everybody loves watching the lights in the stadium, right?
And thanks to you, the whole world will now refer to any lasers at stadiums as “Malaysian Lasers”. A true-blue Malaysian invention, unlike angklung or batik, which Malaysia and Indonesia share as common elements of our cultural heritage.
Don’t worry about these laser cheating accusations. They will soon fade. The trophy is the most important thing.
We also like the championship trophy that has now eluded us for the fourth time, but we enjoy the game more. We just love the beautiful game. That’s why we didn’t point lasers at players at Bung Karno Stadium. We simply wanted fair play.
We enjoy watching our players with Garuda, our national emblem, on their chest. Oh yes, we composed a special song for them. And we sang it throughout the match because we love the game.
While the stadium has a capacity for 88,000 people, there were around 95,000 fans in it that day. Do you know that in terms of average income Indonesians earn less than Malaysians (that’s why we send more domestic maids to Malaysia, right?), but football tickets here cost five times more than the price you pay. But those Indonesian fans do not mind spending more money on their beloved team.
There were some 20,000 additional supporters wearing the same red jerseys outside the stadium watching the match on big screens, simply because they could not afford the tickets but were willing to cheer for their heroes (and to forget the difficulties of the life they face every day, of course).
Some of these fans find heroes in football players because they fail to discover role models in their everyday life. From them, they learn the true meaning of fairness, determination, inspirations and hard work, exemplary characteristics that they cannot find in other leaders.
Let me tell you how important football is to us: The hike in ticket prices from Rp 50,000 (US$5.50) to Rp 75,000 raised concerns from our President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. He called on our football association, the PSSI, to reduce the ticket prices to the original price because of the importance of football as a catalyst for resolving the nation’s problems. Never mind the skyrocketing prices of chili from Rp 20,000 to Rp 60,000 per kilogram. Chili is the main ingredient of sambal or chili sauce that is a must in every Indonesian family and the impacts of its price increase are serious indeed.
And because the football competition is so important, many fans, especially politicians, love to enter the change rooms of our players. There is nothing wrong with a leader giving our players a pat on the back, right?
We still love our players, even though they failed to win the AFF trophy in 2010. We cannot wait for the next competition in 2012. And I hope you don’t try to defend the trophy using lasers, so our players have a fair chance at bringing the cup home. Promise, OK?

Antariksawan Jusuf,, The writer is a sports acquisition manager at an Indonesian TV station.
Opini The Jakarta Pos 6 Januari 2011