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Dejan Antonic, on Indonesian football and Thoir

Dejan Antonic

Dejan Antonic

Football always find new frontiers to cross. In every single corner of the world there are four or five children that are kicking a ball.
Even right now.

Indonesia is the fourth more populated country in the whole world, with almost 240 million people living in this archipelago with more than 17,000 islands! The Indonesian Football Association (PSSI) was born 15 years before the country took the independence from Netherlands: this fact shows very clearly the love for this sport that people of Indonesia has always felt.
The movement is growing up very quickly in the last year. I decided to talk about it with a very important main character of Indonesian football, Dejan Antonic.
Serbian, 44 years old, Antonic has been an important football player, become World Champion in Youth FIFA World Cup Champion 1987 in Chile, with one of the best Yugoslavia team of all time. His teammates were players like Boban, Suker, Prosinecki, Jarni, Mijatovic, Stimac.
After his playing career he started training in Hong Kong, leading club teams and the national team too. In 2012 he leaved the former British colony to start working in Indonesia.
The last 28th October he won the semifinal of playoffs for the Indonesian Premier League with his Pro Titan. The final will take place on 2nd November against Semen.

What about football in Indonesia and its appeal?
“Football here is very popular and it’s the sport number one. The aspect that makes football here different and peculiar from anywhere else in this area is that all stadiums are full for every game. It’s beautiful to play in such this atmosphere”.

What level is the national championship, the IPL?
“Indonesian football is slowly improving, year after year. Many foreign player come to this and many good coaches work here too. Still now their level is not comparable with Europe, but they’re working hard to get closer to Japan and Korea. I believe that very soon they will succeed”.

How did you arrive here?
“I played a long time for Red Star Belgrade and because of that stupid war many of us had to leave Yugoslavia to look for something better. We had many difficulties playing in Europe (I played for Beveren Fc, in Belgium) because of the problems we had in our country. So I decided to move to Indonesia because some of my friends played here and they were very happy! In 1995 I left my country and went to Indonesia: now I can say I didn’t make a mistake”.

Who are the foreign players in Indonesian football?
“Once there was Roger Milla, the star of Cameroon in World Cup 1990 in Italy. Now there are many players from Brazil and Europe. National league is professional, but they need to work hard on many aspects to be 100% professional. They need to improve stadiums and work on youth players development”.

What’s wrong with stadiums?
“We could say they are ok, but they’re not close to European standards. There is some beautiful stadium, like the one in Jakarta (100.000 seats) or in Surabaya (80.000 seats; but some others are in not good conditions”.

How do you feel living in Indonesia?
“Life in Indonesia is very nice, people are very friendly. There are many beautiful places to visit, like Bally and Jogja. I have lived 8 years in Indonesia and I never felt like a foreign because I have big respect from people here”.

Can you tell me something about the national team?
“National Team is one of strongest in this part of Asia: this year, for the first time, we have some good foreign player who plays for Indonesia, naturalized. Indonesia side has a big support from fans, at home as away”.

What do you think about Thoir, the Indonesian tycoon who bought Inter FC in Italy?
“Great man with good name here! My boss is a good friend of him for some works they do together in America. He is very disciplined and professional man: I think it’s good for Italian football to have somebody like him. He’s a really nice man”.

Emanuele Giulianelli
@EmaGiulianelli

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