Q&A with Robbie Gaspar, professional football player

Robbie Gaspar played professional football (soccer) throughout Southeast Asia for over a decade including 7 years in Indonesia. Tim Flicker caught up with him to discuss his experiences of playing for some of Indonesia’s most popular clubs and what the future holds for Indonesian football.

Playing for Persib Bandung (Photo: Robbie Gaspar)

Playing for Persib Bandung (Photo: Robbie Gaspar)

Robbie, you played professional football (soccer) for almost a decade in both Malaysia and Indonesia. Could you please tell us a little a bit about these experiences? 

Playing football in Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia was a great experience and something that I will never forget. What a lot of people don’t realise is that football is the number 1 sport in the region and the passion for the game is mind boggling. You regularly get crowds of over 35,000 to league matches and I was lucky enough to play in a final where there were over 85,000 supporters there. I had a few years in Malaysia at Sabah FA. I lived in city of Kota Kinabalu which was a fantastic place to live. It was like I was constantly on holiday and the people were great as well. I also had a couple of stints in Brunei for QAF FC which I also really enjoyed.

My last 7 years of my professional career I spent in Indonesia. I played for Persita Tangerang, Persiba Balikpapan, Persema Malang and Persib Bandung. Persib was by far the biggest team I played for and their supporters the Bobotoh were unreal. They would travel all over Indonesia to watch us play and we would regularly get anywhere between 25,000-45,000 people for matches depending on who we played. My favourite place to live while I was in Indonesia was Malang. The city is set in the hills and it was really relaxed. No traffic jams to worry about and also plenty of great places to eat and chill out. I was lucky enough as well to travel all over Indonesia with the teams for the games so I saw how beautiful and diverse the country can be.

How does Indonesian football compare to playing football back home in Australia and other countries?

I think being a professional footballer is great wherever you play and we have to be grateful to be able to do what we love for a living but in Indonesia they are so much more passionate about the game than in Australia that you feel like you are playing in one of the biggest leagues in the world. Players who come to Indonesia very rarely want to leave because they enjoy playing in Indonesia so much.

Can you describe the atmosphere of the matches in Indonesia? How does it compare to other countries?

The atmosphere of matches in Indonesia is something you cannot describe until you have actually experienced it for yourself. The crowd is continuously singing, dancing and going crazy. They are definitely the 12th man when you play at home. They can also sometimes fill the stadium an hour before the match. Indonesian fans are also very creative with their songs that sometimes you can’t help but have a laugh. Malaysian fans have now begun to sing Indonesian songs at their matches.

Is there any upcoming talent in Indonesia such as young winger Andik Vermansyah we should be on the look out for?

I think their are plenty of great youngsters coming through the ranks like Evan Dimas, Yandi Sofyan and Kurnia Meiga. I also still think the likes of Boaz Solossa and Ahmad Bustomi are still good enough to play at a much higher level if given the chance. The national U/19’s have been doing well and hopefully these players can continue to improve and help the senior national team qualify for the next Asian Cup.

Photo: Robbie Gaspar

Photo: Robbie Gaspar

Why do you think Indonesian players are often hesitant to leave their country and play overseas?

I think what people probably don’t realise is that Indonesians are very family-oriented. By staying and playing in Indonesia, they can do what they love and still be close to their family. Another reason is that the players are also massive stars in Indonesia and you don’t experience the passion for football like in Indonesia in the majority of other countries.

What do you see the barriers holding back the development of Indonesian football on the international stage?

I could talk about this all day but the main reason for this is the people running the game. They are all just in football for themselves and that’s all. Not worried about the players, the fans or anyone else. Just what’s in it for themselves. Indonesian football has so much potential but if the same people continue to be in power than the game will struggle to move forward. Players continue to go unpaid for months on end and when they get injured or sick their contracts are torn up and only given a months compensation if they are lucky, even though they have much longer remaining on their contracts. All parties must work together to see the game move forward and if they don’t I am afraid the game will never reach its full potential.

What is good about Indonesian football and what would you like to see change?

Indonesian players have great skill and technique and the country has an unrivalled passion for the game. The skill and technique coupled with this passion I think Indonesia could seriously qualify for a World Cup within the next 15 years. For this to happen, firstly they would need to change the people in power and bring in people who have the best interests of the game at heart. Then they would need to respect the players rights. Investing in providing decent facilities for games and training for all players so they can develop and become better players is something that also needs to be done because currently the facilities on offer are not good enough.

AIYA Links, 25 July: welcoming President Jokowi


Indonesia’s General Elections Commission (KPU) has finished counting all the votes from 9 July’s presidential election, and declared Joko Widodo and Jusuf Kalla as President and Vice President-elect. Congratulations, Pak.

In the news

Odds and ends

Events & opportunities

  • CAUSINDY: we’ve snapped up Jim Della-Giacoma to speak on defence and security issues at the conference, which will also feature a ‘John vs John’ debate on doing business in Australia and Indonesia with John Riady and John Denton.
  • Canberra, 29 July: ASPI has put together a top notch panel of Indonesia experts to speak about the political and strategic implications of the 2014 elections—all the details here.


Photo above: The Straits Times

AIYA Links, 18 July: counting votes edition


In the news

On the blog

Jobs & opportunities

  • Melbourne, 30 July: business guru Debnath Guharoy from Roy Morgan Indonesia will be speaking at AIYA Victoria’s Basa-Basi public discussion.
  • Melbourne, 6/10 August: Bali-based @DanielZiv‘s acclaimed documentary Jalanan is coming to Australia! It will be shown as part of the Melbourne International Film Festival’s Accent on Asia series.
  • New at the AIYA Job Board: ACICIS is looking for a Program Officer to oversee its new Business Professional Practicum (Jakarta-based).


Photo above: Reuters.

Program Officer at ACICIS, Jakarta

The Australian Consortium for In-Country Indonesian Studies is looking for a Program Officer to managing its new Business Professional Practicum, based in Jakarta.

Information about the program from ACICIS:

In January 2015, ACICIS will launch its pilot iteration of the Business Professional Practicum (BPP), with support
from the Australian Government’s New Colombo Plan. The BPP is a six-week internship program for Australian and international university students conducted in Jakarta, from early January to mid-February each year. The program is designed for students who may not necessarily have Indonesian language skills or experience in Indonesia.

The successful applicant would be employed as a contractor, and should have a minimum of three years’ experience working in the international business sector, preferably in Jakarta.

For more information, download the full position description. Applications close on July 25.

Kelas Inspirasi

Nelson Mandela once said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” The power of education and literacy can be used to eradicate poverty in Indonesia, to educate young generation to have a better future life, and to create a meaningful social participation — shaping our nation towards its full potential.

Photo credit: Martin Philip

Photo credit: Martin Philip

Kelas Inspirasi (or Inspiration Class) is an inspiring social movement where we voluntarily dedicate one day especially to share not only our professional experiences and stories, but also our motivation, with children in Indonesian primary schools. We can choose to become a teaching volunteer, photography volunteer or videographer for the day.

I had been a teaching volunteer in SDN Cikini 01 and SD Menteng Dalam 01 , and fell in love with the extraordinary children there and their tremendous fighting spirit. The unique thing about working as a teaching volunteer in Kelas Inspirasi was the opportunity to share our own experiences about our profession in creative way. For instance, when I was an intern at the United Nations Information Centre in Jakarta, I brought map of the world and flags of diverse countries to engage the Indonesian children in fun yet educative learning environment. And I was excited to see the joy and the eagerness of the children to learn and know more about what it feels to work in the UN. I love listening to their thoughts, their opinions, and the way we could interact with the children are the priceless things of those memorable teaching experiences.

In Kelas Inspirasi, we worked as a team consisting of 7-11 of teaching volunteers, a photographer and a videographer, and together we learnt how to brainstorm crazy ideas to provide the true meaning of reaching dreams for the Indonesian children. Me and my team couldn’t feel happier when we saw the smiles and listen to the euphoria of the children when we create dream walls for them. What is dream walls? We provide writing boards for the children which they can write their dreams on the post it note and stick it into the “dream walls”. On the closing day, we also gave the children lots of balloons where they can put the post it note with their dreams and fly it to the sky. The purpose of “Kelas Inspirasi” is to aspire Indonesian children to be brave to chase their dreams with the sky as the limit. Me and my team also taught important principles in our classes such as integrity, hard work, never giving up, and independency as the foundation of strong character for Indonesian children as they are the next future leaders who will shape our country and the future of our nation.

I learnt a lot of life lessons from the great children whom I met in Kelas Inspirasi, and they taught me to believe in myself in pursuing my dreams regardless the obstacles and the circumstances. I also learnt how every teacher whom I encountered in life is a great person because being a teacher is a very noble profession, as teachers are the ones who shape education development of the nation. I hope we can learn to appreciate every teacher and their immense dedication in making a world a better place. In Kelas Inspirasi, I’m not only got great teammates and friends, but they became a part of my big family who has the same mission to create worthy meaning of shaping the best future of Indonesian children!

To read more about the Kelas Inspirasi experience and how you can volunteer with them, check out their website or follow them on Twitter.

Event wrap: Basa-basi with Tim Lindsey

“Imagine a situation where Indonesia had a larger economy than Japan or Germany”. Professor Tim Lindsey, the director of Melbourne University’s Centre for Islamic law, put this prediction to the audience at AIYA’s Basa-basi on May 30th.

Professor Tim Lindsey speaks with AIYA's Jared Heath. (Photo: Windu Kuntoro, Kopitoebruk)

Professor Tim Lindsey speaks with AIYA’s Heath Jamieson. (Photo: Windu Kuntoro, Kopitoebruk)

The rise of Indonesia, both in economic and political influence over the past decade, and predictions for its growth were one of the focal points of the evening. Indonesia is currently undergoing a huge transformation that will completely alter the region. Professor Lindsey explained that successive Australian governments have done little or nothing to respond to this rise. “We are not adjusting as a nation”, he said. Perhaps Australia doesn’t take Indonesia seriously enough? Or Australia simply does not understand Indonesia? Whatever the answer, now is the time that Australia needs to reconfigure its attitude about Indonesia.

One way Professor Lindsey suggests to do this is through education. Education is the key to deepening the mutual understanding between the two countries. Unfortunately, despite successive governments pledging to invest in Indonesian Studies, the Indonesian departments at universities are suffering significantly, impacting on the number of Indonesian aware and literate graduates in Australia. Politicians’ public rhetoric is never quite matched by adequate investment. There is also a lack of education about Australia and Australian culture in Indonesia.

Professor Lindsey also stressed the importance of a close relationship with Indonesia for strategic purposes. He warned of the likelihood of a military conflict in the future between China and the United States, as China continues to rise and become more aggressive towards its neighbours, including Japan. When this happens, Indonesia has a strategic advantage due to its naval sea lanes. Australia will need to be secure in its regional relationships to ensure its safety.

So what can AIYA friends and members do to contribute and promote the Australia and Indonesia relationship? Keep doing what we are doing. Professor Lindsey declared he is AIYA’s number 1 fan, and that AIYA is an investment in the future of the relationship. While government-to-government relations may experience difficulties, people-to-people links remain strong. Those who have lived and worked in Indonesia continue to have close ties with friends, families and colleagues who live there. This is despite the vast misunderstanding most Australians and Indonesians have of each other.

He also urged to audience not to ‘museumise’ Indonesia. Our idea of Indonesian culture is based on traditional arts such as batik and wayang. Professor Lindsey urges all Australians to embrace more contemporary forms of Indonesian art. Art is an expression of culture and the thoughts and beliefs of an individual or nation. In order to understand Indonesian as a modern entity, and not underestimate it as a passive, backwards nation, Australians should try to engage with the vibrant, modern art forms. He suggests attending the Indonesian Film Festival for great presentations of modern Indonesian film, and cites the Yogyakarta art scene as a an example of Indonesian art that is making waves across the world.

AIYA’s next Basa-Basi is scheduled for July 30th, when we will have a chat with business guru Debnath Guharoy, who is the current chair of the Australia Indonesia Business Council, and a delegate of CAUSINDY 2013.

AIYA Links: election special


Above: presumptive winner Joko Widodo greets supporters at a victory celebration at the Proclamation Monument in Jakarta on Wednesday evening. Photo by @gammonator

The people’s choice

Special offer

  • AIYA members can purchase veteran Asia correspondent Hamish McDonald’s new book Demokrasi: Indonesia in the 21st Century at a special price until 16 July.

How social media saw election day

Yesterday, Indonesia headed to the polls to choose its first new present for a decade. Late on Wednesday, the result was not entirely clear: both Joko Widodo, the governor of Jakarta, and former army general Prabowo Subianto are claiming victory.

Here’s how election day played out on social media, and what we know so far.


AIYA’s own Liam Gammon (@Gammonator) prepared a handy backgrounder before polls opened, outlining the basics of the process:

Did we mention that this election is huge? It’s the world’s biggest single-day direct presidential election, with nearly 190 million voters on thousands of islands eligible to participate. That means that, with the limited resources available to it, Indonesia’s electoral commission, the Komisi Pemilihan Umum (KPU), can’t possibly count the votes on election day like we’re used to in Australia. The official KPU numbers won’t be released until some time after the election day.

So, private polling agencies team up with TV networks to release ‘quick counts’, which are based upon data sent in by reporters stationed at a randomly-selected sample of voting booths. These quick counts are generally accurate to within a few percentage points—but given that recent opinion polls predict an extremely close result tomorrow, the quick counts potentially may not make it clear who has actually won on Wednesday. It may take days, weeks or even months to know the official outcome if the result is particularly tight.

There’s no question: today’s poll is massive.


Voting overseas

Overseas polling took place on Saturday, with expats heading to consulates in Melbourne, Sydney, Perth and the Indonesian embassy in Canberra to cast their vote.


The papers

Here’s a quick sampling of the papers from the morning of the poll — click to enlarge each image.



Getting ready

As with April’s legislative elections, Twitter was abuzz with photos and tweets from volunteers and polling booths preparing for the day ahead.



Many Indonesians had been preoccupied with this morning’s World Cup match between Brazil and Germany. Prabowo’s neice Rahuyu Saraswati Djojohadikusomo, herself a Gerindra politican, attempted to draw a link between that match and the poll: Taking part in yesterday’s elections was simple: voters just needed to puncture (or mencoblos) the name or photo of their chosen candidate:


Polls open

Once polls opened, it wasn’t long before tweets and selfies from Indonesians began to flood in. News channel KompasTV encouraged voters to tweet their photos under the hashtage #PilihanGue.

Yep, it’s selfie day.

Here’s the notorious Julia Perez:

  …journalists with Al Jazeera:

…and our own friends from AyoVote:


A pair of (terrifying) clowns cast their vote in Semarang.

Indonesia’s election agency, the KPU, even opened a polling booth for patients and staff at this hospital in central Jakarta:

  Detainees at the Corruption Eradication Commission also excercised their deomcratic rights:


The candidates vote

Prabowo voted at a polling booth in Bojong Keneng, West Java.


Meanwhile, Jokowi voted with his wife Iriana at TPS 18 in Menteng, close to the governor’s residence in Menteng.

Here’s Jokowi’s running mate Jusuf Kalla, with grandchildren, before he cast his vote:

Prabowo’s vice presidential candidate Hatta Rajasa voted at TPS 01 in Jejawi, South Sumatra:

And because I can’t help myself, SBY and Ibu Ani, resplendent in matching batik at their polling booth in Cikeas, near Bogor:

Polls close

Polls closed quite early in the afternoon, at 1pm — allowing sufficient for polling booth workers to finish counting votes in daylight.


Some of the first exit polls pointed to a Jokowi lead in key provinces:

The Lowy Institute’s Aaron Connelly points to this Reuters article explaining the significance of West Java as a “battleground province” for the two candidates. Not long after, the first quick count polls (hitung cepat) began to appear. Again, many suggested that Jokowi was out in front:

But not all pollsters agreed. Media outlets including tvOne, owned by Prabowo supporter Aburizal Bakrie, called the election for Prabowo:


TV networks used an array of dazzling charts and graphics to visualise the result…

…but behind the scenes, the process was really pretty old fashioned:


Jokowi declares victory

An hour and a half after voting ended, PDI-P head Megawati Sukarnoputri appeared at a press conference claiming victory for her candidate, Jokowi.


tvOne’s attention was elsewhere.

Then things got confusing. Soon after, Prabowo held his own press conference, claiming victory for himself, and thanking the public for their mandate.


SBY took to twitter to warn both sides against claiming victory prematurely.


Jokowi supporters might have missed this memo, however, with a large group starting to gather at the Hotel Indonesia roundabout in central Jakarta.



The candidate himself made an appearance soon after.


In response, Prabowo makes an appearance on tvOne.


The two candidates met with SBY at his residence last night.


Jusuf Kalla and Jokowi and meet with SBY at his residence in Cikeas. Photo: Al Abar/Metro TV

Jusuf Kalla and Jokowi and meet SBY at his residence in Cikeas. Photo: Al Abar/Metro TV


In Australia

The ABC spoke to a number of Indonesian communities in Melbourne. The response to the result at Carlton’s Garage Cafe was close to unanimous:

The ABC also spoke to ASPI’s Natalie Sambhi on the next president’s foreign policy, Roy Morgan’s Debnath Guharoy on the poll itself, Jacqui Baker on the story outside Jakarta, Dave McRae on the future of the bilateral relationship and Kompas TV manager Yulia Supadmo on how the media approached the poll.

Here’s how the expat vote across Australia played out: more than 20,000 votes were cast in total.

This trend appeared to be reflected in expat communities around the world. Here are the results of one exit poll broadcast by BeritaSatu:


This morning’s front pages

Based on a quick (and very unscientific) look through the front pages of this morning’s papers, many outlets — including the respected national broadsheet Kompas — are declaring a Jokowi-JK victory.


Koran Sindo, a pro-Prabowo paper, owned by Bakrie’s MNC group, wasn’t available at the time we published this post.

What happens next?

Right now, it appears both candidates are waiting until July 22, when the initial results from the official “manual count” will be released by Indonesia’s KPU.

For more reading on the results overnight, check out:

We’ll have more commentary and analysis in tomorrow’s AIYA Links.

Who To Watch This Election Day

Indonesia's choice graphic

Today, nearly 190 million Indonesian voters have the chance to choose the president who will replace Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in October. If you’re a political tragic and want to tune in to watch the voting and counting unfold, here are AIYA’s tips for a fun and informative election day.

Kick back, open a cool tehbotol and witness the miracle of democracy at work.

  • Polling stations are open from 07:00 until 13:00 local time—since Indonesia has three time zones, that means the first votes are cast in Papua at 08:00 AEST and the voting stops in Java and Sumatra at 16:00 AEST.
  • Did we mention that this election is huge? It’s the world’s biggest single-day direct presidential election, with nearly 190 million voters on thousands of islands eligible to participate. That means that, with the limited resources available to it, Indonesia’s electoral commission, the Komisi Pemilihan Umum (KPU), can’t possibly count the votes on election day like we’re used to in Australia. The official KPU numbers won’t be released until some time after the election day.
  • So, private polling agencies team up with TV networks to release ‘quick counts’, which are based upon data sent in by reporters stationed at a randomly-selected sample of voting booths. These quick counts are generally accurate to within a few percentage points—but given that recent opinion polls predict an extremely close result tomorrow, the quick counts potentially may not make it clear who has actually won on Wednesday. It may take days, weeks or even months to know the official outcome if the result is particularly tight.
  • All the major television networks will be running live election returns based on quick counts. Try streaming online at Mivo or following the links to ‘Live Streaming’ on the TV stations’ websites.
  • Keep in mind: this Indonesian election has been marked by some pretty shameless barracking from media outlets aligned to one candidate or another. Metro TV is pro-Jokowi, and tvOne is pro-Prabowo, as are RCTI and MNC. More neutral sources include Kompas TV, BeritaSatu, SCTV or the TransTV stations.

Online & social media

The candidates’ official Twitter accounts are @Prabowo08 and @Jokowi_do2.

Of course, @AIYA_National will be red hot with RT’s and updates on the days’ developments, so keep an eye on us!

There are too many great Indonesian tweeps to mention, but those who tweet at least partially in English will include academic @YohanesSulaiman, the Jakarta Post‘s @simplysita, the Jakarta Globe’s @aqbastian, and political analyst @pjvermonte. Keep an eye out on their feeds for RT’s from other sharp Indonesians.

Aussies watching from Jakarta will include @_DaveMcRae_ from Melbourne University, @catriona_cc of the Lowy Institute, @AubreyBelford of Reuters, freelance corro @katieolamb and @mbachelard from Fairfax.

Also make sure to follow @SidneyIPAC and Lowy’s @ConnellyAL.

The Jakarta Globe team will maintain an English-language live blog here.

ANU’s New Mandala live blog will be manned by AIYA friends @Indobaker@RossTapsell and @Gammonator with ANU colleagues @EdwardAspinall, @MarcusMietzner and @Oomberg. The @IndoNewMandala account will also be RT’ing choice tweets from observers on the ground so keep an eye out.

Photos above via Prabowo Subianto on Facebook and @gm_gm on Twitter.

AIYA Links, 4 July: Let’s Vote

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Election news

On the blog

Events & opportunities