Australian state builds football link with Indonesia

Australia’s largest state and the Indonesian province of East Java are combining their passion for football. The Western Australian Trade Office in Indonesia has announced the appointment of a football taskforce to develop people-to-people and business linkages through sport between Western Australia and East Java.

Heading the taskforce is Football Dynamics Asia, a sports development firm with experience in regional development in Indonesia. It will focus on identifying opportunities for regular ‘friendlies’ between Western Australia and East Java representative men’s and women’s teams and between the professional soccer clubs in both countries. It will also introduce Western Australian expertise in sports education, training, administrative, medical, stadia, tourism and related technology and services.

"The State of Western Australia and the Province of East Java signed their first five-yearly Sister State/Province Relationship Memorandum of Understanding in August 1990 and this has blossomed into a multi-sectoral umbrella agreement for long-term commercial and cultural linkages,” said Martin Newbery, Regional Director of the WA Trade Office in Indonesia.

“The agreement facilitates cooperation in economics, commerce, industry and tourism; science, technology and administration; education, culture, manpower, social welfare, youth and sports but, until now, we have not seriously addressed sporting links. Now with Australian soccer part of Asia, and Indonesia probably the most soccer-loving country in Asia, we have a wonderful opportunity for combining health, sport and business with developing goodwill with our neighbours."

With a population of almost 33 million people and a territory of about 48,000 square kilometres, East Java is a national leader in agriculture, commerce and other services, industry and transportation and communication. The province is also Indonesia's football heartland.

Legend has it that football was introduced to Indonesia in 1895, when English schoolboy John Edgar founded a club in Surabaya, East Java and the first post-independence national championship was won by Persebaya FC of Surabaya. More recently, in 2006 the Indonesian Premiership was won by Persik Kediri FC and the National Cup by Arema Malang FC, both of East Java and these two clubs are representing Indonesia in the current AFC Champions League.

Meanwhile, Australian soccer has entered its most productive era following its transfer to the Asian Football Confederation in January 2006. The Socceroos finished the FIFA World Cup in Germany as the highest ranking Asian nation and are considered one of the favourites to qualify for the AFC Asian Cup Grand Final being played at Indonesia's national stadium in Jakarta on 29 July. That game is expected to attract a viewing audience of over 600 million.

Football Federation Australia's new A-League also completed its first and second seasons over the past two years, breaking all records for crowd attendances and television ratings for domestic soccer. Two Australian clubs are competing in the AFC Champions League for the first time and one of them, 2006 Australian Premiers, Sydney FC will be hosted in East Java on 11 April by Indonesia's 2006 top club, Persik Kediri in a vital Group E clash that will be broadcast throughout Indonesia and also telecast live back to Australia by Fox Sport.

"Western Australia is one of the world's great professional football centres," Mr Newbery said. "With two Australian Football League clubs, a team in the Rugby Super 14 competition and Perth Glory FC in the A-League, the sports passion of our State's 2 million residents has endowed it with second-to-none facilities and expertise in sports administration, marketing, medicine, fitness, nutrition, junior development, coaching, refereeing, stadium infrastructure and pitch technology and, of course, football technical skills.

“Indonesian national teams have travelled to Perth for fine tuning before major international tournaments but through this new initiative, Western Australian sports organisations, institutes, educational institutions and businesses may contribute directly to East Java's sports development, from the grassroots upwards."