‘Remarkable’ Showing for Indonesian Footballers at Homeless World Cup

The Jakarta Globe

In a country bombarded daily by bad news, a group of former drug addicts and people living with HIV/AIDS did Indonesia proud in its first-ever appearance in the Homeless World Cup.

Indonesia finished in sixth place overall in the competition — essentially street football involving four players per side and a smaller field than conventional football — and was named best new team. The event was held last week in Paris.

The country was represented by a team from Rumah Cemara, a Bandung-based rehabilitation center for former drug addicts and people with HIV/AIDS. Its members spent months raising money to buy plane tickets.

Ginan Koesmayadi, the center’s co-founder, who fulfilled a pledge to walk more than 150 kilometers from Bandung to Jakarta after they raised 80 percent of the funds needed to finance the trip, was named best male player of the tournament. Koesmayadi is a former drug addict and is HIV positive.

“Winning in this tournament is a big deal,” said Rumah Cemara director Ikbal Rakhman. “It can be used to educate and show people that although we are former drug users or people with HIV, we can do something positive such as winning this Homeless World Cup.

“We just hope that with this, society will stop stigmatizing us and give us a chance to positively contribute both to society and the country.”

The Homeless World Cup is a Britain-based movement aimed at ending homelessness. A total of 64 teams consisting of homeless and socially marginalized people from around the world participated in the event, which is now in its eighth year. This year the tournament took place from Aug. 21-28.

In the early stages, Indonesia surprised many people by beating three top-ranked squads, Romania (7-4), Kyrgyzstan (9-4) and Germany (5-4).

After going undefeated to top Group G in the opening round, Indonesia finished second in round two’s Group D with three wins and two losses, a respectable result considering its opponents consisted of three former champions.

Later, the team defeated Ireland 8-7 and played Scotland to an 8-8 draw.

In the final stage, Indonesia had the chance to go all the way to the final, but lost 7-4 to Brazil. The Indonesians then edged Nigeria 4-3 to earn a spot in the fifth place game, where they lost to Chile.

The tournament’s official Web site called Indonesia’s debut “remarkable,” singling out players like Koesmayadi, Sandy Gempur Purnama and Gimgim Sofyan Nurdin as players who raised “plenty of eyebrows” with their skills.

Scotland won the men’s trophy after beating Mexico 4-3, while Kenya triumphed in the women’s competition after a 4-3 win over Mexico.

In 2009, Rumah Cemara won the international “Changing Lives Through Football” award, presented by Ashoka, a group that encourages social entrepreneurs, and Nike to a team that uses the game for social change.

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