Barry Anderson went overseas hoping to develop a love for AFL in young Indonesians, but he got more than he ever expected when Indonesia won the inaugural All-Asia Cup.
When Barry and his family packed up their Brisbane home for a year to volunteer with the Jakarta Bintangs, the footy-mad family were leaving a passionate Australian Rules community at the Redcliffe Tigers to join one where the sport is relatively unknown.
Barry took on the role of Program Development Officer (AFL) through the Australian Volunteers for International (AVID) program not only because he wanted to share his passion and knowledge of footy, but also, as he believes, the game teaches life skills such as team work, camaraderie and discipline.
Four months into the job and Barry has developed solid relationships with players, club officials and the local community. “We are building a strong bond together on and off the field “says Barry “to the point where we’re doing extra out-of-hours fitness training downstairs from our family’s apartment each week.”
Australian Rules football in Indonesia is surprisingly strong and the Jakarta Bintangs is one of three local teams playing in the AFL Asia competition against teams including Hong Kong, Malaysia, Philippines and Singapore.
The Indonesia Garudas celebrate after winning the 2016 All-Asia Cup
Founded 21 years ago by expats, the club quickly saw the potential to include indigenous Indonesians and it established a development program. This program has since led to an Indonesian national team, made up entirely of local players from across the country, being able to compete overseas at international championships.
Recently the Indonesian Garudas took out top honours at the inaugural All-Asia Cup in Vietnam. “Winning the Asian Cup was so important because it helps us grow the game here, with recognition, recruiting players and in enticing future sponsors to keep the club going” says Barry, who helped coach and mentor the players. “The team is made up of boys from orphanages and local communities. The win has given them a sense of achievement and belief in life as a whole.”
In recognition of the Indonesian Garuda’s achievements, Barry and co-coach Boy Pasaribu have been named as coaches of the 2016 World Team by the international Australian Football community. Helping Boy develop technical and leadership skills is a key part of Barry’s assignment.
Besides sharing his football knowledge with players and trainers, Barry is helping to strengthen the Jakarta Bintangs’ administration processes and is involved in the implementation of a school football program, encouraging young people to participate in healthy activities. “The kids are so excited and happy to learn” says Barry, who spends four days a week at local schools. “I enjoy seeing their confidence and sense of empowerment showing through.”
Barry’s family has been welcomed into the community whole-heartedly, with his wife Mel now helping the club with media and promotions and also teaching English. Son Matthew this week started at a local school and, as the first Westener ever to attend, proudly introduced himself to his class in the local language of Bahasa.
“Indonesia is a wonderful country and what I love is the beautiful, genuine people who, although may be shy, are very welcoming of our family and make us very comfortable” says Barry. “The friendships we are building are very genuine.”
Barry and his family are in Jakarta until August as part of the Australian Volunteers for International Development program, an Australian Government initiative.