Dhanielle Daphne recalled that she was 6 years old when she noticed her extended family gathering together and staying up late just to watch a soccer game during the 2006 World Cup in Germany.
It made little sense to her then that a group of adults was willing to lose sleep over watching a sport that was made up of two opposing groups trying hard to control the ball for 90 minutes. However, over time, her curiosity grew deeper, and before she knew it she was mesmerized by soccer.
Dhanielle loved to see her soccer heroes, such as David Beckham and Zinedine Zidane, perform their magic with the ball to trick their opponents.
Her love for the sport constantly grew stronger and she felt it was not enough to simply be a fan. She wanted to be a player – an idea that made her parents raise their eyebrows.
“’We think you should reconsider your will to play soccer. It just doesn’t match with a girl’s profile’,” Dhanielle said, recalling what her parents told her when they first heard the plan.
Being a strong-willed person, Dhanielle decided to pursue the sport anyway, joining a soccer academy in Kuningan, South Jakarta.
Her persistence took her far. She was selected as member of an Under-12 team out of 800 applicants, a member of the national team and a member of Drupadi – one of two teams that Indonesia sent to the AIA Championship regional tournament in Bangkok.
A similar story was shared by Nindy Santrika Hagianti of Cilacap, Central Java.
Nindy, a member of local club Putri Wijayakusuma, was selected last December to play at the Bangkok tournament for Anjani, having been recognized as one of the top 16 players in Indonesia.
To prepare for the event, Nindy, a sports trainer at a junior high school in Cilacap, drove eight to 10 hours once a week to attend a two-month training camp in Jakarta.
“I am lucky to have the full support of my family,” she said. “I am willing to do everything to follow my dream: to go abroad to play soccer and hopefully to meet my dearest club, Manchester United, someday,” she said with a smile.
Nindy’s teammate in Bangkok, Lizzetia Awani, who hails from Bandung, West Java, said following her passion in soccer had helped her to find other opportunities. Therefore, when members of her extended family told her that playing soccer as a woman was not good for her future, she insisted on carrying on.
“Initially, it broke my heart to admit that my extended family had a point, that women’s soccer isn’t yet a good and profitable industry back home.
“Looking at it from a different perspective, however, I see other windows of opportunity for me, like applying for scholarships. That is why I insist on following my passion here and fighting for it,” she said.
By participating in the Bangkok tournament, Dhanielle, Nindy and Lizzetia all had the opportunity to advance to the AIA World Championship grand finale in London, though neither of their teams advanced.
Commenting on Indonesian players’ performances, coach Andre Picessa Pratama said the main obstacle was finding time to train all the players, as some of them came from outside Jakarta.
“In the long run, we need to have a domestic women’s soccer league that will ensure there is continuation in improving the players’ skills,” he said.
Therefore, he praised the AIA’s initiative to organize a women’s tournament that focused on scouting and encouraging women to play the sport.
Ideally, he went on, a soccer federation like the Soccer Association of Indonesia (PSSI) should organize a women’s league to unearth local talents and provide a viable career path.
The PSSI is planning to organize a women’s league this year. The association’s secretary-general, Ratu Tisha Destria, told the media recently that the PSSI would invite six clubs to run the league.
Soccer legend Firman Utina had a different perspective on the approach, saying it was the private sector that should take action, instead of hoping and waiting for the PSSI to make the first move.
“Let’s show it to all that that we can gather the best talents. I believe that the PSSI will look for us once they find out that we walk our talk,” he said.
Kathryn Monika Parapak, the head of branding and communication at PT AIA Financial, said it was smart that the company provided a stage for women’s soccer.
“Our sole motivation is to provide time and space for our potential talents so they could reach out for more in the future,” she said.
The PSSI’s regional branches had consulted with AIA regarding some players, she added. “They want to build a team for the 2020 National Games in Papua 2020.”
Not much progress has been made in women’s soccer since the country’s premier league for women, Galanita, ended in 2009. The PSSI tried to grow the game by hosting the Pertiwi Cup in 2006, 2008, 2010, 2014 and 2017, but development is at among its lowest levels ever.