Development of self confidence and life skills through professional football education in West-Papua
By Heidi Scheunemann, MBA
In the Papuan society sports play a very dominant role. Football, volleyball, basketball, rowing, canoeing, field hockey and athletics are the most popular sports in Papua. The most loved one is definitely football, not only for men but also for women. The love of football can be seen all over the province even in remote areas where kids do not have footballs, but have to use natural materials to make their own balls for playing or they use empty cans or plastic bottles. In every possible space and corner children and adults are playing football with smaller and bigger balls and mostly barefooted. Papuans are “crazy” for football. They are very well informed about the Spanish, the English, the Italian and the German football leagues and people are watching as many matches as possible on TV - even in remote areas and even if the matches are shown in the early morning hours at 3 or 4 o´clock. Kids wear football shirts with the names of their idols, like Messy, Henry, Ballack, Ronaldo or Ronaldinho. Most young Papuan football players are looking for a chance to fulfill their dream to play in one of the higher Indonesian leagues or even to go abroad to become a successful footballplayer in a foreign country. Only a few have been given the chance to play outside of Indonesia. The competition is strong – while the support of the Indonesian football association for the development of their potential young players has never been good enough to enable them to compete with the outside world…mostly because not many people in the management are open to ask for and to receive advises – for example from FIFA or experienced coaches.
If we just have a look at the physical anatomy Papuans already have perfect potential to become good football players. Naturally they have stronger bodies than other Indonesians. They also can run fast, they have a high level of endurance and can overcome all kinds of difficult situations because of their strong team spirit. The Papuan football players are usually called the “Brasilians of the Pacific”. In the past - especially in the 1970-1980s - the Papuan players of the football club “Persipura Jayapura” have been well known in Indonesia because they have won many national championships. Besides their physical strengths, the main reason for the great success of Papuan football players in the past was their discipline and strong will to achieve success. At that time coaching football for children and youth was taken seriously. The strong “dutch” educational heritage was obvious through the disciplined aim orientated mentoring by their parents. In that time many Papuan players were selected for the Indonesian national team and became well known stars. Unfortunately in the mid 1980s a decline became obvious due to the lack of discipline, changing of behaviour (alcoholism became a main problem), mismanagement and the bad influence of corrupt officials and players. Even bribery of players became a big problem. On the other hand the Papuan football clubs did not put enough effort any more in the development of children and youth football. Another reason for the declining quality of Papuan football in comparison to other Indonesian clubs was, that the football clubs on other Indonesian islands started to develop better football programs and used modern coaching strategies and therefore were able to compete better. They were even able to beat the strong Papuan teams. Until today Papuan coaches often stick to old fashioned coaching methods and lack the intellectual capacity of making quick and right decisions which would be necessary for having success in playing against teams which practice modern football strategies. Every defeat of a Papuan team was felt as an embarrassment for the Papuan community and instead of supporting their own teams, the Papuan people started to criticize their own players, which even more weakened the self-confidence of the Papuan teams. As a result Indonesian clubs outside of Papua started to take advantage of the growing mental weaknesses of Papuan players and started to provoke the players. Unfortunately the Papuan players often reacted very emotionally and therefore were not able to concentrate any more on the game which resulted in more defeats. Because of their darker skin, Papuans were often seen as second-class people by many other Indonesian tribes and at every away-match Papuan players were insulted in order to destroy their self-confidence.
In the last years the Papuan teams started to give contracts to foreign players which was never considered before. Especially the club in the Papuan capital Jayapura “Persipura Jayapura” wanted to become champions again and the club management realized that this would not be possible without the help of experienced foreign players. Indeed “Persipura Jayapura” became champions again of the Indonesian professional league in 2005 and 2009, but because this success was not only achieved by Papuan players the Papuan people did not feel as proud about their team as they used to be in the earlier years. Right now every Papuan team in the upper league is using foreign players instead of developing better programs to support their young local players. The fact that there are still many Papuan players who are contracted by other Indonesian clubs in the professional leagues is more a result of natural talent and can not be seen as a success of a good children and youth football program. In fact the Papuan clubs do not even provide routine practice for children and youth, because there are no official tournaments for children under the age of 16 and there is also no routine practice for women teams at all. Mostly the boys and girls only come together for practice several weeks before a yearly tournament takes place where players will be selected for national tournaments. The selected players will then receive coaching for a short period of time, will depart to take part in the tournament and after the tournament is over, the clubs send the players back to their villages where they have no chance to get any further coaching and therefore do not have the possibility to improve their skills.
Not providing routine coaching of Papuan children and youth is one of the biggest weaknesses in the development process of Papuan football. Because there is no rutine children league and no women league in Indonesia at all there is also no chance to find sponsors who want to support soccer schools for children. Most young players in Papua never had the chance to receive professional coaching. Because of the fact that Papuans are not well trained from a young age on this Papuan players can only become good average players because of their natural talent and they will never be able to compete in a higher international level even though they have the natural talent for becoming professional players. The lack of professional modern coaching in a young age will always result in a lack of understanding of modern football strategies and the mental weakness of Papuan players which were not given mental support in a young age will always hinder them to become world class players.
As we can all see now, football is very important and plays a decisive role in the present situation in Papua. Success in football can improve the self-esteem of Papuans, who often are feeling inferior to other Indonesians in daily life. Improving self-esteem as a result of success in football will directly influence other areas of life. That means that as soon as Papuan children realize that they are able to achieve success and start winning football matches when they practice hard, routinously and disciplined, they also will realize that they can achieve success in their education, if they listen to the teachers and learn in more disciplined ways. Another reason why football needs to be supported in Papua is that football clubs provide working opportunities. In the coming years a good Papuan football player will have increasing opportunities to get a well paid “job” as a professional player. Due to the fact that there is a rising number of local clubs which invest in good teams in order to be able to play in a higher league, these clubs are always looking for highly skilled players and pay pretty good salaries. Unfortunately the clubs do spend much more money on salaries for foreign players than they do on investing in the development of local talents. This gap of support needs to be closed as soon as possible by providing good quality coaching for young Papuan players through the development of well organized football schools.
Investing in a children and youth football program for talented Papuan players is very promising. In order to reach optimal success there is a need to provide a combination of professional football coaching together with personal character building assistance. This combination can be offered best in a football school environment, where players live, practice and work together day by day under the supervision of professional coaches and under the good care of responsible and trustworthy dorm parents that help the young players to improve in discipline, honesty and responsibility. Also for players that come from remote areas or from very poor families, a dormitory in the city can provide a much better school education than what they could ever get in their village. If the players live in a dormitory then their improvement can be monitored not only in football but also in character issues and in their school education. Long term success in Papuan football will only be possible by providing this support of a professionally organized combination of education, character building and routine football coaching.
Women football in Papua is also very promising. Papuan girls have great potential in becoming international players for their country and have already shown in the past that they are able to compete against other nations successfully after receiving professional coaching. Experiences in the past have shown that when Papuan girls receive good coaching, they can improve their skills within weeks and can even compete against experienced players after a short period of coaching. Even with mostly very short preparation times, Papuan women teams have always been very dominant and successful at any Indonesian tournaments that they have took part in. Mostly they have won these championships without any problems in the last years. Because the Indonesian football association did never support a continuous long term coaching program for a Indonesian women national team, it has happened several times in the past that the Indonesian national football association has offered Papuan women teams to take part in international tournaments instead. Unfortunately the Papuan Football association has also never seen the need for long term development of women football. May be this attitude is based on the fact that women do not have the chance to earn money in a professional league because there does not exist a professional women league yet in Indonesia. The Indonesian football association does not even give any assistance yet to run regional or national non-professional women-leagues. Since they do not feel supported by the Indonesian football association the Papuan Football association is also not aware of the fact that the Papuan women football team should receive professional coaching on a routine basis in order to be able to move upwards on the ranking list of international teams. The women for sure would have much higher chances to achieve quick success in international tournaments than the national men football team of Indonesia, which is facing much stronger competition.
For the Papuan girls and women success in football is important to improve their self-esteem. When they come home to their villages as champions, they make their families proud. After being successful in tournaments they often also achieve other goals in life more easily because they have become mentally stronger. It would be very necessary to provide possibilities for these talented players to receive better education and to give them the chance to get scholarships for further education.
In August 2008 my husband Rainer (holder of a UEFA-B-football-coach-license) and his brother Timo (holder of a DFB A-football-coach-license) were asked to prepare the Indonesian national women football team for the Asian Championship tournament which took place in Vietnam in October 2008. I (Heidi) helped voluntarily in the coaching process. We were only given 6 weeks time to prepare a team of 18 unexperienced young players that did not have received routine practice for years. The players had been selected in two regional tournaments which were poorly organized by the Indonesian football association in July 2008. One tournament took place in the Indonesian capital Jakarta and one tournament was held in Papua. Finally we selected 10 players from Papua and 8 other players were selected from Java, Sumatra and Kalimantan. Although the time of preparation was much too short to be able to achieve success in a international tournament where we would face teams from countries where women already play in professional or at least semi-professional women football leagues for many years (like Vietnam, Myanmar, Thailand, Australia etc.), it was very obvious that the Indonesian girls took their chances to impress the international Media and FIFA. They proved that they have big potential for success in the future if they would only be given the chance to receive continuous coaching. With only 6 weeks of preparation and several players under the age of 17 our young Indonesian team was able to win 3:0 against the senior women team from Malaysia and lost against Laos with only 0:1 because of a penalty which was given in the last minute of the match. Against the professional senior women team from Vietnam we lost 0:4 (the results in the past have been 0:8 and 0:10) but the defeat only happened because of individual mistakes. Even the Vietnamese coach was impressed by the good play of the Indonesian girls. Because we did not reach the semifinal with these results, the Indonesian football association did not keep their promises which they had given us before that they would start with a long term supporting program for the national women-football-team. All players were directly sent home to their villages after the end of the tournament and there has not been any practice for the Indonesian women national team ever since. Until now the Indonesian football association has not implemented any program to improve the development of women football in Indonesia while other nations, such as Australia, Vietnam, Thailand and Myanmar as well as Laos and Singapore are improving their longterm coaching plans permanently and take the coaching-programs for different age groups U-13, U-16, U-19 and seniors very seriously. It is sad to see, that the high potential of Indonesian (and especially Papuan) women football players is wasted because of corruption, incompetence and lack of responsibility by officials in the local and national football associations. The question is, if there will ever be a chance to change the mindset of the people who are in the position to make decisions about the future of football-development programs for young talented football players in Indonesia. It is obvious that a good example has to be given without being dependend on national support. Therefore right now the Papuan girls need support from outside of the country to be able to improve their skills in a football school environment in order to be able to convince the national football association with success. Unfortunately it is Indonesian style that the officials want to see prove for success first, before an association show interest in supporting a team.
A good start would be to support the area with highest potential (which is definitely Papua) and to support the players with highest potential for success (which would be young Papuan girls). There should be developed a middle term and long term women football coaching program (like a pilot-project). If there will be offered professional coaching-programs, safe surroundings (dormitory, responsible dorm-parents) and professionally organized routine football tournaments success in Papuan football will be seen in the near future. A convincing good start in women football could later on stimulate similar programs for boys-teams in all age groups in Papua.
In October 2009 my husband Rainer and I (Heidi) have organized a football tournament for girls from all highschools in Jayapura. From 16 schools which took part in the tournament we have selected 30 girls and from these 30 girls we have further selected 22 girls and have started a new team which is called “Persipura Yunior U-18” and which will officially play for the club “Persipura Jayapura” which presents the city of Jayapura, which is the capital of the West-Papuan province. All girls are under the age of 18 and have good potential to play in national tournaments. It is obvious that several players have the talent to play internationally in the near future. We have started to coach the girls on November 16, 2009. They receive continuous coaching twice a week and they have made great progress already. We won all our first four test-matches very convincingly against a selection of university sports-students (6:0) against the champion of a recent women-soccer tournament (13:0) and against a Papuan team with selected girls from the Papuan highlands (8:1). A great success was the 4:3 win over the team of former women national players and experienced senior players that have played for Papua in the last years in national tournaments. Our team of young girls has shown that they are able to successfully perform the 4-4-2 system and we will start playing against local boys teams in the near future. Our aim is to prepare the girls to win the next national tournament and to prove the quality of talented Papuan girls in football.
If you would like to help us developing Papuan women football, you may send us an email with your questions (Heidi_Scheunemann@yahoo.de) to find out how you could help best. You can also see some photos of the girls on our German website (www.scheunemann-papua.de.tl).
Right now we need donations which will help us to improve the quality of our coaching process. We would like to provide safe transportation for the players, we would love to be able to provide dormitory space for talented players who come from difficult family backgrounds or from remote areas in Papua and we would like to give scholarships to the best players so that they can improve not only on the soccer field but also in their school education. As soon as we can offer dormitory space, we can also train the kids in how to use their God given talents to run small businesses (because I am actually a consultant for small scale businesses in Papua). These small businesses should be able to provide enough money to cover at least a big part of the operational costs of the dormitory in the future and therefore will help to develop a program which is not totally dependend on outside help.
The Papuan kids do not have the possibility yet to change their future on their own, but we can help them to believe in their strengths and we can help them to improve their self-confidence through success in football. These kids need the chance to show the world that they are highly talented wonderful girls and we can help them to improve their skills by providing professional coaching and mentoring. We need to start doing something instead of only talking and complaining and waiting for a corrupt or not functioning system to change. We have to create new opportunities and have to show good examples. The system will never change if we cannot show a convincing reason and a successful example why it should change. Let´s start doing the right thing and support Papuan women football NOW. With your help we can give a good example to the Indonesian football association and will convince them through success in national tournaments that these Papuan girls need to get the chance to play (and win) in international competitions in order to show the Indonesian public that this country can be proud of their wonderful and talented young football players!
God bless you for your help!