Football donation puts Aceh team in winning mood

Practice makes perfect, and that has certainly been the case for the Aceh football team on the Indonesian island of Sumatra. Using 80 top-quality footballs provided by the United Nations Development Programme, Nike and MercyCorps, the team has practiced its way to success and recently won the qualifier in Jakarta for the National Sports Championships (PON).

The donation of the 80 footballs to the team was in partnership with MercyCorps Canada and Nike, and distributed by the Office for Youth Affairs and Sports (Dispora) Aceh. It’s part of UNDP’s ongoing donation of 50,000 footballs to community football clubs, barracks, schools and university clubs in 21 districts across Aceh, and it represents UNDP’s aim to resuscitate sports in Aceh post tsunami.

The Aceh football team’s final game saw them take a 3-0 win over the team from Palembang, South Sumatra. Their victory is a result of hard work from the team’s 25 players, all aged between 18 to 21. They were selected by the Aceh Football Association (PSSI) from different clubs across Aceh in March. Their success means that the team will compete at next year’s National Sports Championships in East Kalimantan, held once every four years.

Jafar Sidik, UNDP Livelihoods Programme Assistant, explained: “Having the right equipment when training for a sports competition is vital. UNDP donated the footballs for the team to increase their spirit in winning the competition, and as a means to help reduce tsunami-related trauma. UNDP remains serious about developing sports in Aceh, and it’s great to hear about the team’s success. We wish them all the best for next year’s big game!”

One of the team’s players is 18-year-old Agus Mulyadi. “I’m so happy to win this competition, as we had to beat six other football teams,” he said. “I dedicate this victory to my father. He died 10 years ago, but when he was alive we used to play in our village park. I promised him I’d be a good footballer, and take care of my sister and mother. So when I play, I play for him.

“Before joining the team, I played with my village soccer club for many years. I believe God opened a door for me to come to this soccer team through the tight series of selection games. When I first met the team three months ago, I knew it would be a great place for me to develop as a person. The other team members and I play soccer twice a day, so it challenged me to grow as a young professional soccer player as well. Having proper footballs to play with made a lot of difference.”

Qamaruzzaman Haqny, PSSI Secretary, said: “I’m so proud of Agus and the team, as they gave it their best throughout the competition. But the hard work is not over, as they still need to practice hard for next year’s national championship. We really appreciate and thank UNDP, Nike and MercyCorps for their support. Bravo for the team!”