Since the semi-official formation of the Jakarta Bintangs (Bintang means ‘star’ in Indonesian, i.e. the All Stars; but also happens to be the name of a popular local brew), the Bintangs have trained sporadically and played irregularly. But things were not always so good! Football of the Australian variety had been played on a social basis on the ISCI soccer/rugby pitch annually on or around the 26th of January for a number of years, but no real organisation existed. The lack of any TV coverage, and not everyone had access to Australian newspapers (the Internet was almost unheard of), meant that the occasional game, transported on video tape by TNT, was occasionally watched, long after the result was known, in bars around town or at someone’s house. Grand finals however were a different matter with the ANZA Ladies usually organising a function at one of the well frequented places of cultural exchange where the Australian telecast could often be picked up by some of the bigger satellite dishes. Cynics suggested that as it was the only time that the Ladies got to accompany their Menfolk to such places of dubious repute, they tended to make a day of it. Thoughts do go back however to about 1991 when midway through the second quarter the picture descended into darkness, the sound grew dim, and the 50 or so rabid supporters, by then well-armed with the local throat medicine, were forced to huddle around one or two very small radios to listen to the rest of the game. Spirits were not diminished however and the yelling and screaming continued on well into the night. Way back in 1993 ATVI was showing the VFL and the Wagga Wagga thirds on their Saturday afternoon sports slots, and whilst this certainly appeared to be football, some had a yen for better things. On the 5th of April 1993 a Mr. Rick Trewavas, sometimes referred to as ‘that bucket mouth from Country Woods’ convened a meeting of the supposedly interested in the Sportsman’s Bar to discuss the possibility of setting up a football club. Sadly only Rick and your scribe here turned up and after waiting for 4 hours, and partaking of a few ales (it would have been rude not to), we decided – Now may not have been the appropriate time. If you think the recent hullabaloo about ATVI broadcasts is a first, then again you are sadly mistaken. Unhappy with the quality of football being dished up each Saturday, the water-carrying implement from Country Woods personally sent 65 facsimiles to the powers that be at ATVI and encouraged others to do the same. The result was the AFL coverage that we have all been privileged to watch over these past few years, and which has contributed in no small way to the enthusiasm, interest and drawing power of the Bintangs.
Stories of football being played in other South East Asian countries trickled in via carrier pigeon but it wasn’t until B.C. (Bruce’s Coming) that the Bintangs moved from being a post 20 beer discussion point to a morning after “Did you mean what you said last night about training?” reality. Bruce Morgan arrived in Jakarta in mid-1995 from Singapore where he had been a part of the administration of the Wombats and within a few short days had amazed everyone with his ability to talk a lot about setting up a football club. Bruce certainly had help in setting up the Bintangs, but will be remembered as the founding father and the energy behind that first structure. He is more fondly remembered by opposition teams as being able to kick at right angles with either foot, but mostly when standing 20 metres from goal, dead in front. Bruce’s first mistake was handing out questionnaires in an attempt to obtain market statistics about interest and available footballing talent. Given that he mostly handed out and received back these well-thought-out surveys in bars, clubs and discos, he invariably got back – Favourite position – ‘Missionary’; Favourite colour – ‘Brown’; Preferred training night – ‘Friday’; Preferred training venue – ‘Sportsman’s/Oscars’. Even his ‘Please circle preferred contact points’ beneath the personal details section elicited a few anatomical drawings with preferences marked. The responses regarding age and weight seemed mostly only for comedic effect as reality was evident in the size of the love-handles of the respondents and receding hairlines were stark testimony to the ability of expatriates to make economical use of the truth in any good story. Learning slowly from experience, Bruce scheduled our first training sessions so as not to break the umbilical cord – the Police soccer pitch about 40 metres from the Sportsman’s Bar. This proved reasonably successful and many rehydration sessions and Sunday lunches were enjoyed after training, in the comfort of familiar surroundings.
As in all good democracies, Bruce decided that we should hold a meeting, elect him President and appoint a few people to do the work. This Alternative Democracy (A.D.) at least focused those with new found responsibility on putting together some kit, making up some flags, painting some bamboo for goal posts, etc. In search of facilities to match our prodigious talent, and even larger egos and waistlines, training moved around somewhat with sessions on the hockey pitch, the National archery practice area, soccer grounds in Senayan, the ISCI rugby pitch, Tanamur, JJ’s and BATS.
Our first international game was played against the Singapore Wombats in October 1995 at the Cibubur Cricket Ground, with the Singapore Wombats giving the Bintangs a thorough hiding (21.16.142 to 5.8.38). The Wombats presented themselves as a fit, fast running side that obviously trains and plays quite a lot. At the very least they all had the same coloured football guernsey on, and for the most part matching shorts and socks. The Bintangs had gone the whole hog and t-shirts with ‘Save the Sumatran Tiger’ on the front (still not sure where they came from!) and ‘Jakarta Bintangs’ printed on the back were as good as we looked. Despite the alcoholic fog induced by the copious amounts of ‘Bintang’ consumed on the previous night (this has now become part of the Jakarta Bintangs match strategy), the Wombats belied their adopted name on the field (but certainly lived up to it in table manners and horticulture off the field)!
Bigger things were hoped for in 1996 however, the 1996 Australia Day game did not occur for various reasons, then the planned tour of Christmas Island in July 1996 had to be cancelled because of flight non availability. Nevertheless training continued sporadically and with the odd intra club game at ISCI, often under lights to escape the thirst provoking sun of the Indonesian paddy field, enthusiasm grew, as did the word that the Bintangs had arrived. A Rebels Cricket Club versus the Rest game was practice for the second International game of Australian football in Jakarta in November 1996. Now playing in our Essendon-look-alike red and black jumpers and attractive hip-hugging red shorts, the Bintangs certainly looked like a team to drink with. Singapore came back in November 1996 to taunt Jakarta after their previous big victory, but the Bintangs had been practicing in bars and clubs for this one and put in a very respectable performance to hold the Wombats to 9.8.62 while registering 5.4.34. The game was again played at the Cibubur Cricket Ground on a day subject to the whims of Jakarta’s famous Wet Season. However the temporary lake formed at one end of the ground and the discarded building site carpet covering the artificial turf cricket wicket did not stop the ball wobbling towards the makeshift bamboo poles painted white specially for the occasion. Later in November 1996 several of Her Majesty’s Rubber Ducks visited our shores and a Bintangs team was hastily assembled. A little undermanned compared to the selection available from the Rust Buckets, the moving picture shows and pierced body parts threw the Bintangs off their game. After trailing by 13 points at three quarter time, but being assured by Captain Morgan that ‘they’ll die in the last quarter’, we discovered that whilst they had all been on-duty the previous night, mostly on-ship, we had, as usual, been on-the-nest, on-the-piss, on-barstools, on-on, and we eventually lost 10.6.66 to 15.13.103 after a tired display in the final quarter.
In January 1997 the Bintangs gathered on Australia Day at the International Sports Club of Indonesia for an intra club game to mark this celebrated day. Some 25 players participated and about 25 spectators watched, drank and supported what in the end was a state of origin match. The Vics had a lead of 8.5 to 1.7 at half time over the Legends (rest of the world) and eventually ran out comfortable winners 13.6.84 to 8.10.58. June 1997 saw a return to International Footy with a visit from the Tigers of Malaysia. The game was played at Cibubur but this time on a much bigger expanse, albeit that there was a Scout Emblem/statue about 10 metres in from the boundary on one wing and a cemented-in flagpole in the middle of the other wing. Some 27 persons played for the Bintangs on that day and we even managed an article in the local press. The visitors were slightly undermanned but lead the Bintangs a merry dance in the first quarter. However the relentless pressure (mostly from the Tigers’ headaches as a result of the previous night’s training and game strategy meetings) saw the Bintangs register their first International victory 15.9.99 to 8.8.56. This game was also marked the debut for the Bintangs of His Rotundness – The Big Rooster, or as he is sometimes known El Presidente Julian Clarke. The fact that he has also ‘debuted’ for almost every other team in Asian football, has not been lost on the current Bintangs selectors. Now eager for more competition, but tempered with the desires of the flesh, an invitation was accepted to visit the Bali Geckos on the 11th of October 1997. This was the Bali boys’ first game and with a mixture of rugby skills, surfie balance, suntans and high octane energy, they put up a good show, eventually succumbing 18.8.116 to 12.9.81 to a pretty impressive Bintangs side on the day (even if the major goal kicker was a rugby-playing loaner from the Bali Boys). The Java-Bali Australian Football Cup was created for the occasion and it headed back to Jakarta. The Tigers were obviously stung by their defeat in June and/or had such a good time off the field, that they pooled their pocket money for a return visit on 25 October 1997. The Bintangs now being a fit unit and having just played and won in Bali were riding high and ready for anything. This time we played at the British School (any reference to how far it might be from Jakarta would only misrepresent that it is actually in the middle of nowhere), on a paddock especially trimmed for the occasion. Not as many players actually found the ground this time but the Bintangs still ran out comfortable winners 14.6.90 to 6.4.40, controlling the game from start to drinks.
An intraclub game was organised on Australia Day with around 25 players attending and participating in a 10-a-side game at ISCI followed by much drinking and commitment to ‘doing this more often’, ‘training every Sunday’, ‘personal fitness programs’, ‘I used to be much better’ and other such crap that generally surfaces after 25 beers. At this stage a Mr. Steve Mangan, occasional whistle man (i.e., he is an umpire but only occasionally uses his whistle), started a formal footy tipping competition. This not only raised the level of interest in Australian Football but because of the internet and other wonderful technological advances meant that former players, ladies and even Pommie bastards could also be involved in our great game. Bali obviously saw some promise from the first game and it was with much enthusiasm and taunting from their Mucho Loco Captain, Greg Hinchliffe, that the Bintangs were invited back to Bali in July 1998 with assurances that we would get a good game. True to their words, the Bali boys had been practicing more than surfing and had even snared Quicksilver as a sponsor. The game was promoted on the ATVI football show with Dale Lewis initially favouring Bali but Nick McArdle better serviced by a slick Bintangs organisation which saw him decked out on TV in our fashionable and rather attractive, red Bintangs t-shirts, complete with stubby holder. The match was indeed a close encounter with the Geckos going in very hard in an effort to throw (literally) the Bintangs off their game. The Bintangs stood tall however and took control in the final term to run out winners 10.18.78 to 9.8.62. August 1998 saw another hastily assembled team take on the pride of Australia’s Flotsam in a three-team round robin event. The Bintangs won the day however and drinks were had well into the night. The tournament was notable for the goal kicking spree of founding father (since removed to Sydney) Ben Giles, who managed to kick 7 goals in one match (and believe me, we don’t let them go on for very long in this heat)! Grand Final day 1998 saw the culmination of the combined efforts of a dozen people who put together an extravaganza that any AFL side would have been proud to be associated with. Some 500 people gathered at the Regent Hotel Jakarta from early morning to watch the 1998 AFL Grand Final, with TNT our major sponsors. Nick McArdle, Dale Lewis and Dave Lennon from the ATVI Footy Show, plus Jack Daniels of St Kilda, came as guests and entertained the crowd, as did an auction and raffle that raised money for ANZA and charity, as well as putting a bit in the Bintangs’ account to fund the purchase of new footy gear.
Once again an intraclub game was organised on Australia day at ISCI with the usual 10 per side formation. Once again the usual excuses were trotted out as to why some could not attend and the same promises to get fit, come to training, be on the committee, stay off the grog, buy new boots, etcetera, et al, during the drinks after the game. Nevertheless a good time was had by all and we stumbled forward to the prospect of a new AFL season. Rumours that ATVI may not broadcast AFL matches in 1999 were met with disbelief, nae, horror, and the Big Rooster and others were quick to garner support from all and sundry to bombard the AFL and ATVI with faxes, emails, cards, letters, cartons of VB, sob stories (‘my aged grandmother lives in Jakarta and Doctors have said that if she doesn’t watch at least…’, ‘ I am a senior executive with a major Australian corporation and the stress, the stress, if I can’t watch footy…’). In the event, the footy is on the telly, and footy around Asian has the drawcard it needs to continue to survive and attract interest, thanks to everyone’s efforts and the executives at the AFL and ATVI. The Bintangs had peaked in the second half of 1997 and with the players, fitness and confidence were looking forward to a return match with the Wombats however this did not eventuate (rumours they had heard of the Bintangs prowess still circulate). When the Wombats did finally come back to Jakarta on the 10th of April 1999, a number of the stalwarts of the club had left and with much reduced expatriate numbers because of the Indonesian crisis, the Bintangs initially seemed to be undermanned. However with our first Indonesian players, Cahyana and Andi, PNG Ambassador Tas, and a number of first gamers, the player availability suddenly went up and after a few training runs confidence started to soar. On the day the Bintangs were patchy and a poor third quarter saw the Wombats take the lead. Starting 7 points down, the Bintangs came home on a wave to win 9.10.64 to 9.7.61. The euphoria of beating Singapore, the benchmark we had set for ourselves, was short-lived however. Having not been beaten for two years and with a new coach and even newer designer guernseys in form fitting Lycra, the Bintangs headed for Bali reasonably confident of retaining the Java-Bali Australian Football Cup in July 1999. A supercharged and very fit Bali Geckos took the game right away from the Bintangs, running out easy winners 23.15.151 to 7.12.54. Her Majesty sent another armada in August 1999 and a game was quickly organised the week before the planned Singapore tour. Ostensibly a good excuse for a run, initial feelings were that three Oz ships should be able to put out a reasonable team. Actually the sides were pretty even with the Bintangs restoring pride with a victory, 10.9.69 to HMS Brisbane 9.9.63, after a second half fade that allowed the Ol’ Salts to close the gap. August 1999 saw the first real overseas tour (Bali is still part of Indonesia isn’t it?) to Singapore after they had visited us three times. The Bintangs held the Cup but on home turf the Wombats ran out easy winners in a game that was fairly even apart from the kicking for goal 12.6.78 to 5.12.42. So, from claiming to be ASEAN Champions to holding only the Modern Cup (competition with Malaysia), the mighty Bintangs have fallen from our self-constructed pedestal.
The Bintangs home ground is now the Cibubur oval/square which is also the home of the Ceylon and Rebels Cricket Clubs. The ground is set in a Scout complex approximately 10 kilometres from the Jakarta city limits and has an artificial turf wicket which is covered with carpet during games. It is about 135 metres long and 90 metres wide, small by Aussie Rules standards but aptly suited to the kicking and fitness standards we possess. The ground is well grassed with changing area/toilets which sit on a hill at one end of the ground providing a panoramic view of proceedings from which to view and dispense vast amounts of football wisdom (whilst having easy access to the bar). The posts are 6- and 7-metre bamboo poles painted white and the ground is marked to suit our tactics on the day.
Whither to hither?
As we look back on what has been achieved it is comforting to know that gone are the days when our ruckmen change on the bench – literally sharing the only large size guernsey in our kit! The money we have spent on fixing up change rooms and toilets at Cibubur, plus our new kit, should see the Bintangs well placed as a tour venue, and we continue to solicit visits from foreign teams. There are many teams now claiming to be South East Asian Champions following defeats of the Singapore Wombats, for long the yardstick by which others rated their aerial-ping-pong-in-the-tropics. The Bintangs’ win over the Wombats was preceded by Bali beating them by 2 points and was followed by Brunei beating them in Singapore. Following Big Julie’s self-appointment as the Big Buana of the Asian Australian Football League, there is talk of a Football Festival to be held in Jakarta (Cibubur and surrounds) in October 1999 (depending on the security, etc. in Indonesia/Jakarta) to find a fitting Champion. It is hoped the teams from Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Japan, Hong Kong, Brunei and China will attend. There is also the Arafura games and the Bintangs would dearly like to send a team, however as the competition continues over a full week, a few heart-strings start to tear (and few bosses start to weep) and we will probably only be able to contribute players to a combined side. Training is ad hoc, as is the schedule of games, however interest is high (even if numbers are slightly down because of the crisis in Indonesia) after the relative feast of football over recent years. Future games will be scheduled as worthy opponents are located (i.e., any team that will come to Jakarta to play us). With new Coach Leo Crohan and new kit, big things are hoped for.