Nationalism and Soccer

“Sejak bertahun-tahun, baru kali saya bangga menjadi orang Indonesia” (For many years, I have never been so proud of being Indonesian like today). This is an interesting statement of an Indonesian supporter after the national team beat Bahrain 2-1 last week.

Proud of being Indonesian has been decreasing as the Indonesians look at the current political and economic developments. On the one hand, we may be happy that since 1998 we have enjoyed the luxury of democratic freedom. On the other, the fact that democracy has not facilitated the expected changes (good governance, better economy) is a problem for the nation.

The Indonesian economy may look better statistically. The Economist, for example, praised the nation:
Indonesia's external position is far more comfortable than it was before the Asian financial crisis. Its current account recorded an estimated surplus of 2.6% of GDP in 2006, compared with a deficit of 3% of GDP in 1996. Its foreign-exchange reserves now cover 5.2 months of imports, compared with 3.9 months before the crisis. External debt ratios have fallen dramatically. Furthermore, unlike before the crisis when the currency was pegged at an artificially high exchange rate, the exchange rate has been allowed to adjust with some freedom in recent years, meaning it is less vulnerable to speculative attack.
Those numbers, however, tell less about what most people experience: life is more difficult for many of Indonesians and it means that only fewer enjoy the development – if any.

This is the difficult life experienced by many Indonesian that challenges their nationalism. Look at how the government is dealing with the Lapindo case, the transportation (air, water, and land), the illegal logging, the corruption, etc. How can be proud of being Indonesian in such a way?

The victory in the football match certainly will not solve the nation’s problem, but it can heal the desperate people’s heart. If those football players can contribute in their way to make people love their country; can our politicians do equally in their way?

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