Distance no challenge for badminton-mad Indonesian followers – Al Jazeera English

Sport has persistently delivered medals for Indonesia because it made its Olympic debut 30 years in the past.
Jakarta, Indonesia – On Saturday morning, when Greysia Polii and Apriyani Rahayu grew to become the primary Indonesian girls doubles group to make a badminton closing on the Olympics the 2 girls’s delight echoed round an virtually empty area.
With spectators banned from most Olympic venues due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been not one of the regular “IN-DO-NE-SIA!” chants, or loud thunder-stick bangs that often accompany the gamers’ victories.
However 1000’s of miles from the stadium, of their homeland, Indonesia’s legion of badminton followers had been thrilled.
Amongst them was Cindy Susanti, 33, a photographer, who had been waking up early to look at each single badminton recreation on the Olympics.
From her house in North Jakarta, Susanti shouted with pleasure as Polii and Rahayu gained an emphatic straight-set victory: 21-19 and 21-17.
“There have been individuals beneath my house unit who additionally watched the match. I might hear their screaming from right here,” Susanti laughed: “They shouted IN-DO-NE-SIA!”
Badminton has an enormous following within the Asia Pacific and Indonesia has lengthy been referred to as one of many giants of the sport, famend not just for its proficient gamers but additionally the eagerness of its followers; a dedication undimmed even amid a devastating pandemic.
Susanti has beloved the sport since she was a baby. She remembers many college students would deliver rackets and shuttlecocks to highschool and play throughout bodily training lessons and break instances.
“I might go to my neighbour’s home to look at the matches as a result of they’d a color tv. Mine was nonetheless black and white,” she recalled, including that she would strive to not miss a single event. Since dwelling in Jakarta, she has made some extent of going to the Istora indoor stadium, the nation’s prime sports activities venue, every year to look at the Indonesia Open.
Being a fan isn’t with out its disappointments, after all.
On the identical Saturday that Indonesia’s girls’s duo made historical past, Cindy additionally watched the seasoned males’s doubles pair, Mohammad Ahsan and Hendra Setiawan, misplaced to Malaysia’s Aaron Chia and Wooi Yik Soh.
“There are occasions when our nationwide groups don’t win as we anticipated however I’ll all the time be there for them,” she mentioned. “I’ll all the time be a proud supporter.”
The nation gained its first two gold medals from badminton – the ladies’s and males’s singles – on the 1992 Video games in Barcelona, when badminton first grew to become an Olympic occasion.
Most of Indonesia’s Olympic glory has come from the game, which is dominated by international locations within the Asia Pacific. Solely 13 of 116 medals awarded within the event have gone to non-Asian athletes.
“Due to badminton, Indonesia may be identified globally,” Broto Completely happy, the Indonesian Badminton Affiliation (PBSI) spokesman advised Al Jazeera.
Completely happy, who was a senior sports activities journalist earlier than he joined PBSI, says the Indonesian badminton group is a supply of nationwide satisfaction.
He remembers the primary pivotal win when the badminton group gained the Thomas Cup, badminton’s most prestigious event, in Singapore in 1958, simply 13 years after independence. Till as we speak, Indonesia has chalked up probably the most Thomas Cup victories, with 13 wins. China is behind it with 9 wins.
Indonesia has additionally gained a number of titles on the All England Championships, the world’s oldest badminton event, the place it’s in fourth place when it comes to general wins with 48 titles, behind China with 85, Denmark on 88, and England on 189.
“In our nation badminton is the one sport that has a nationwide coaching centre,” Completely happy mentioned. “We even have dormitories. So our badminton gamers might practice there with none interruption all yr lengthy. Even throughout a pandemic. All they needed to do was concentrate on their coaching.”
Completely happy places Asia’s love of badminton all the way down to its accessibility and its popularity as sports activities that may be performed by anybody, wherever.
“After I was a child I might play it in entrance of my home,” he mentioned. “Folks generally play within the small alley. Think about if it’s tennis, you would wish a much bigger area, and a greater floor, and a dearer device. However with badminton when the shuttlecocks had been worn out, kids might nonetheless play it,” he mentioned.
Completely happy says he believes it additionally permits Asian athletes to play to their strengths.
“This sport doesn’t want somebody to have a tall or big-built physique. It’s okay if they’re small so long as they’re agile and athletic,” he mentioned.
Indonesia’s badminton lovers usually commit all their spare money to watching and supporting their nationwide heroes.
As a pupil in East Java, Arofah used to save lots of her pocket cash so she might journey to Jakarta together with her two finest mates to look at badminton competitions in particular person, sharing a resort room to make the journey extra inexpensive.
One of many 25-year-old’s most memorable journeys was to the Whole Badminton World Federation (BWF) in 2015.
“Someday we spent greater than 12 hours inside Istora stadium, watching this world-class event,” Arofah mentioned. “It was very value it. Nothing beats the sensation of standing there and singing the Indonesia nationwide anthem with all the stadium. I’ll always remember that.”
Indonesians timeless love for badminton isn’t with out heartbreak. The followers have seen the ups and downs of the Indonesian’s nationwide group, together with in 2012 when the nationwide group didn’t deliver dwelling any medals from the London Olympics.
 
Djoko Pekik Irianto, a sports activities professional from Yogyakarta State College, says it is crucial that Indonesia guarantee there are youthful gamers shifting up the ranks as a way to make sure the nation’s persevering with worldwide success.
“Our nation’s males’s doubles are dominated by our previous gamers resembling Mohammad Ahsan and Hendra Setiawan,” Irianto mentioned.
Ahsan and Hendra at the moment are 33 and 36 years previous, respectively. As of Tuesday, they’re at present ranked second for males’s doubles on the BWF World Rating, behind 30-year-old Marcus Fernaldi Gideon and 24-year-old Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo, who’re additionally from Indonesia.
“On the ladies’s group, it’s much more troublesome [to see new talents]. So, the issue is within the regeneration. We have to discover extra skills throughout areas, to search out skills who can change athletes like Liliyana Natsir and others,” he mentioned.
Irianto mentioned he hoped Indonesia might additional develop its gamers to emulate the success of the Nineteen Nineties.
“We hope that Indonesia might deliver again these glory days once more, so when individuals consider Indonesia, they’ll consider badminton,” Irianto mentioned.
In the meantime, in her home in North Sumatra, Arofah is wanting ahead to Monday’s closing matches.
Polii and Rahayu are again on courtroom and going for gold, whereas Anthony Sinisuka Ginting is in competition for the bronze within the males’s singles.
Sleeping child on her left arm, her cell phone within the different and headphones in her ears, Arofah shall be watching. She simply hopes that quickly they’ll be capable to do it in particular person once more.
“I hope this pandemic shall be over quickly,” she mentioned. “We miss to shout IN-DO-NE-SIA for our nationwide group at Istora.”
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