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The Gold Fields Men’s State Under 19 Squad were hailed “outstanding sporting ambassadors for Australia” by the Australian Consul-General for Surabaya during the players’ eight-day visit to Indonesia’s second biggest city.
Chris Barnes was speaking at an official Farewell Dinner for the visiting party at the historic Hotel Majapahit, the symbolic home of Indonesian independence from the Dutch.
The exchange trip took place 12 months after the Persebaya Surabaya Under 19s visited Western Australia for a week.
The Football West team played three matches in Surabaya, recording one win, one draw and one defeat. “Congratulations to the players, that’s very diplomatic,” Mr Barnes joked, before speaking of the unique role football can play in building ties between the two countries.
“It is this shared passion for sport, and in particular football, that the Australian Government is keen to promote. I see Suarabaya as the centre of future sports exchanges between our two nations,” he said.
There were more than 100 guests at the Farewell Dinner, including Vice Governor of East Java Emil Elistianto Dardak, the WA Govt Acting Commissioner Paul Mercer, the CEO of Persebaya Surabaya FC Azrul Ananda and the US Consul-General for Surabaya Mark McGovern.
Football West was represented by CEO James Curtis and Head of Development Jamie Harnwell.
East Java is the sister province of Western Australia and the Vice Governor said: “We do hope that one day, as we all go through our different parts of life, our paths cross and that you consider East Java as your second home. And Persebaya as your second club.”
It could be the first club for one of the WA players if Mr Ananda has his way. “My dream is to have at least one Australian playing for Persebaya … maybe one of these,” he said looking to the Gold Fields squad.
Mr Ananda, who visited Perth with the Persebaya team in 2018, said he was keen to expand the relationship between his club and Football West.
In his speech, Mr Curtis referenced last year’s match at Gosnells FC, when the older Persebaya side put the Gold Fields State Under 15s to the sword.
He said: “I think it’s probably quite important to reflect on the diplomacy which occurred last year … I think we lost 8-0! Diplomacy is fantastic and I’m proud of how this team have been able to carry themselves this week. But also things we have in common, such as pride and passion.”
One of the Gold Fields players, Rockingham City forward Axel Richardson (pictured above), also spoke at the dinner, where a video of their week was played on a big screen.
Football West would like to thank the WA Government’s Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade for their support.