A coach driven to frustration
Last Saturday (31 Jan) Australia, with one tenth of Indonesia’s population, won the Asian Cup. The Republic failed to qualify. Duncan Graham got a coach’s view on the sad state of football in the Archipelago.
Timo Scheunemann has a missionary’s zeal to spread the word.
He’s already written a bible and now just needs disciples. Though many harken his words, true believers are rare.
So far only a few have discarded their divisive ways to follow him into a new vision of the game where rewards are measured on values beyond money, and where national pride will be founded on results, not rhetoric.
“What else can I do?” he asked. “I’ve even made a video for those who can’t be bothered to read. I’m banging my head against a wall.”
Which is an inappropriate exercise for a man who’s been intimate with agony, and knows well how the body can react to misuse.
Better to head the ball, for Scheunemann, nationally known as Coach Timo through his books, lectures, film appearances and television commentaries believes that football is more than just booting leather at a seven yard gap between two posts.
“It’s also about integrity, morality and building character, knowing what’s right and wrong,” he said.
“It’s working with others for a common goal, finding self, gaining maturity, exercising discipline and self control. It should be about love of the game, not money.
“The question everyone asks is this: How come a nation of 240 million can’t find eleven players to take Indonesia into the World Cup?
“The answer is that there’s never been a totally realistic approach to ensuring the betterment of football. The game faces a forest of problems, with every tree a different issue from politics, to administration, to funding and more.
“It’s not for want of talent. We have amazing kids everywhere. Of course we need government money, but that should be for pitches, not clubs.
“The first line in football’s mental revolution is to recognize the need for coaches – about 400 as a start. That’s understood in Germany, Japan and South Korea, though not here.
“My ideas have been dismissed by senior politicians saying ‘games are won by players, not coaches’ – but it’s the coaches that make the players.”
At this point it’s worth saying a little about Coach Timo’s credentials before the outraged Twitterati starts a campaign to kick this wise guy right back to where he came from.
Which is the hilltown Batu [“thick with soccer atmosphere”], 20 kilometers from his present home in Malang, although he was born in Kediri, about 60 kilometers distant. That East Java pedigree should red card the critics.
He didn’t go to Germany, the homeland of his missionary parents, until he was 15 and where he was ridiculed for his funny accent and lack of vocabulary.
Only his ability at football assisted with his assimilation, for his older brothers were soccer crazy and their little sibling, who’s now 1.9 meters tall, was determined to reach their standards,
After two years and faced with conscription if he stayed, he was back in Indonesia where his language skills were admired – for Coach Timo is fluent in Indonesian and Javanese – “a Mercedes on the outside, but a Kijang inside.”
His self-taught English was good enough for integration into American society when he won a sports scholarship to play and study at The Master’s College in Santa Clarita, California.
After graduating in world history and philosophy he looked set for a future in football, playing in the Indonesian and Singapore leagues as a striker and offensive midfielder. A stellar career loomed when he was tested by The Gills, an English League One team.
Suddenly the rocket man crashed on the launch pad when team doctors discovered a dodgy knee.
“I was heartbroken,” he recalled. “It was devastating. My future as a player was finished. I’d got the injury from running on asphalt when younger. I didn’t have a good coach to warn me and ensure I stretched after games. [He later suffered crippling back pain and underwent surgery.]
“Had I passed the medical I might have stayed in Europe. I wouldn’t have returned to Indonesia, started teaching at an international school, married Devi and fathered two children.
“Nor would I have this new career as a coach. Everything happens for a reason - it’s just hard at times to know what it is.”
Apart from appearing in the 2013 film Soekarno as the Dutch Colonel Hoogeband, he’s also played himself in the 2011 movie Tendangan dari langit [Kick from the Sky]. The drama, conceived by Timo, tells of 16-year old Wahyu who gets talent spotted but faces great odds to succeed.
When he’s not coaching kids, both boys and girls, Timo, now 41, spends his time on schemes to get Indonesian football respected and applauded.
His fifth book Ayo Indonesia! [Come on, Indonesia!] published last year by Gramedia along with a video, offers a curriculum and primer for Indonesian football. Its 300 plus pages are chocker with charts and strategies making it more like a chess manual or battle plan.
On the office wall of the family’s splendid Java-themed house alongside a mini soccer pitch, is a large map of Indonesia. This has been divided into regions where Timo thinks football academies are essential. A businessman in Kalimantan is already backing his idea; others are said to be jogging on the touchline.
The other need is for a coach college. Timo, who got his licence in Germany, said bad coaches do more harm than good.
“A national licensing system has to be developed through the Asian Football Confederation,” he said.
“There are projects here and there but no coordination, no system. Why keep going? My Dad always told me that we’re here to give, not take.
“My insane dream is to get our team into the World Cup. That’s only impossible until it’s done. This would be practical nationalism.”
(First published in The Jakarta Post Sunday 8 February 2015)