Thursday, 9 June 2016

CLASSIC INTERVIEW: Our first interview with Robbie Gaspar (Persib Bandung FC), 4/4/2012

Kieran James, Robbie Gaspar, and John Yoedi @ Bandung, 4 April 2012
Our interview with Robbie Gaspar of PERSIB BANDUNG
By Dr Kieran James and John Yoedi (BUSUK WEBZINE)
Interview: 4 April 2012, Paris Van Java Shopping Centre, Bandung, Indonesia

“I think Persib Bandung fans are fantastic, I have never heard of fans as passionate as here. They follow the team all over the country, they live, eat and breathe football. Win or loss they still cheer on the team. They bleed blue blood here, they bleed football. Hundreds of kids wait here for an autograph after training. It makes you proud; it makes you feel like a footballer” – Robbie Gaspar, PERSIB BANDUNG.

Kieran James Question 1: Hi Robbie, it is great to be able to meet you and thank you to John Yoedi for the introduction. I always hope to bring football and metal/ punk music together because so many people are into both scenes including here in Bandung. However, first of all can you give me your comments about Australia’s A-League and the cancellation of the old National Soccer League (NSL) in Australia?

Robbie Gaspar (PERSIB BANDUNG) Question 1: I think it was for the betterment of Australian football. However, a lot of the boys could not get overseas gigs. Many players had a year and a half break [between the end of the NSL and the start of the A-League]. I think the standard of A-League is very good with players such as Kewell and Emerton. I think they are underestimating the Australian league, it’s an underrated league. It’s going to get bigger and bigger I think. Many of the boys have gone over to Asia.

KJ2: What do you think of how the Australian ethnic clubs were treated such as Melbourne Croatia and South Melbourne Hellas when they were not permitted to join the A-League?

RG2: I’m of Croatian descent, my mother and father. I was disappointed with it but I think [the A-League] brings the ethnic groups together. The fact that the ethnic clubs are still playing in the state leagues is good. We can’t forget about these clubs and their histories. We are a multicultural society [Australia] which brought football to the place it is today. It was difficult at the start. I would like to see them in the A-League. We now have two teams in Melbourne and Sydney. These clubs – Melbourne Victory and Melbourne Heart – should not forget those [ethnic] clubs. They should go back to play against those teams.

KJ: Melbourne Heart played a pre-season friendly match against Melbourne Knights at Somers Street...

KJ3: What do you think of my proposal in my published article that there should be promotion and relegation in the A-League so those ethnic clubs can come back if they are strong enough?

RG3: In time you could have promotion and relegation. However, the salary cap of AUD2.4 million might be a bit of a stumbling block. The owners put in some money and they are working towards a [new] TV deal. They should start with a cup competition to see how the NSL clubs would go in the A-League.

[KJ: Yes, imagine Melbourne Victory playing Sydney United out in the western suburbs of Sydney at Edensor Park on a Sunday night.]

KJ4: How does the standard of A-League football and Indonesian football compare?

RG4: Here the humidity plays a big part and the standard of facilities is not as good. If you give this league [in Indonesia] ten years it will be like the A-League. Because we are so close to Indonesia there are more cultural things we should learn from each other. The people here love football.

KJ5: What do you think of the Clive Palmer case where the owner of Gold Coast United is in verbal warfare with Football Federation Australia through the media? Now the FFA has stripped Gold Coast of its licence.

RG5: I won’t comment about Clive Palmer. It’s disappointing to see a team just disappear – you feel sorry for the fans and the players. First we had North Queensland Fury [gone], now Gold Coast. Many of my mates have lost their jobs. You can’t play football for the rest of your life. For players to be treated like that [yes] it’s very disappointing. The FFA should learn from that [North Queensland case]. We need a new team in Western Sydney; the area has contributed many great fans and players. I think Wollongong, Canberra, and Northern Territory could have teams in the future.

KJ: Yes I was in Wollongong presenting my research paper and people there are quite upset that Wollongong has no team especially given Wollongong Wolves’ success in the NSL...

RG: It [expansion of A-League] should be done slowly, to make sure it’s viable. Derbies in Western Sydney would be fantastic.

KJ6: Why do you think Perth Glory crowds have not been as high in the A-League as they were in the NSL?

RG6: There is so much EPL [English Premier League]. It kills the game because you can watch it live. People in Perth have such affluent lifestyles because of the mining boom and there is a lot of money splashing around. [Furthermore] to take a family to the football it costs over AUD120-130. It is very hard for working-class people. The rivalries between Perth and Sydney and between Perth and Adelaide will take some time. Now with Sydney and Brisbane there is a bit of a rivalry there. Perth [Glory] paved the way for the football now, it’s disappointing to see Perth not doing well. It’s good to see Perth doing well. They should be up at the top. I’m biased being from Western Australia! They were the first one-team-one-city club and they brought the ethnic groups together in a way that has been the model now for the A-League.

KJ7: Perhaps we should have begun the interview with this question but can you tell us the clubs and years you have played for in senior competition?

RG7: Hajduk Split (Croatia) 1998-99; Sydney Olympic (Australia NSL), 2000-01; Perth Soccer Club (Western Australian Premier League), 2002; Sabah FC (Malaysia), 2003-4; QAF Brunei 2004; Persila Tangerang (Indonesia), 2005; Persiba Balikpapan 2006-9; Persema Malang 2009-11; Persib Bandung 2011-ongoing.

KJ8: Thank you. What do you think of the Persib Bandung fans?

RG8: I think they are fantastic, I have never heard of fans as passionate as here. They follow the team all over the country, they live, eat and breathe football. Win or loss they still cheer on the team. They bleed blue blood here, they bleed football. Hundreds of kids wait here for an autograph after training. It makes you proud; it makes you feel like a footballer.

KJ9: Had you had any experience with the Viking hooligan firm at Persib Bandung?

RG9: I have seen some fighting firsthand. I have been in a few riots here.

KJ10: How do you like living in Bandung?

RG10: The people are fantastic, they love their football, [and] they are passionate about it. The traffic’s pretty bad but it’s cool weather, pretty clean, and close to Jakarta. Results [for Persib Bandung] haven’t been so good but I’m optimistic. In the second round we have been doing a lot better. I think I play in the biggest club in Indonesia from what I’ve seen in the last six or seven years.

John Yoedi (BUSUK WEBZINE) Question 11: Robbie, what is your opinion about the Indonesian league situation?

RG11: I want to see both parties work together to find the middle road so Indonesian football can move forward. The fans are suffering. What is happening now in Indonesian football is disappointing. The fans are suffering and the leagues are suffering. The best players can’t be represented in the national league. I feel I’m Indonesian now in a way. I want the country to move forward. They could be in top two in Asia. But now the best teams are split between two leagues.

John12: What do you think of “Along” (Moh Alam Syah) joining Persib Bandung?

RG12: I think he will be a great addition to our team, he has much experience, he’s a good player, he’s a nice guy, a fighter, a winner. He has represented Singapore many times. It will only increase the team quality. We can do better with Moh Alam Syah in the second round.

John13: Why did you choose to play in Indonesia?

RG13: Because I really enjoy it, I feel like a footballer, the people are fantastic. I see the future here. I hope son it will take off. The potential here is it can be one of the best leagues in the world. Here there is a passion; it is like you are playing in Europe.

KJ14: Are you a citizen of Indonesia?

RG14: No, I’m not Indonesian. I could qualify but they should think of nationalizing young players who can give more in the future.

John15: People in Balikpapan compare you to David Beckham...

RG15: I’m 31 now; I want to keep improving every day. I wore 23, I have the similarity. He’s right foot but I’m left foot. One of the strong points is my set pieces.

John16: Can you give me your opinion as to the best players in the Indonesian league?

RG16: Boaz Salosa (Persipura); Maman Abdulraham (Persib); Bambang Pamungkas (Persija); Keith Kayamba Gumbs (Sriwijaya); Miljan Rodović (Persib).

KJ17: Do some foreign players find it hard to adapt here?

RG17: It takes some time to adapt to the culture and the standard of the league. A lot of the Aussie boys adapt pretty quickly, they do alright. We have a network of Aussie boys who support each other over here. The people here [Bandung] are down to earth. Here they are not so arrogant, that’s so very important.

KJ: Not sombong?

RG: Ya, not sombong hahaha....

John18: What do you think of Persib Bandung nowadays?

RG18: Now we are in a transition phase, we are rebuilding, preparing for the second round, and we hope to do better than in the first round. We have been getting better and better. I think we will surprise a few people and move up the table. This team has a good mix of experience and youngsters. The youngsters are willing to learn, not arrogant and not sombong (Robbie smiles). We had to adjust at the start of the year to may new players coming in.

KJ19: Do you prefer first-past-the-post system [top place team on table wins championship] or final round series like in Australia?

RG19: When you play 34 games a season it’s pretty tiring so I prefer first-past-the-post. There was a conference system [in Indonesia] of east versus west and playoffs. That’s how I made my name taking Balikpapan to top four in Indonesia. Everyone was focusing on those games, it was great.

KJ20: As I told you earlier John and I run a death-metal music website here called “BUSUK WEBZINE”. Do you know of any Indonesian death-metal bands?

RG20: No, I don’t know any, [my] apologies, no. Maybe one day I can watch some bands play.

KJ: Bandung is the death-metal capital of Asia, not only of Indonesia...

RG: You can see it here; the people have a style and an attitude. I can see it with Bandung people, they are pretty cool people, [and] I can understand why death-metal is so strong here.

[KJ: Robbie said he would like me to introduce him to some Bandung death-metal bands on my next trip here. I can only hope this is the beginning of a strong relationship between Robbie/ Persib and the death-metal community in Bandung. How about BLEEDING CORPSE opening up for a PERSIB match? I would like to see that! ]

KJ21: As a young player you played for the famous Hajduk Split Football Club. Only Dinamo Zagreb could possibly rival Hajduk Split for the title of the biggest football club in Croatia. What were your experiences playing at Hajduk Split as a young guy and as someone of Croatian descent?

RG21: It was fantastic in Croatia. I learned a lot about respect and how to conduct yourself. I lived with and played alongside the Croatian national team captain Darijo Srna. He is still the Croatian national team captain. To play for that club I supported as a kid was a dream come true.

The late John Yoedi (interviewer) @ Bandung
KJ22: Did you ever play for either Croatia or Australia at senior level?

RG22: I played for Australia under-20s. I was born in Australia. My heart is there. I respect my parents’ [Croatian] heritage. I went for some under-20s camps but never played for the Australian national team.

KJ23: Any future goals and plans especially for life after football?

RG23: Yes, to help Persib win a title [and] to keep playing healthy and fit. I’m 31 and taking it one year at a time. You can’t plan too far ahead. I want to get involved in football in Indo and Australia after I retire. I understand some things of the culture here; I have lived here a long time. I could get involved and facilitate cultural interaction.

KJ24: Are you interested to return to play in the Australia A-League, perhaps with the new West Sydney team?

RG24: It was my goal to play in the A-League but I’m 31 now and I think the A-League’s goal is to produce youngsters. I would never say never in football. Anything can happen. I won’t regret if I don’t play A-League. I want to see out my career in Indo. The people here follow EPL and the leagues of Asia. They are very switched on. We need more international teams coming here and Indonesian teams playing in Australia. Australia should give priority to Indonesia. The crowds here are bigger than in China and we [Indonesia] are closer to Australia. Many Australians go to Bali for travel. People must realize the potential here.

KJ25: OK, to return to topic of music, please tell us your favourite bands....

RG25: Mate, I don’t mind anything, I don’t mind a bit of SKID ROW, AC/DC, hip-hop, R&B. I’m into all stuff. I’m really bad on music [laughs] but I can tell you anything about football. I don’t mind some Indo rock. There are some decent bands. PETER PAN, the one who went to jail, they are a decent band.

KJ26: Your favourite songs of AC/DC?

RG26: “TNT”! I went to Bon Scott’s grave in Fremantle.

KJ27: What is your opinion of how BUSUK WEBZINE interview young, high-school bands from Bandung?

RG27: Give them a bit of recognition, they would love that!

KJ28: How easy was it to learn Indonesian?

RG28: It took me a year. If you persist it’s not a difficult language to learn.

KJ: OK, that’s about all. Thank you very much for your time, Robbie. It would be great if you could meet some of the senior death-metal bands here such as JASAD and BLEEDING CORPSE. On my next trip here I can introduce you. Ferly, the guitarist for JASAD, is a big Persib fan. Perhaps you can do some partnership or collaboration with the death-metal scene in Bandung? BLEEDING CORPSE opening for Persib Bandung? I’m sure our BUSUK readers would love to see that!

RG: Yes I’m interested to meet those bands. Thank you very much for the interview. 
Bandung City (Kota Bandung), West Java, Indonesia, from 17th Floor Ibis Hotel.
Ayyub Anshari Sukmaraga and the late John Yoedi @ Bandung, April 2012

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