Friday, January 8, 2010

The best pitch invasion ever?

I normally view football fans who invade the pitch with utter contempt, particularly in England, where encroachment onto the field is a criminal offence and such acts tend to land the host club in hot water with the Football Association and the police.

But I have to hand it to 25-year-old Hendri Mulyadi, who stormed onto the pitch in the dying minutes of Indonesia's 2-1 defeat to Oman on Wednesday, picked up the ball and went on a searing run down the left wing before cutting onto his right foot inside the box and, unfortunately, shooting straight at the Oman goalkeeper. And all that in 30-degree heat and cloying humidity.

It was a performance that put the Indonesian national team, which has failed to qualify for the Asian Cup for the first time since 1992, to shame. None of the Oman defenders even got close to Hendri as he weaved his way toward goal.

In the end, he was only stopped by an Indonesia policeman who used the sort of neck-high tackle that's not even allowed in rugby.

As I mentioned above, pitch invaders are normally viewed with scorn in England. But Hendri, who says he was motivated by frustration at Indonesia's poor recent performances, has been hailed on websites and in the Indonesian press as symbol of the growing dissatisfaction with the national team and the football authorities.

In an editorial headlined "Hendri, the 12th player', the Jakarta Post even calls for more fans to follow his lead and show their frustration:

"As the 12th player, the public plays an important role in a soccer match. Their cheers and boos show which side they root for. Until the PSSI does something to lift Indonesia’s performance at the international stage, let’s hope there are more Hendris who can vent our frustrations over our soccer team."

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