Thursday 23 November 2023, 12:00

The Indonesian youth coach using the FIFA U-17 World Cup 2023™ as inspiration

  • Indonesia is hosting the FIFA U-17 World Cup 2023™ from 10 November to 2 December

  • Gunawan is a local superfan who travels six hours to watch each game

  • The tournament has provided local fans, coaches, and players with inspiration and hope

When Indonesia was announced as host of the 2023 edition of the FIFA U-17 World Cup™ it marked the first time that a FIFA tournament would come to its shores. Indonesia is the fourth most populous nation in the world and football is the nation’s number one sport, so it has been no surprise to see almost 400,000 fans through the gates even before the commencement of the quarter final stage.

One of those fans is Gunawan, a youth coach from a small village who has been making routine six-hour round trips to watch multiple games, including the group stage match between England and Brazil. “I’ve been waiting since the FIFA U-20 World Cup was cancelled, which was disappointing. But now the FIFA -17 World Cup is being held here and I’m very proud,” said Gunawan. “Straight away I ordered match tickets and purchased official merchandise. I support all aspects of this tournament!” Hailing from Cilandak Lor in the West Java province, Gunawan’s six-hour trips to watch the FIFA U-17 World Cup highlights his love of football, and the importance of this tournament to Indonesians.

Indonesia superfan Gunawan and friend cheer on England and Brazil at the U17WC

Gunawan's game day routine sees him wake-up at 4:30am for morning prayer and breakfast before heading to work. Once at work, he seeks permission to leave early – a request that is thankfully granted each time – and then at 1pm drives three hours to the stadium with his wife and children. As well as group stage games in Jakarta, Gunawan has already booked his tickets on a 14-hour round trip to the final in Surakarta via train, a decision he made without hesitation. “It’s exciting to watch international football, it’s one of the best experiences. Watching football live is better than on television: you can see all sides of the field, you can see the skills of the players clearly, and you can experience the passion better" he said.

Indonesian superfan and friends watch England v Brazil at the U17WC

“To be able to watch together with my wife and children is also very special. The best gift is watching football live, so whether it’s at international or club level I always watch with my family.” When not working or attending matches, Gunawan spends his spare time coaching the children in his village. He is currently in charge of the village’s U10s, U12s, U15s and U17s teams. After coaching for eight seasons, he is using the FIFA U-17 World Cup as an opportunity to learn valuable lessons he can pass onto his players.

Kids pose for a photo at Lapangan Delima football pitch in Jakarta, Indonesia

“I’m not just here to watch football, I am here to study and observe football at the highest level” Gunawan continued. “Then I can copy what I see and teach the players in my village. We can learn a lot from football. First, we learn to compete, but we also learn to be patient and to tolerate each other: that’s what’s important. I focus my players not just on football but their attitudes too. “The children have talent, and aspirations. Hosting this tournament gives hope to children in remote areas of the country and in villages like ours. Even though we come from small communities, we can make the dreams of players come true.”