Sunday 16 January 2022, 10:00

Young Dwi dreaming big with Indonesia

  • Indonesia ended a 33-year wait by reaching the 2022 AFC Women's Asian Cup

  • Octavianti Dwi scored the goal that sealed their return to the Asian finals

  • Winger dreaming of an unlikely spot at the 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup

Indonesia enter Thursday's 2022 AFC Women's Asian Cup aiming to continue their newly rediscovered form on the continental scene. Rudy Eka Priyambada's side emerged as one of the biggest revelations of last September's qualifying campaign, beating Singapore 2-0 over two legs to book passage to the Asian finals. By doing so, the Southeast Asians ended a 33-year wait, having not participated in the continental showpiece in 1989. Having spent over three decades in footballing wilderness, the Putri Merah Putih arrive in India seeking to rebuild their credibility, as midfielder Octavianti Dwi told "Even now I can't believe that we really did it and qualified," said the 23-year-old, who scored the match-winning goal in the decisive second leg against Singapore. "It was indeed a long journey for us to reach the Asian finals. We defied all odds in the process - including the challenges posed by the pandemic - to realise our goals. " With India 2022 doubling as the continent's qualifiers for the 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup Australia/New Zealand™, Dwi has added motivation to qualify from an Asian Cup group that also includes Australia, Thailand and Philippines. "Playing in a Women's World Cup qualifier is such a dream for every one of us," she continued. "We are in the qualifying campaign and we aim to showcase what we are capable of. We will compete against the best teams of Asia. “Personally, I will try to focus on my play, to learn from my mistakes and to help our team. I hope we can progress from the group stage and then we can think of new targets."

Octavianti Dwi of Indonesia in action

Rising star

A little-known figure before last year's Women's Asian qualifying, Dwi rose to national prominence after the team’s successful progression. The young attacker had excelled throughout, and was rewarded when she broke her international duck with the all-important goal against Singapore. Indonesia entered the group campaign as underdogs but with the withdrawal of favourites Korea DPR and Iraq, it left them facing a winner-takes-all meeting with neighbours Singapore. It was an opportunity they grasped decisively, with Baiq Amiatun striking the only goal in the first leg and Dwi stepping up in the second. “It was my first goal for the national team,” she said, reflecting on that memorable moment. “Rani Mulyasari sent a corner from the right into the Singapore area where Baiq Amiatun and Zahra Muzdalifah were waiting. Behind them were captain Ade Mustikiana and Viny Silfianus. “As the left-winger, I was asked [by our coach] to lurk in the right of the area. Both Baiq and Zahra's headers were blocked by the Singapore goalkeeper and then Viny was denied as well. But the clearance fell into my path and, seeing the goalkeeper was on the right side of goal, I was able to hit a left-foot shot away from her and into the net.”

Octavianti Dwi of Indonesia (2nd right) celebrates with team mates after scoring Singapore

Hailing from a sports-loving family, Dwi spent years during her childhood practicing pencak silat (Indonesian martial arts). She didn’t start playing football until the age of 14, when she was persuaded to switch to the beautiful game by a local female coach. Despite being a late starter, Dwi made fast, progress playing with Srikandi Mataram from 2014 before moving to Putri Arimbi Yogyakarta in 2018. That year saw her receive a first national team call-up, although she failed to make to the final squad for the 2018 Asian Games. “I was disappointed not to be selected in the final squad but I was aware that I was not good enough. I worked harder in the following years and made to the team for the Asian Cup qualification. Looking back, I never regret choosing football in preference to other sports because it is this game that has brought me all the way to today's level.”

Inspiration from her idols

Two football icons - Lionel Messi and Alex Morgan - have provided consistent inspiration during her development. “Since I was a kid, I have loved watching Messi play. I like his touches with the ball. He is left-footed like me. But he can play in different positions so deftly. “Alex Morgan is another player I admire. I am impressed by her consistent form with the national team down the years. And she is a player of real character.” With the top-five finishers advancing to the next FIFA Women's World Cup and another two sides progressing to inter-confederation play-offs, Indonesia cannot be ruled out of the race to reach Australia and New Zealand. "The Women's World Cup represents the highest level of all competitions, so it is the ultimate goal for every player to pursue. Realistically, it is no easy tasks for us,” Dwi concluded. “But nothing is impossible. As long as you harbour a dream, you will find a way out to make your dream come true."

Octavianti Dwi of Indonesia celebrates after scoring a goal against Singapore