Javier Roca, a former Chilean soccer player, who is currently beginning his coaching career in the Indonesian league, is clear that no one is a prophet in his own land. At the beginning of the 2000s, he left the Primera B competition and for more than a decade he played in the Asian country. Today, the former midfielder faces the second season of his new stage as DT. He does it in Arena FC, one of the big clubs in Indonesian football and that tragically became known as a result of the riots in a game of the local tournament that ended with more than 100 people dead, in the city of Malang.
“The situation is difficult, we are stopped without doing anything. Almost all the teams released their players for almost 10 days. On October 18, a delegation from FIFA will arrive to help with the issue of regulating the stadiums and all that. Unfortunately, people continue to die, a 16-year-old girl died of respiratory problems, probably due to the suffocation she suffered in the stadium. With the players, we continue to visit the relatives of the deceased. It’s here for a long time, the situation is very sad and complicated, “Roca told AS Chile.
– Is the atmosphere still very sad?
– Yes, we have participated in various tributes to the victims. Here religion is very strong, prayers are made at different times and times for the deceased. For example, seven days after what happened, also seven nights. Religion is very strong here, especially Islam.
– How are you?
– All this has not been easy, little by little we are trying to overcome what happened. In my role as a coach, I am trying to give the players as much support as possible. The idea, for now, is to get together next Monday and start with psychologist sessions and all that. We are also going to have to start training, because there comes a time when you cannot stop doing it. We don’t know when the championship will start.
arrival at a big
Beyond the tragedy experienced, Roca’s story is striking in Indonesia: “Last year I was in Persik Kediri, which was very low in the table and at risk of relegation. I assumed, we were saved from relegation and we ended up like in position 10 or 9 more or less. I continued in that team, I was directing it in the first dates and the panorama was complicated for us. We had some draws as a visitor and lost at home. So, between both parties we decided to end the contract.
“A few days passed and people from Arema FC called me, which is one of the big teams here in Indonesia. They had been champions of a cup that is played before the tournament. It happened that the fans did not like the way the team played. In the team that I was in before, we are characterized by being an aggressive team, which took the initiative, with high pressing. So they called me and told me that they were interested in me because of how the team had played”, adds the Chilean coach.
– A great opportunity then.
– I didn’t think twice. That a team like Arema FC calls you here is to take on the challenge of shooting. In addition, the squad has good players, it is a team that is doing well financially, with level and national team players. The project aims to give the team back the prominence it had in previous leagues. The team is in a city called Malang on the island of Java. We are an hour and a half by plane from the capital Jakarta.
– What had you done before starting your stage as a coach in the Indonesian professional league?
– I came from Chile at the end of 2018 and in 2019 I started working in an academy that is Spanish, it is called La Liga. I was in charge of a couple of categories and the owner of the academy suggested I go to Persik Kediri. They took over the reins of that team for the past year.
– How’s the competition?
– Soccer here returned last year after it was stopped by the pandemic. It began to be played without an audience and only in some cities. The teams would get together and play for a while on an island, for example. Today the public returned and it is already played at home and away.
– Are you studying to direct there in Indonesia?
– No, I did it there at the INAF, in Santiago. There were three years of classes, I graduated as a technician and the following year I was an assistant professor. I finished my playing career here and returned to Chile to study, but always with the idea of returning to Indonesia later.
– Does the type of driving change a lot? Is it very different from the idea we have here?
– Not that much. More than anything because of the level of football, because of the tactical ability of the players. Above all, the difference is that it’s not very developed football here, times are shorter and if you lose two or three games, they’re already kicking you out. That difference is marked by not being such an advanced tournament in terms of football, they respect the times very little.
– It is a complex panorama because of what it says…
– That’s why it seemed strange to me that my current club identified with the way my team played last year. Here, there is not much of that. You won and you’re good, you lost and you’re bad. The latter gives me the impression that a little progress is being made, that there is a certain taste for football.
– How is your coaching staff made up? Do you work with another Chilean?
– Right now, I have a physical trainer who is Portuguese, a Brazilian who is a goalkeeper trainer and the rest of the staff is all local people. I have people who advise me on the physical part at a distance. Alfonso Coronado is a professor at INAF and has an important career in Chile. Due to time and work, he has not been able to come. We are always in contact and I am working with him. The same thing happens with Ángelo Romo, he is the analyst we have. We work remotely and the topic of video analysis is a bit behind here. I send him the videos, he analyzes and edits them, and he sends them to me. It’s like a remote Chilean coaching staff.
– You say that there only matters to win, but is there a certain margin to realize a project in a club?
– Look, I put together a project for Arema FC, I presented it to the people here and we are going to start it up. However, everything will depend on the results. There are plenty of foreign coaches, many Portuguese, there is a Spaniard, a German. But as I say, they are carried away by this current of winning and winning no more. There is little they can do, besides there is no formative football here, only the Sub 18 and Sub 16 are in competition. From there down there is nothing.
– What is it like managing Indonesian players?
– Here each First Division club can hire four foreigners and of those four one has to be from Asia. The rest are all local, but since I speak the language well and since I know them well, many doors have opened for me in that regard. For the treatment that one also has with them. I stopped playing here in 2013, but since 2010 I was like doing double duty, playing and directing.
– In that way?
– When you start to get old, you get kind of handy, you want to pass yourself off as a coach. And here for a matter of personality, as is his way of being, a little more submissive, the last years I played I did it directing too. He prepared the training sessions and all that. Also, as I said, because of the language issue, it became more possible for me. I know how to treat the local kids, who are ultimately the ones who put you in or take you out of a team.
– What do you expect ahead?
– Right now I’m in one of the big three in Indonesia and my expectation is to go from Sunday to Sunday, winning games and playing well. And then we will see what happens. My family is from here, my wife and daughter are from here, and the idea is to have the longest career in this country. If the opportunity is possible for Malaysia, for the countries that are close here, why not? But I’m not trying to project myself in the very long term.
– How is life in the city where you live?
– Except for the capital Jakarta, which is a big city like Santiago, and Bali, which always has many tourists, the other cities in the country are very similar. The atmosphere is calm, here Malang is characterized by being a very Muslim city and here they say that the second religion is soccer. It is one of the most football-oriented cities in the country, people are very supportive and the team is very popular with the media.
– Are you satisfied with what you are achieving?
– To be my second team and that they have been interested in how my previous team played, the truth leaves me alone. The idea of the game is being understood, which was what I was looking for. Here it was always the bridge up and that the striker would fix it no more, that’s how it was in most teams. Doing something different gave some results, because this big team took notice of me and gave me the chance, more than winning, for the team to play well.
– Is directing Chile again in your plans?
– No, it’s not in my plans, just for a walk. When I came here, I realized that you disappear from the map. In football, you only have childhood friends, those you had in cadets. Besides, I don’t know any representative in Chile, so I’m screwed.