Rising Stars

Generation Garuda: The Indonesian youngsters taking on the world

Kuala Lumpur: Young, talented and eager to test themselves abroad, the next generation of Indonesian football stars are becoming increasingly well-travelled.

Hailing from a uniquely passionate footballing nation but - with a few notable exceptions - one which has tended to keep its top players on home soil, Indonesia’s youth brigade of 2021 is travelling far and wide in a bid to enhance their prospects of stardom.

So, who are these ambitious youngsters, where are they playing, and what should we expect?

Join the-AFC.com as we profile eight Indonesian players abroad aged 21 or younger – five based in Europe and three in Asia – and let us know which one has the greatest potential.

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Witan Sulaeman
Age: 19
Club: FK Radnik, Serbia
Joined: February 2020

One of the breakout stars of the AFC U-19 Championship on home soil in 2018, the Palu-born attacking midfielder or winger scored three goals in the tournament, just weeks after turning 17, including the winning-strike against United Arab Emirates which ended Indonesia’s four-decade knockout stage drought in the tournament.

An ASEAN U-22 title and SEA Games silver followed in 2019, before Witan was snapped up by Serbian top-flight outfit Radnik Surdulica in February 2020, although he has only appeared twice so far in the SuperLiga, both in June last year.

Still in his teens, Witan scored in Indonesia’s 4-1 win over North Macedonia in an U-19 friendly in October and has ample time to develop further in a league which features the likes of Takuma Asano.

Bagus Kahfi
Age: 19
Club: FC Utrecht, Netherlands
Joined: February 2021

A much more recent arrival in the European club ranks, 19-year-old striker Bagus Kahfi joined Dutch side FC Utrecht less than a week ago, initially linking up with the Eredivisie outfit’s youth squad.

Already, there are several compelling storylines surrounding Bagus. He was a prolific scorer at youth level, finding the net in Indonesia’s memorable 2-0 win over Islamic Republic of Iran at the 2018 AFC U-16 Championship as one of 20 goals in as many matches in youth international football.

He was also prominent in a television series focused on Indonesia’s ‘Garuda Select’ side, who took on youth outfits from various European clubs under the tutelage of former Chelsea star Dennis Wise.

Finally, he is the identical twin of Bagus Kaffa, who scored the other goal in that 2018 win over IR Iran, has appeared for Barito Putera in Liga 1 and looks to be an excellent prospect in his own right.

Asnawi Mangkualam
Age: 21
Club: Ansan Greeners, Korea Republic
Joined: January 2021

A player who can already boast significant experience in senior football – including playing an important role in PSM Makassar’s 2019 Piala Indonesia win – Asnawi earned his first international cap at just 17 against Myanmar four years ago.

While he is yet to add to that national appearance, he has appeared 50 times for PSM, featuring in the AFC Cup, earning selection in the Liga 1 team of the season in 2019 and impressing internationally as Indonesia won silver in the 2019 SEA Games.

The full-back last month signed for Korean second-tier outfit Ansan Greeners, where, given his impressive senior football résumé, he will be hoping to play a regular role with the first team.

Egy Maulana Vikri
Age: 20
Club: Lechia Gdansk, Poland
Joined: July 2018

A standout for Indonesian sides at youth competitions including the prestigious Toulon Tournament, Medan-born Egy Mauala Vikri had sealed a move to Polish top-flight outfit Lechia Gdansk even before his impressive displays at the 2018 AFC U-19 Championship.

A talented dribbler with an eye for goal, Egy plays as a winger or attacking midfielder, appearing for Indonesia’s senior national team on three occasions and winning European silverware as a late substitute in Lechia’s 2019 Polish Super Cup win.

Despite regular recent appearances in Lechia’s Matchday squad, he has been limited to five league matches this season, and the charismatic 20-year-old remains on the verge of his long-awaited breakthrough at club level.

Elkan Baggott
Age: 18
Club: Ipswich Town, England
Joined: April 2019

Far from a new arrival in Europe, where he has lived since childhood, Ipswich Town youth product Elkan Baggott is a player who has attracted great interest on both sides of the globe despite his tender age of 18.

The son of an Indonesian mother and an English father, the towering central defender - who models himself on Virgil van Dijk and Rio Ferdinand - appeared for the Indonesian U19 side on three occasions in Croatia last October.

He started for Ipswich in an EFL Trophy win over Gillingham a week earlier, and, in a testament to the online popularity of Indonesian footballers, he is reportedly the most followed player on the books at the League One club, despite not yet making his league debut.

Brylian Aldama
Age: 18
Club: HNK Rijeka, Croatia
Joined: January 2021

One of Bagus Kahfi’s ‘Garuda Select’ teammates, Brylian Aldama traded Surabaya for the Adriatic Sea when he completed a deal with Croatian top-flight out HNK Rijeka last month.

A classy central midfielder, Brylian started every match as Indonesia reached the quarter-finals at the 2018 AFC U-16 Championship and would likely have been among the contenders for the Garuda Muda squad at the 2021 FIFA U-20 World Cup, had it not been cancelled due to COVID-19.

Turning 19 later this month, Brylian will start at youth level and hope to rise through the ranks at Rijeka, which was among the first clubs of star Persija Jakarta striker Marko Simić.

Syahrian Abimanyu
Age: 21
Club: Newcastle Jets, Australia (loan)
Joined: February 2021

While Dutch-born Sergio van Dijk appeared for the national team after playing for Brisbane Roar and Adelaide United, Syahrian Abimanyu stands on the verge of becoming the first born and raised Indonesian player to appear in Australia’s A-League.

Having joined Malaysian champions Johor Darul Ta'zim from Madura United in December 2020, the promising midfielder has been loaned out to Newcastle Jets, where, after a period of quarantine, all eyes will be on a player who – like Witan and Egy – was a mainstay in the AFC U-19 Championship side of 2018.

An excellent passer of the ball, the 21-year-old is seen as a long-term prospect by AFC Champions League regulars JDT, but fans in Indonesia, Malaysia and Australia will be eager to see how he adapts to his more immediate challenge at McDonald Jones Stadium.

Todd Rivaldo Ferre
Age: 21
Club: Lampang FC, Thailand (loan)
Joined: December 2020

Rounding out our list is Todd Rivaldo Ferre, the fleet-footed attacking midfielder who surged into the Asian spotlight with a dazzling hat-trick off the bench against Qatar at the 2018 AFC U-19 Championship in Jakarta.

Far from a flash in the plan, the Jayapura youngster then set about starring for local club Persipura, emerging as Liga 1’s Best Young Player in 2019, the same year he helped Indonesia win the AFF U-22 title.

With Persipura out of action for an extended period due to COVID-19, the diminutive Ferre has joined Thai second-tier side Lampang on loan, making his league debut as a substitute on Sunday. For the sake of Lampang's fans, it is hopefully the first appearance of many.

*Poll ends at 16:00 (UTC+8) on February 23.

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