Great to get back to the footy again

The word had come around from Jeddy- president of the Jakarta Bintangs:

“Haje- mate- we need you to umpire the Bintangs v Singapore Wombats footy game coming up on the weekend”. My first thought was immediate- absolutely. In my heart I wanted to see footy again. I wanted to see people gathering around the fence talking footy. It had been too long between Sherrins, between seeing kids do kick-to-kick and playing on lush grass.

We had been in Jakarta almost a year now. I went to training initially in my first month with the Tangs (feeling like I was 25 in a 52 year old body) but a strong shoulder bump ended my 16th comeback on day 3 of training. I was looking good actually in a practice game, I read the ball beautifully off the pack, dodged no one gracefully, had my head over the ball steadfastly, steadied with aplomb and then proceeded to kick the ball clearly out on the full. The shoulder has never been right since!

We have just had a super busy year getting adjusted to Jakarta (mmm insert big frustration mark here!) and had just moved house that weekend before. We needed a good day out. “Bring the kids,” said Eddy “They will have a ball in the great outdoors”. I stumbled on the word outdoors. Outdoors in Jakarta? That’s an interesting concept I thought. Outdoors is 35 scooters zipping around like little Eddie Betts all over the place with no rhyme or reason. Don’t get me started about the Jakarta traffic, but it’s a far cry from the lovely country road and scenes at beloved Cape Patterson or Bright.

Yet a great force pulled me to the footy again. Its tough being overseas in different countries. I had kept our kick to kicks with our family in various countries now going on religiously. Firstly Egypt- our eldest son Sasha, a four year old was playing rugby, but I do remember teaching him the art of the drop punt. In China we kicked the footy a lot, until it snowed in November or when we ultimately got smogged in because of crazy pollution. In Abu Dhabi, of all places, we morphed a dinky di Aussie footy renaissance. I took the Aus kick and we loved the ‘play in the park’ atmosphere. We met lovely families. I also had a bit to do with the Abu Dhabi Falcons and would pop in time to time to see a great bunch of blokes. I used to kick one hundred times each leg with Sasha in Abu Dhabi every night before dinner. Now in Jakarta he is married to a soccer ball, and he is bloody good at it.

For the game I was to be was paired with Mick Donnelly who unfortunately had to pull out the last minute with work commitments. Mm mm- it was not that I had feared this challenge, but I know how heated footy games can get, having played for many years and knowing boys testosterone levels. I also had played for the Bats around 10 years ago as well. I negotiated with Eddy to do 2/3 of the field whilst he sat in one goal third.

The venue truly inspired and surprised us. It was the beautiful Ceylon Cricket ground. It was in great shape, gorgeous green, banana trees and fruit trees everywhere and lush vegetation. This was only around forty five minutes out of Jakarta on a good run. As we drove up the driveway our youngest son Jack said “look…there is a monkey”…. three young ones were playing in the bushes. As our driver Gustav winded into the ground we could see Indonesians playing in the curtain raiser. They were really fast and skillful. Fantastic I thought. This was almost surreal. I am seeing Footy in Jakarta and it feels good for the heart. I got my bearings and touched base with Eddy. “Lets keep it simple” I said to him.

We don’t have trial by video here and the goal umps can’t go to replays!
I thought lets be fair and firm. Let it run as much as we can and call them fairly and strongly. I thought I had Sasha, as my goal umpire but then he pulled out at the last minute, he wanted to have no stress and he was bouncing around a soccer ball. I addressed both captains- Jason from the Bats and Gillsy from the Tangs, flipped the coin and then it was time to rumble.

The game flowed really well. Eddy and I by all reports did a sterling job. His towering drop punts back to me from goals kicked were a feature as well as the slick team play of the Tangs. I reckon I may have got 2 decisions maybe a bit wrong but all in all it was actually thoroughly refreshing. I loved the workout and seeing 2 teams give their all. I reckon the toughest thing about umpiring is positioning, having been so used to getting the ball or finding space as a player you really need to get square a lot when seeing where the ball is and where blokes are. The Bats were no match for the evenness and poise of the Tangs who had winners everywhere. Even the Wiz chipped in with a late goal. Coach Harry did a great job with the tangs and they sang their song with glee in a huddle.

After celebratory handshakes Eddy threw a Bintang beer in front of me and said “well done mate”. It was a great time. We licked delicious steak sandwiches that his wife made on the BBQ and we talked footy with some of the lads. Lynda was drinking a wine or three. The sun slowly set and I talked to my old mate Hotto from the Bats who coached them that day and we reminisced about our team of 2001. Sasha and Jack played kick to kick with a few local kids and some Aussie kids and were laughing and smiling. I talked Tigers with a fellow quite mad on them like me who had just moved to Jakarta. “We are 7-4″ I said, “we’ll be ok!” 

Footy made us come alive once more. We drove home happy with traffic all around, zipping scooter bikes and all. As I talked to my old mate Rocket Gillett the next day all I could say was, mate it was great to get back to the footy again.

About Haje Halabi

Born in Bright Victoria, went overseas for 2 years and stayed 18. Tiger tragic, father of 2 fine young men, teacher and obsessed with sport and the good it can bring.


  1. Jeez I’m glad you’re not around now the tigers are winning…

  2. Rocket Nguyen says

    Yes, great to see both Haje and the Tigers up and about!

  3. Haje Halabi says

    Yeah your right Gus- I would be well and truly losing my focus if I was- hows things in the sunshine state mate?

    Rocket- there is something quite magical about the footy right? Best game in the world for one and second the underlying aussie mateship.

  4. Nah, I’m happy for your intensity of focus. Saints and Lions not doing much for me so I’m trying to be a supporter of players and the game. (Saving my umpire-ire for the rugby codes).

    The boys are playing for the Coolum Breakers and doing really well. Benji is a sharer of the ball, going out of his way to get the ball to the kids who haven’t had a touch. Simon is developing a relentless in and under streak that definitely didn’t come from me. (That was short people work). He jagged his first goal the other day against the Noosa Tigers no less. He was happier about a point he snapped from the boundary that caused a defender to run into the padded post.

    They got to be part of the guard of honour representing the Breakers at the Lions vs Carlton game

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