Sports

‘Very proud’: Indonesia makes mark in Qatar with official ball

Medan, Indonesia – Indonesia’s boys in red may not have qualified for the World Cup, but a Java-based company is making its mark as the maker of the tournament’s official ball.

Al Rihla, the official ball of Qatar 2022, is being manufactured in Madiun Regency, East Java province, by PT Global Way. The local sporting goods manufacturer opened its factory in 2019 and employs more than 2,000 workers, according to the company’s website.

Ahmad Dawami, the regent of Madiun, said the official match ball is a source of pride for the region and has provided a much-needed boost to the local economy since 2020.

“When we had the factory launch in 2020, we had an overwhelming sense of pride. The factory has been immeasurable for us,” Dawami told Al Jazeera.

Al Rihla, which means “the journey” in Arabic, is being made in collaboration with Adidas. PT Global Way also works with PUMA, UHLsport and Mizuno to produce sports equipment that is exported around the world.

Dawami said the factory has made one million souvenir balls that will be sent to Brazil, the United Kingdom, the United States, Germany and the United Arab Emirates as part of the World Cup celebrations.

He said the factory and orders for millions of soccer balls have provided employment for thousands of young workers in Madiun during a precarious time for the economy amid challenges such as the COVID-19 pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. According to the Indonesian Bureau of Statistics, Madiun’s economy grew by 3.34% between 2020 and 2021, something Dawami partly attributes to the factory.

The Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has defended the export of soccer balls, saying it gives the people of East Java a chance to “become part of the global economic resonance”.

East Java is known as a hub of commerce, contributing more than 15 percent of Indonesia’s gross domestic product (GDP), according to government statistics. However, while East Java has always been known for its large-scale industries such as shipbuilding, paper-making and cement-making, Dawami said the pandemic had raised fears of an economic slowdown and widespread job cuts.

Ahmad Dawami, the regent of Madiun, says his regency is proud to supply the official ball for Qatar 2022 [Courtesy of Ahmad Dawami]

“Fortunately, the factory became our symbol of the economy recovering after the pandemic,” Dawami said. “We now feel as if the region has been given a new lease of life. The factory and the World Cup have provided a constant source of work.”

Dawami, a Liverpool supporter, said Madiun Regency wants not to be left out of the excitement and despite Indonesia’s absence from the pitch, parties have been organized so residents can enjoy the games.

Al Rihla is the 14th official ball of the World Cup and, according to FIFA, the fastest and most accurate ball to date. The ball features a panel design inspired by a Dhow, a traditional Arabian ship, with a blue, red and yellow color scheme meant to represent the Qatari landscape.

Al Rihla balls are also the first World Cup balls to be made exclusively with water-based ink and glue, which are less harmful to the environment.

“Al Rihla’s global tour will represent the incredible reach of the FIFA World Cup and provide fans with a unique opportunity to participate in the event,” said Jean-François Pathy, FIFA Marketing Director.

Ilham, 23, who like many Indonesians goes by only one name, has been working at the factory for the past five months after struggling to find employment opportunities elsewhere.

He said he enjoys his work and feels a sense of satisfaction in having the balls used for such a high-profile event.

“I love to watch and play football,” Ilham, who hits the balls, told Al Jazeera. “So, thank God, I am very happy to work in this job. It’s great for the local community to have an employment opportunity like this. I like it because I have made many friends in the factory”.

Ignatius Indro, director of the Indonesian National Team Supporters Association, said he is proud that a product from Indonesia is gaining global recognition for its high quality.

“As fans of the Indonesian national team, we are proud of the Al Rihla ball. Yes, even though our national team has not been able to attend the World Cup this time, our local products have still gone global,” he said.

Indro said that the Indonesian government has worked hard in recent years to market Indonesian products to the world to compete with regional peers such as Vietnam and China, and the World Cup is an important stage for Indonesia to showcase its products.

“We have world-class clothing that is no less good than other brands. This makes us very proud,” she added.

Now, Indro said, the Indonesian national team only needs to match the success of the country’s sportswear to take the pitch at the next World Cup in the US, Canada and Mexico in 2026. Indonesia has not qualified. for competition since it gained independence. with its only appearance in 1938 under the banner of the Dutch East Indies.

“We as fans hope that this can also boost the achievements of our national team in the future,” he said.

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Merry

Merry C. Vega is a highly respected and accomplished news author. She began her career as a journalist, covering local news for a small-town newspaper. She quickly gained a reputation for her thorough reporting and ability to uncover the truth.

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