The Australia Indonesia Awards celebrate the contributions of those who provide inspiration and enhance understanding between Australians and Indonesians. AIYA is chronicling the achievements of these Career Champions in a series of interviews with this year’s finalists and winners. This week’s second interview is with professional footballer Robbie Gaspar.
Tell us a little about your career.
I played professional football for about 14 years throughout Australia, Europe and Asia. Most of my time was spent playing in Indonesia for about seven years. I retired from professional football in early 2013 and decided to head back to university, where I am currently completing a Bachelor of Business majoring in accounting and Indonesian. I also work for the Professional Footballers Australia as a Player Development Manager and as an advisor to FIFPro
Asia, which is the World Players Union for professional footballers. My work for FIFPro Asia is mostly Indonesia-, Malaysia- and Singapore-focused.
What brought you to connect with Indonesia?
Prior to moving to Indonesia in 2005 to play football, I had never been to Indonesia and never really had much experience with Indonesia. I had a few Indonesian friends but did not know too much about Indonesia in general. Back in 2004 I finished my contract in Malaysia and I was looking for a new club when my coach contacted me and said that a club in Indonesia was keen to sign me. I thought, “Why not? I will give it go,” as I had nothing to lose. I enjoyed my time so much in Indonesia that I left at the end of 2012. I had many offers to leave Indonesia to play elsewhere but I enjoyed my time so much living and playing in Indonesia that I decided to stay put.
Tell us about your current occupation.
I am currently a Player Development Manager with the Professional Footballers Australia (PFA) and also an Advisor to FIFPro Asia. My experiences and relationships built over the seven years have helped me tremendously with my work with both the PFA and FIFPro Asia. An example is that during my time in Indonesia I learnt how to speak Bahasa Indonesia and this is invaluable when I travel to Indonesia and Malaysia for FIFPro Asia.
How did you find your current job?
The opportunity to work with FIFPro came up in 2013 when the former Chairman of the PFA and FIFPro Asia and current UNI World Athletes Executive Director Brendan Schwab asked whether I would like to help with the restart of the Malaysian Players Union, which had been dormant for the past two years. I jumped at the chance, as I am extremely passionate about and advocating for player’s rights. Within six months the union was back up and running and continuing to go from strength to strength. The reasons why I was successful in getting the position was first and foremost because I am extremely passionate about protecting and advocating for rights of players, and secondly because my experiences in Malaysia and Indonesia and relationships with the players there help me to achieve this.
What do you enjoy the most — and least — about working in relation to Indonesia?
What did I enjoy the most about Indonesia? I enjoyed being able to do something I love in front of massive crowds day in, day out. Indonesians live, eat and breathe football and until you experience it you can’t believe it. What I didn’t enjoy and do not miss is the long travel by either planes or buses. Travelling from one end of Indonesia to
another and then having to play and then travel again, and back up three days later in the heat and humidity for another game is not easy.
What are your thoughts on the future of the Australian-Indonesian relationship in the field of sport?
Being a former professional sportsman I am a big advocator of sports diplomacy and it is great to see that the Australian Government released a sports diplomacy strategy in 2015. There is so much potential to build on the bilateral relationship through sport. Australians and Indonesians are so similar that we are both so passionate about our sports. I feel through sports, especially football or soccer, we can build those people-to-people links and maintain and strengthen cultural relations which are so important to the relationship.
What advice would you offer to youth interested in sport?
For Australians, do you research first before you head to Indonesia. Importantly, be humble and respectful and make a conscious effort to try learning the language as soon as you can.
Given the opportunity again, what would you do differently?
I loved my time in Indonesia and I am the person I am today due to my experiences there, so I wouldn’t want to change anything.