Papua Football Academy, Shaping the Future of Papua’s Young Generation

On 31 August 2022, at Lukas Enembe Main Stadium, Sentani, Jayapura Regency, President Joko Widodo inaugurated a football academy named Papua Football Academy or PFA. PFA was formed at the initiative of PT Freeport Indonesia to produce young Papuans who are talented on the field while achieving academically.

Papua Football Academy is the first football academy in Papua that carries the vision and mission of providing education and optimising the talents of Papuan children to become football playlers who are intelligent, competitive, confident, adaptive, and can become professional football players in the country and internationally. Jokowi also hopes that PFA will produce quality Papuan talents.

“Football is not the only thing that’s provided, but also a formal education, so that [the students] remain in school. Hopefully [they] will become football players who have a strong self-confidence, strong character, who are competitive, have good sportsmanship, and also clever and smart,” Jokowi said when inaugurating the PFA.

The Papua Football Academy, which is based at the Mimika Sport Complex, Mimika Regency, Central Papua Province, already has 30 first-generation U13-U14 students. The students were netted from a talent search. They come from Timika, Merauke and Jayapura, with different family backgrounds.

The academy is managed by Wolfgang Pikal, an Austrian national who is no stranger to Indonesian football. He is assisted by head coach Ardiles Rumbiak and assistant coaches Melky Papare and Kelly Pepuho.

PT Freeport Indonesia (PTFI) has a good reason for establishing the Papua Football Academy in Papua as it is one of the major sources of world-class footballing talent. Unfortunately, many potential talents are not formally honed.

“Papua Football Academy is important in PTFI’s social investment. So far, PTFI has joined the government in the project of developing Papua with our commitment to health, education, infrastructure, transportation, and economy for indigenous Papuans. For PTFI and the people of Papua, the presence of Papua Football Academy fulfils the dream of seeing football talents from Papua,” said PT Freeport Indonesia Director, Claus Oscar Ronald Wamafma.

Wamafma’s dream is that PFA will produce star players who excel internationally. “We want to see Papuans become players who can speak at the national level, maybe even at the international level one day,” said Wamafma.

Quoting the thoughts of Michael Austin, a Professor of Philosophy from Eastern Kentucky University, USA, in a Panditfootball article, he said children’s involvement in football and other sports can help build their character in a positive way. This is shown in the form of cooperating with others, working together for a common goal, responding appropriately to defeat and victory, and growing in courage, humility, patience, or perseverance.

Ardiles Rumbiak, a former Persipura Jayapura and Sriwijaya FC player who is currently the Head Coach of Papua Football Academy, said there are several aspects that are instilled in the academy students. In addition to instilling an understanding of the ins and outs of football, students are also forged mentally, physically, in discipline, mindset and behaviour.

Rumbiak said these aspects are the basis for producing quality and professional individuals in the future. “To nurture children, we cannot conjure them up in a short time. Apart from character, mental, physical, mindset, it is also about attitude or behaviour, so that during matches they can respect their opponents and teammates, coaches, and their environment,” said Rumbiak.

He has hopes that in the next five or ten years there will be more Papuan children playing and competing in the Indonesian League. “In fact, my dream is to see our children play abroad, so that people out there can see that players from Papua have a complete package, becoming a professional player, both in terms of mental, physical, technique and attitude,” he continued.

Rumbiak has a track record of coaching at a number of clubs. Most recently, he coached Belitong FC in the League 3. Although he already has a PSSI Diploma A licence, the man from Biak decided to become a coach at the Papua Football Academy because he has big dreams.

For a long time, he dreamed of Papua having a football academy that could bring change or a new civilisation to Papuan football. “[It was] my struggle for a long time. Papua must have a special academy for Papuan children, with the academy, the talents we have are not wasted. At PFA, all kinds of things for their future are formed here. Papuan children must change in terms of mindset, be better educated, and their football will automatically go in a better direction,” said Rumbiak.


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