FFT's 20 Under-20: From a tiny village to Indonesia's big time

At the age of just 19, Pandi Lestaluhu has already experienced quite a journey in the professional ranks. He sat down with FourFourTwo to tell us about a path that is tipped to end in stardom...

Hi Pandi, thank you for joining us. Firstly, you are from Tulehu which, despite only being a small village in Indonesia’s Maluku Province, is an area well known for developing good footballers. What role has Tulehu played in your development?

PL: Yes Tulehu has really helped me a lot because Tulehu’s football culture is very deep-rooted. I have been playing football ever since I was a kid.

It was very hard to believe I was going to play for Indonesia’s biggest club

Could you tell us about your early progress from Piala Suratin (a junior club tournament) through to Cilegon United in the second tier of Indonesian football?

PL: I was in a soccer school when Maluku called me for Piala Suratin. In 2013 I played for Persijatim (my first professional club), then moved to play for Perserang.

In 2014 I went to Cilegon and then Persija.

What would you say is your best footballing moment so far?

PL: My best moment was when I joined Persija. It was very hard to believe I was going to play for Indonesia’s biggest club.

Pandi in action with PS TNI

After the FIFA ban on Indonesian football you made another move, this time to PS TNI. You performed well on a personal note in 2016, with two goals and three assists in your 20 matches, but the club finished last in ISC A. What do you think happened?

PL: I’m not sure. I think that at the end we just lacked communication and focus as a team.

How did you rate your own performance in 2016?

PL: (Still) not good enough. I think I still have a lot to learn. I just hope that this year is better than the previous years.

Who do you credit the most for your development as a footballer so far?

PL: My coaches, of course, those who have coached me since I was still in soccer school right through until I made it to the professional clubs. They have all played a part.

So nobody special?

PL: [Laughs], no, because I think that everyone who has coached me is special and played their part.

You competed against some neighbouring countries in the 2016 AFF Under-19 championship. How do you rate Indonesia’s under-19 team compared to other ASEAN teams?

PL: I think there are some differences. We are being left behind a little compared to some of the other Southeast Asian teams, Thailand for example. I think it has something to do with the quality of our young players’ development.

Pandi (right) alongside his cousin, fellow professional Rafid

Are you interested in playing abroad?

PL: Yes of course.

What do you think is your best quality? What kind of player do you see yourself as?

PL: [Laughs] I don’t have anything special. I still have a lot to learn.

What’s your ideal position then?

PL: I think I’m best suited to being a left-winger.

What do you think is needed for a young player to be consistent and have a long career?

Hard work and pray. Insha Allah (God be willing) everything goes well.

If you could pick your own current five-a-side squad, who would be in it? There should be one goalkeeper, the rest is really up to you.

PL: Ideally I would have Ramdani [Lestaluhu], [Hasyim] Kipuw, [Rizky] Pellu and Abduh [Lestaluhu].

And the goalkeeper?

We are being left behind a little compared to some of the other Southeast Asian teams, Thailand for example

PL: Manahati [Lestusen]. I could play as the goalkeeper too.

Who do you think is Indonesia’s best young player right now?

PL: It’s hard to say. I think the best under-20 players right now … there’s a lot of them because the under-20s nowadays are really good.

Nobody special?

PL: No, they are all really good.

OK Pandi, thank you for your time and good luck this season!

* Following our interview with Pandi, he secured a move back to Persija for the 2017 season. We will be following his progress with interest!

To join in the conversation, jump onto our Facebook and Twitter pages and use the hashtag #FFT20under20! And keep checking back this week for more content