Relive: When Fandi and company beat Arsenal in Surabaya

Arsenal had played in three different cities during their 1983 Indonesia tour: Medan, Jakarta and Surabaya. But, it was in Surabaya where all the magic happened, thanks to a certain Fandi Ahmad. Yudha Prastianto is here to relive the moment…

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In 2013, Premier League giants Arsenal came to Indonesia and played against Indonesia Dream Team, a team comprising the national league’s – Indonesia Super League (ISL) – best players.

The so-called dream team was slaughtered 0-7.

The result was of course disappointing. But perhaps that’s not the case if you are from Surabaya, because you will still have your pride from 1983, when a local team recorded a win against Arsenal.

The huge result

The protagonists were Fandi Ahmad and Joko Malis

Once upon a time, Arsenal actually lost 2-0 to Niac Mitra Surabaya in Stadion Gelora on November 10, 1983. The result was interesting because before Surabaya, Arsenal had won in Medan and Jakarta. And both wins were convincing: Arsenal 3-0 VSP in Medan and Arsenal 5-0 VSPSSI in Jakarta.

In Arsenal’s defence, they were exhausted from playing three matches in six days (and from travelling, since neither Medan to Jakarta nor Jakarta to Surabaya was a short trip). Whatever the reason, Niac’s win against Arsenal was a source of local pride.

At that time, Arsenal were not as well-known in Indonesia as they are now – but big names such as Pat Jennings and David O’Leary drew the locals’ attention. Thirty thousand people turned up to watch the match.

The match was held in the afternoon (and Surabaya was hot) and Terry Neil lined up his best players including O’Leary, Jennings, Kenny Sansom, Brian Talbot and Graham Rix. Niac’s answer to Arsenal’s talent was fighting spirit.

The protagonists were Fandi Ahmad and Joko Malis. Fandi, a Singapore legend, scored the first goal in the 37th minute while Joko put one past Jennings in the last minutes of the match.

Joko could’ve scored twice had his other effort didn’t hit the post.

I could’ve scored two goals, but one of my chances hit the post. I scored my goal thanks to Fandi Ahmad’s through pass.

- Joko

“I could’ve scored two goals, but one of my chances hit the post. I scored my goal thanks to Fandi Ahmad’s through pass. I found myself in one-on-one situation against the goalkeeper. I thought I have a good chance so I directed my shot to the corner of the goal and I scored. That was in the 85th minute,” Joko told Vivabola.

“I was very glad to have been able to score against Pat Jennings. Arsenal was one of the English League’s strongest teams at the time. They also have a number of star players and one of them is an England international Graham Rix.”

There are several interesting facts about Niac Mitra’s win against Arsenal. One of them is that the club, funded by Indonesian businessman Alexander Wenas, was still so young when they beat Terry Neill and co., as they were only four years old at the time.

Also, while they were still young, Niac played well in the national competition. Just forty days before the win against Arsenal Niac won the Galatama.

Unfortunately for Niac, the epic win against Arsenal was just it. Niac, coached by Mohammad Basri, were not as great the following season. The departures of star players – Fandi Ahmad to Groningen, Rudy Keltjes and Joko Malis to Yanita Utama – was the main factor in the fall of Niac, now known as Mitra Kukar.

As for Arsenal, the Indonesia tour didn’t prepare them well for the League. They finished the League in the tenth position. After the disappointing season Terry was replaced by Don Howe.

Despite the results it brought, the memory of the 1983 Indonesia tour lingers in the minds of the Arsenal players.

Manager Nial Terry, for instance, remembers how he acted as a substitute for his injured player and played in Jakarta – could you imagine it if Arsene Wenger did the same in 2013.

The team that upset Arsenal

“Some players got injured in first match [against VSP in Medan], so I made some changes for Jakarta match and I included myself and Terry Burton (of coaching staff) in the match!” Terry told

“That was a great tour and the Indonesians are good host,” said the man who had returned to Indonesia on several occasions to act as advisor for Pelita Jaya and consultant for several Indonesian badminton players.

A great tour indeed, because after Surabaya, Arsenal continued their journey eastward to Bali for vacation. Club captain O’Leary was the first to fly out of the Pulau Dewata and back to England because his wife gave birth.

“The birth of my son was the reason why the Indonesia tour was the most meaningful of all!” he said.

Photos: Ferdy Wenas Photography