Following the conclusion of the Asian Para Games in Jakarta, Indonesia, IWBF junior writer, Dylan Cummings spoke with Indonesia men’s wheelchair basketball team captain Donald Santoso to discuss what impact the games had on the team and Indonesia as a country.
28-year-old Santoso has only been playing wheelchair basketball since 2013 following six failed knee surgeries over the past five years. The Jakarta native attended a DeCal class at the University of California, Berkeley in 2011 but wasn’t introduced to the sport until 2013. He then played for the Phoenix Wheelchair Suns in the NWBA Division 3, as well as the Arizona State University collegiate team. Since returning to Indonesia in 2017 he has worked hard on setting up a structure for the national team in order for Indonesia to compete on the international stage.
The Indonesian national team had been up and running for less than a year before the Asian Para Games took place in his hometown this October, and there were a number of obstacles the team had to overcome to be able to participate.
Santoso said, “A centralized programme was one of the biggest struggles. The guys sacrificed so much by leaving their families, jobs, and hometowns to go on a nine-month training programme. They knew that this was the foundation, knowing that if one of them were to quit, there might not be a programme for the next generation. Something I want to highlight is how much I appreciate this team.”
For the majority of the training, the team were unable to train in sports chairs due to a lack of funding and resources. However, despite the barriers, he went on to explain what it meant to have the Asian Para Games in Indonesia, saying,
“It was a huge opportunity for us to grow awareness about the sport. It was a blessing and honour for Indonesia to be able to do that, specifically on the wheelchair basketball side of things. The support and the awareness by the community was amazing. Every game we played was in front of a full house and tickets were all sold out.”
Speaking about the team’s performance, he said,
“If you look at it objectively, obviously we didn’t do so well. When you look at the journey, where we’ve come from, looking at how some of these players started off back in December, then I think we’ve done a tremendous job.
“My individual goal was to just have fun, to make sure that the guys had fun and I think we accomplished that. Having fun means appreciating the moment.
“Our team goal was to improve day-by-day in not only our skills but our ability to have confidence in ourselves. Being able to be ready and willing to compete at that level, that was our biggest team goal and I think we accomplished that.”
As part of the legacy for the Games, Australian Paralympic Coach, Gerry Hewson visited Jakarta to coach the national team and train up the local coaches.
The legacy for the Indonesian team is also important, ensuring support they received during the Asian Para Games stays intact by keeping up a good rapport with the sponsors and community partners.
“We need to build a base, having clubs and programmes on different islands would be huge for us and building a player base that’s more diverse. What I want to focus on within the next year is building a youth programme. Working with schools would be a good route for us to take, from elementary schools up to college programmes, similar to the US system.”
Discussing his future, Santoso said that he’d rather stay in Indonesia than go and play abroad as he expressed that “it’s more rewarding giving back to the next generation as there’s so much more potential in these young guys.”
To finish off, Santoso thanked all the Indonesian supporters, all the fans, all the sponsors, all the community partners and all the people who made the programme possible.
He also welcomes any coaches or players who wish to come to coach or train with the Indonesian team and if you can help support the programme with any donations of sports chairs, all the help would be much appreciated.
For more information about Indonesia’s wheelchair basketball programme visit http://wheelchairbasketball.id/