Twelve-year-old football player Beckham Putra Nugraha was devastated when he lost his chance to compete in London.
His team, Saswco of Bandung, lost 3-2 during a penalty shoot-out against Tugu Muda Soccer School of Semarang in the finals of the Aqua Danone Nations Cup, a national youth selection tournament in June. He thought he’d said goodbye to his chance to represent Indonesia in the event’s annual finals at London’s Wembly Stadium.
But as it happens, he’ll go to London after all. The two best players from losing teams will join the winning squad for the finals, and Beckham is one of those players.
“I feel so excited,” Beckham said at a send-off ceremony at the British ambassador’s residence in Menteng, Jakarta. “It was a happy ending for me after all. Now I’m going to visit Beckham’s country.”
He was referring, of course, to legendary British footballer David Beckham, his namesake.
The younger Beckham’s older brother, Gian Zola Nugraha, 16, helped Saswco reach this year’s Manchester United Premier Cup finals in Manchester, England, after the team defeated Thailand 7-6 in George Town, Malaysia, in June.
“It feels so good to know that I’m going to England as well,” said Beckham. “I want to join the national team or even play with Manchester United. I want to be a football star. That’s why I will give my best effort in London.”
The rest of the team, including captain Mukhamad Saddam Baihaqi, were equally excited. After undergoing ten days of intensive preparation with Germany’s Timo Scheunemann at Malang training camp, Saddam said that the team was ready.
“I don’t care which team we will face — we will fight,” said the 12-year-old Saddam, who trained with the team for eight years. “It is my dream come true. I practiced football to visit another country one day, and I did it.”
Assistant Coach Heri said he will not put pressure on the team by setting a target goal for the finals.
“They’re just kids,” he said. “Winning the national selection tournament is a big achievement and visiting London is the bonus. Let them just play well.”
British Ambassador Mark Canning addressed the players at his residence.
“It is a great pleasure for me to meet Indonesia’s future football stars competing in Danone Nations Cup at Wembley Stadium,” he said.
“Football, particularly English Premier League, is one of the most popular sports in Indonesia. Last month, Indonesian soccer fans were entertained by the performance of three of our famous football clubs: Arsenal, Liverpool and Chelsea. Everybody watched, and I am sure our students here also enjoyed the action of Stephen Gerard and Theo Walcott.
“It is a shame that David Beckham has already retired but I heard his replacement, named Beckham Putra Nugraha, is here.”
Indonesia will compete in Group H, against Germany, Ireland, and Belgium.
The team left for London on Monday.