It is over four months before Chelsea play a match for the very first time in Indonesia, but the already-mounting excitement was obvious as Ron Gourlay announced the Jakarta leg of this summer’s Asia tour on Thursday.
The chief executive was speaking at a conference in the Indonesian capital, attended by hundreds of media representatives. The Indonesian Official Chelsea Supporters Club was well represented too in big numbers.
They made their presence clearly heard with some Chelsea songs before the beginning of the conference, during which there was a strong thirst for information about this historic visit.
‘We are delighted to announce that Chelsea Football Club will visit Indonesia this summer for the first time,’ said Gourlay.
‘The time is right for us to come and we are looking forward to it. It will be the first time in Indonesia for many of our players and I have explained to them what to expect. The fanbase here is enormous and the players are already really excited about coming in July.
‘The challenge is always to prepare the team for the start of the season,’ he added.
‘The Premier League is the biggest and most competitive league in the world and it is critical we prepare the team in the proper manner.’
‘In Asia the facilities are fantastic and the opposition, the coaching and the support around the game are improving all the time. I have been coming here for 15 years now and the bar is raised every year.’
The interest in the visit is such that during an extensive question and answer session, fine details of the organisation of the game were asked about. Fans were keen to know ticket prices for the game at the 88,000-capacity Gelora Bung Karno Stadium, the planned activities for the squad in Jakarta in addition to the game, who will be eligible to play for the team Chelsea will face, where the match can be viewed on TV and much more besides.
The Chelsea squad travelling will, as Gourlay confirmed earlier this week, be the strongest available and is likely to contain new signings. The opposition who will provide a suitable pre-season test for the players on 25 July, in what will be the third and final game of the Asia tour, will be selected in an unusual way.
The BNI Indonesia All Stars will consist of the best players of Indonesian nationality, as selected by customers of Bank Negara Indonesia (BNI) who have issued 100,000 Chelsea FC payment cards, featuring images of the players and club, in the six months since the cards were launched. The team will be coached by Indonesia national team manager Manuel Blanco.
An indication of the level of support for Chelsea in Indonesia is a figure of over two million fans from the country on our Facebook page. The team’s first visit to the world’s fourth most populous nation will fit with the ‘Here to Play, Here to Stay’ title of the 2013 tour, as Gourlay explained.
‘We made a promise many years ago that we would never tour any country with the first team withouta community programme being in place, so the first team can then support that programme when they visit. We have the biggest community programme across the whole of Asia and we are introducing our first Blue Pitch in Jakarta later this year.
‘This gives an opportunity for Chelsea coaches to coach young players all year round and it gives us the opportunity to give something back to the community.
‘We don’t want to arrive, play a football game and go. We take great pride in the efforts we make to help support young players around the world, and hopefully one day, in the not too distant future, we will have a player from Indonesia playing in our first team.’