Matheos Viktor Messakh, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta | Sat, 06/11/2011 10:29 PM
Not very often does Arsenal captain and midfielder Cesc Fabregas wants to be goal keeper. Perhaps even if he is asked by Arsene Wenger. But this time the Spaniard willingly offered himself to be one.
He did it recently for a bunch of nine children from Indonesia who met him at a soccer center in London.
There was no sign of jet lag from them although they had just arrived five hours before at Heathrow Airport from a 16-hour flight from Jakarta. Most of these children have only flown two times, their first time when they came from their hometowns to Jakarta.
“He is not as good as I thought or perhaps he just pretended to make me happy,” said 10-year-old Auliya Putri Rahmawati of Semarang soon after she sent the youngest-ever Arsenal goalscorer to the ground and scored one goal against him. An experience which might never be forgotten.
Auliya is one of nine children selected by [food company] Kraft Food Indonesia (KFI) to meet the Spaniard. Beside playing soccer with the Arsenal captain, the group of winners dubbed “Biskuat Laskar Fabregas” [Biskuat Fabregas’ Warriors] also had the chance to asked him questions, take photographs and ask for autographs.
After the two-hour meeting, the children had a special impression of the Spaniard. Soon after the meeting he Tweeted: “I just had a great time with the Biskuat kids from Indonesia. Can’t wait to go there in the summer!”
During the meeting Fabregas said to the children through an interpreter: “I can always give my advice: Try always to do your best, be mentally prepared for everything because as we say in sport you can lose or you can win. You have to always be prepared for the winning and when you lose don’t get overly upset, and just always keep your mind focused and try to improve every day.”
The team spent three days touring in London, before they had a once-in-a-life time experience to watch the match between Arsenal and Aston Villa at the Emirates Stadium, which ended with a 2-1 defeat by Aston Villa.
The program was launched by Kraft Food in January and after three phases of lottery until the end of April that collected around 2 millions coupons sent from all around the country, fifteen children from the age of three to fifteen were selected as winners.
However, some winners preferred to receive cash instead of travel to London to meet Fabregas with only nine winners meeting the Arsenal captain, said KFI head of corporate affairs Devy Yheanne. Each of these nine winners were accompanied by one of their family members with all travel costs covered by KFI.
“We choose Fabregas [to be the icon] because his profile was much like the brand itself,” said Devy. “The message that we want to send to the children is that in order for you to become a champion, you must start from an early age.”
“We hope that by meeting Fabregas, the children could learn more about the habits of a true champion. Even though they are small they have big determination,” said Kid Wholesome Snacking marketing manager of the KFI, Ade Savitri.
Aliyadin, one of the winners from Depok, West Java, said he aimed to get a ball as a prize in order to play with his friends in his village in Depok. “We have no ball so we used to play with a plastic one,” said the 15-year-old high school student who went to London with his older brother.
The same thing happened to Dedi Kurniadi, the father of 9-year-old Fia Amalia Safila from Sidoarjo,
East Java. “I need a laptop but God gave me something bigger,” said the courier.
Regarding the age of the children, mostly between six to nine, they might only know little about the man who made history in October 2003 when he became the youngest player to turn out for Arsenal, in the Carling Cup tie against Rotherham United. But after spending time with him, and visiting historical sites in London, it left something in their hearts.
“I just want to learn English, and be able to use it. It’s the base to know so much,” said Aliyadin who is only one year younger than Fabregas when the Spaniard moved to Highbury in the summer of 2003 from Barcelona.
“What I like about these children,” said Fabregas. “Is they always have smiles. They play because they love football.”
“When you do something because you don’t like it or because you are forced to do it, you will never achieve what you want, but the way I see them, I respect them a lot because they play because they are happy to do so.
“This is something good and I can’t wait to go to Indonesia this summer.”