Medan, Indonesia – The Indonesian Red Boys may not qualify for the World Cup, but a Java-based company is making its mark as the official tournament ball manufacturer.
Al Rihla, the official soccer ball for Qatar 2022, is being manufactured in Madiun Regency, East Java province, by PT Global Way. According to the company’s website, the local sportswear maker opened the factory in 2019 and employs more than 2,000 workers.
Ahmad Dawami, regent of Madiun, said the official ball game is a source of pride for the region and has provided a much-needed boost to the local economy since 2020.
“When we opened the factory in 2020, we were extremely proud. The factory is huge for us,” Dawami told Al Jazeera.
Al Rihla, which means “journey” in Arabic, was made in partnership with Adidas. PT Global Way also cooperates with PUMA, UHLsport and Mizuno to produce sports equipment that is exported worldwide.
Dawami said one million souvenir soccer balls have been produced at the factory and will be sent to Brazil, the United Kingdom, the United States, Germany and the United Arab Emirates as part of the World Cup celebrations. .
He said the factory and orders for millions of soccer balls have provided employment to thousands of young workers in Madiun during times of economic uncertainty amid challenges such as the COVID-19 pandemic. Pandemic caused by covid-19 and Russia Invades Ukraine. According to the Indonesian Bureau of Statistics, Madiun’s economy grew by 3.34% from 2020 to 2021, which Dawami credits in part to the factory.
Indonesia’s foreign ministry supports the soccer export, saying it gives the people of East Java the opportunity to “become part of the world’s economic resonance”.
According to government statistics, East Java is known as a commercial hub, contributing more than 15% of Indonesia’s gross domestic product (GDP). However, while East Java has always been known for its large-scale industries, such as shipbuilding, paper milling and cement production, Dawami said that the pandemic has raised fears of an economic downturn. economy and widespread job cuts.
“Fortunately, the factory has become our symbol of the post-pandemic economic recovery,” Dawami said. “Now we feel as if the area has been breathed in new life. The factory and the World Cup provided a steady stream of jobs.”
Dawami, a Liverpool fan, said that Madiun Regency was keen not to lose interest and that despite Indonesia’s absence from the field, watch parties were organized so that people could enjoy the matches.
Al Rihla is the 14th official World Cup ball and, according to FIFA, the fastest and most accurate. The ball features a panel design inspired by the Dhow, a traditional Arabian boat, with blue, red and yellow tones representing the landscape of Qatar.
The Al Rihla ball is also the first World Cup ball to be produced exclusively with water-based ink and glue, which is less harmful to the environment.
Jean-François Pathy, FIFA marketing director said: “Al Rihla’s round-the-world journey will represent the incredible influence of the FIFA World Cup and offer fans a unique opportunity to participate in this event.
Ilham, 23, like many Indonesians, has been working at the factory for the past five months after struggling to find job opportunities elsewhere.
He said he enjoys his job and feels satisfied making the balls used for such a popular event.
“I love watching and playing football,” Ilham, who glued the balls together, told Al Jazeera. “So thank God, I’m very happy doing this work. It’s a really good thing for the local community to have a job opportunity like this. I like it because I made a lot of friends at the factory.”
Ignatius Indro, head of the Indonesian National Team Fans Association, said he is proud that an Indonesian product is being globally recognized for its high quality.
“As supporters of the Indonesian national team, we are proud of the Al Rihla ball. Yes, even though our national team can’t make it to the World Cup this time, our local products still go global,” he said.
Indro said the Indonesian government has made efforts in recent years to market Indonesian products to the world to compete with regional rivals such as Vietnam and China, and the World Cup is an important stage. important for Indonesia to display its products.
“We have world class apparel that is second to none. This makes us very proud,” he added.
Now, Indro said, the Indonesian national team only needs to meet the success of the country’s sportswear to qualify for the next World Cup in the US, Canada and Mexico in 2026. Indonesia has failed to qualify. competition since independence, with its only appearance in 1938 taking place under the banner of the Dutch East Indies.
“We as fans hope this can also boost the national team’s performance in the future,” he said.