Did you know that the current head coach of Persib Bandung once worked together with the Brazilian stars Ronaldo and Romario? His Free-kick attributes and football shoes were used during World Cups, he worked together with Arsenal and won the pre-world cup under 17 with South-Korea against his home country, the Netherlands.
Looking for adventure and success best describes the start of a remarkable and blessed journey across the globe. It’s hard to describe Robbert’s full story in an article with just 2500 words as he has experience as a manager in Asia for so many years. We will highlight the most important parts of it in this article for you! Currently, a Singaporean journalist is working on a real autobiography about the life of Robert Rene Alberts. Keep an eye on his Instagram to stay up to date about the release date of his autobiography.
The Dutchmen became an appreciated coach in Asia, where he coached several clubs -and national teams. He currently lives in Indonesia where he is the head coach of Persib Bandung in West-Java and in a few years he will enjoy his well-deserved retirement from his newly built villa in Canggu. Bali.
Born and raised in the Dutch capital! Robert played in the different youth teams of AFC Ajax but unfortunately never made his debut in an official game for the first team. He did play friendly games for Ajax and was called up for European Cup Matches against Juventus, Bayern Munich, and FC Antwerp.
Although he didn’t succeed as a professional player at Ajax, he did build an impressive network in the world of football, which helped him as an entrepreneur a few years later. He played for clubs in Canada, France, and Sweden but his footballing career wasn’t that exciting as his life as an entrepreneur and football coach.
During the time that Johan Cruyff became the big star at Ajax, Robert was in the last youth-team before heading to the senior teams. Coincidentally, Johan, and Robert both had a groin injury and were treated by the club doctor at the same time. As a junior player being together in the same dressing room as one of the world’s best-ever players must have been amazing. Not only did Robert play against Johan Cruyff during training, but he also became a friend because of their shared injury! Actually, Robert and Johan still had some contact after Robert moved to Sweden.
Business in the early ’80
Robert was the first person to challenge the design of football shoes in the ’80s! Why not change the design and close the shoe on the side instead of on top? He bought and cut open different tennis shoes to find the ultimate design for his idea and knocked on the doors of many established brands like Umbro and Quick. From his residence in Sweden, many friends and professional football players tried his new design and not without success. Back then, the power of social media wasn’t the same as nowadays and he didn’t have enough funds to keep promoting his shoes without receiving an actual income.
It wasn’t his only football-related invention! With his free-kick attributes, he gained a lot of success and appreciation from leading persons in the football world. The dolls/mannequins helped football players to improve their free-kick taking skills. From his office in Helsingborg, Sweden he connected the new free-kick attributes with the Swedish and Norwegian Football Federations and they actually loved them. Quickly after that, his attributes were used by the big stars from Ajax and Liverpool. When “big stars” start using your product, the sky is the limit! He soon after opened other offices and his office in Helsingborg had over 20 employees at that time.
As there was extra money coming in, he restarted the production of the football shoes and added goalkeeper gloves, shirts, shorts, and footballs to his product range. Things were looking really good! During the 1990 World Cup in Italy, he was invited by the Brazilian and German teams to contribute to the team’s free kicks training sessions and his invention gained worldwide attention. Robert didn’t reach the top as a professional football player but still, he managed to be on the same pitch with stars like Romario, Ronaldo, Matthäus, and German head coach, Franz Beckenbauer.
The Kuwait Crisis
The sky is the limit and with the help of different sponsors, he started the production of more than 15.000 football shoes in Taiwan and around 5.000 high-quality shoes in Italy. Besides that, new designs of footballs and goalkeeper gloves were produced in Sialkot, Pakistan, and shirts and shorts were ordered in Denmark.
He also got invited to show his free-kick attributes at an exhibition in Singapore and the Malaysian national team used his attributes during training sessions.
Everything looked fine until the Kuwait crisis struck. Nobody could ever foresee what kind of impact the Kuwait Crisis had on his business a few months later! For about 7 weeks the war in the Middle East dominated the world news and the uncertainty about the consequences increased. The shoes and attributes were already produced on a huge scale before most of his sponsors stopped providing the needed funds because of the war. From one day to another big problems were heading his way and he needed to step down as the director of the company to avoid huge financial claims. He needed to leave Scandinavia because of continuous financial claims from the governments. -What a difference a year can make!
The start of 28 turbulent years in Asia!
Robert left the Netherlands at the age of 20 and didn’t feel the need to move back to his home country. During his years in Sweden, he also started his career as a football coach and not without success. He had a good reputation in Malaysia as well and he needed to leave Sweden because of the money claims. So his new contract at Kedah FA in Malaysia was the perfect next step. It was in 1992 when he signed his first contract in Malaysia and it was the start of 28 turbulent years on the Asian continent.
Robert Rene Alberts about his time in Asia!
We sat down with Robert in Canggu, Bali, and talked about his career as a football coach in Asia.
I expected that being a coach in Asia would be a totally new experience and I was looking forward to it. I had a great start and liked living in Malaysia. In 1993 we became the champion of the Malaysian football competition and we won the Cup final against Singapore DT.
In the preparations for the new season in 1994, we made a trip to America and visited different places like Hawaii, Miami, and San Diego. The national team of America was in the final stage of their preparation for the 1994′ World Cup and we played against them. It was one of the moments I will never forget. It was really special that a club team from Malaysia played against the US national team. We played exceptionally well that day and many were surprised by the quality and performance of our team. Of course, we lost that day (3-0) but the performance in front of 20.000 supporters and the appreciation we got that day will be remembered by many Malaysian football supporters.
“I cried that day when I found out I was being cheated by 5 of my own players”
I knew that I had to deal with cultural differences in Malaysia but what happened later at Kedah FA was shocking and an eye-opener at the same time. We were heading for the championship again until 5 of my players decided to participate in match-fixing scandals and we didn’t win the league. I literally cried that day when I found out I was being cheated on by 5 of my own players.
On the edge of giving up on coaching in Asia, I decided to move on! How many European coaches can share stories like this and maybe I was up for a big adventure?
From Malaysia, I moved to Singapore where I had 6 great years with 2 different teams. (Tanjong Pagar and Home United) With Home United, I even won the league and the cup which was quite an achievement! The infrastructure and the organization of the football league is really good but the passion for football in Singapore isn’t on the same level as Malaysia, Thailand, and Indonesia.
With South-Korea against the Netherlands!
After my time in Singapore, I had the chance to become Director of Coaching in South-Korea. It was a great move during South-Korea’s best footballing years in history. Guus Hiddink came in to lead the South-Korea national team to the semi-final during the World Cup in 2002 and I had the privilege to train the under 17 national team. The best memory was the final in the pre-world cup under 17 with South Korea against my home country, the Netherlands. Because of a tactical change halfway we managed to turnaround the 0-1 score into a 3-1 victory. The Dutch were beaten by an unknown Dutch football coach in South Korea, which of course, felt really good.
Hello, Arsene Wenger speaking..
Thailand and the Arsenal Football Academy
Arsenal was interested in starting the Arsenal Football Academy in South-Korea but that wasn’t easy because of different regulations in the country. I told them that Malaysia was a perfect alternative and it was a great success. Being involved in the Arsenal Football Academy brought me to Thailand as well. Arsenal needed a Thai club to stay in the highest league in Thailand in order to form a partnership. The club was in relegation position and Arsenal started worrying about the partnership. I got a phone call from London and asked to coach the team to avoid relegation. I became director of the club as I didn’t want the sitting manager to be sacked. I told the club to keep the coach on paper but I would lead the team.
We didn’t lose a game again that season and ended at a decent 4th position. My job was done and I moved back to Malaysia where I managed the Malaysian U-19 team and later Sarawak FA before a new adventure came across…. The Indonesian Football Competition!
Football Madness in Indonesia!
The passion for Indonesian football is unique and dangerous at the same time. My first club in Indonesia was Arema FC, in Malang. A big club in Indonesia with huge numbers of supporters on the stands. We had a great season and were competing for the championship. But Asian Football isn’t always what it looks like from the outside. Being a manager in Indonesia doesn’t always mean you are the actual leader of the team.
During my career, I always selected the players I want to start the game with, but that wasn’t always appreciated in Malang. There are powerful groups from outside the team who clearly express their preferences for some players. Not selecting one of their favorite players for the starting 11 almost costs me my job in Malang. It was because the supporters wanted me to stay, and I finished the season with Arema. Guess what? We won the Indonesian League that year! I was the first foreign manager who won the league in his first year in Indonesia.
The same season we played the important away game against big rivals Persebaya in Surabaya. On our way to Surabaya we got in trouble on the road. We prayed for our lives as everything around us was being attacked by the Persebaya supporters. It looked like a warzone and we were all lying down in the bus. Even with all the police, a decent escort was impossible. It was when I realized how deep the passion for football in Indonesia goes! It is so beautiful but dangerous at the same time.
From Malang to Makassar in 2010! PSM was a small and ambitious club with great management at that time. Corruption is nothing new in Indonesian football and that season the federation didn’t want us to be champions. They replaced our home game against the current leaders of the league, Persipura to Surabaya without any reason. As we didn’t approve this decision we decided to leave the competition.
My second period at PSM Makassar (after 4 years at Sarawak FA in Malaysia) was more successful but we were still fighting against higher authorities. Bhayangkara and Persija were blocking our way to success! Unannounced suspensions, and giving away extra points to our opponents (without a proper reason) made it almost impossible to win the league.
In Indonesia, nothing is what it seems and things can change every day! At one point in my career, I even had to buy the flight tickets for our staff members for an away game, as the club’s money was running out.
The Indonesian Football Culture is without any doubt amazing! You will find the best atmosphere in the stadiums and the passion for football is from another level. Being a coach in Indonesia isn’t always easy but on the other hand, it is what it is and gave me memories for life.
The Dutch Connections!
Throughout my career, I brought different dutch players to Asia. For the Indonesian football fans, Wiljan Pluim and Marc Klok were the most famous players I introduced to Indonesian Football.
It looked like a perfect match when I brought them to Makassar but it wasn’t that good from the start. Wiljan needed time to adapt to the Indonesian Football culture and his first performance was far from what the media expected. When Klok arrived the two players started to compete with each other. When they finally became good friends and start finding each other on the pitch we had a brilliant midfield-motor. To this day I still have a great relationship with both of them.
Right now at Persib Bandung, we have 2 promising Dutch players as well. As a foreign player in Indonesia, you have to perform every single game. The supporters always expect something extra from foreigners. Nick Kuipers is a solid rock in our defense so far and Geoffrey Castillion made 2 goals in his first 3 appearances which is a good start. Hopefully, they can keep up the good work when the season restarts.
Coach at Persib Bandung
Right now I’m the head coach of another beautiful club in Indonesia! Persib Bandung. It will probably be my last club before my retirement. We don’t know what the future will bring us! Right now, we need to control the world’s COVID-19 pandemic before we can continue doing what we love. We started the 2020 competition with 3 victories and we have a great team. The structure within Persib is very decent and the management is also very professional. I still have a few years to go at Persib and we have big plans for the near future..
Robert has won multiple “Coach of the year” awards in Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia!
Awaydays Asia and Robert Rene Alberts
Canggu, Bali December 2020