This week we had a talk with Aryn Williams. The Australian midfielder of Persebaya Surabaya. He grew up in a real footballing family. His twin brother (Ryan) currently represents Portsmouth. While his older brother (Rhys) played for Middlesbrough for almost a decade. On top of that, both his mom and dad were active as players, while his father coached several teams in Indonesia. A true footballing family!
We had a call with Aryn Williams to discuss his career and the current state of Indonesian football.
Hey Aryn, how are you?
All good mate. I’m currently in England. It’s freezing over here, so I really miss the Indonesian sun haha.
You come from a real footballing family. With three brothers playing professional football in different leagues. How did that happen?
Yeah, we were brought up in Perth, Australia. Both my parents played football. My dad played in England and my mom in Australia. So, growing up we didn’t have any other option than to play football haha. But I can’t complain as it is something that I love.
Did you ever play in the same team as your brothers?
Me and my brothers grew up playing in the local leagues in Australia. Then we got some trials in England. So, I moved to Burnley when I was 15 and ended up staying at Burnley for 3,5 years, which was a really nice experience.
Then I got an opportunity to move back to Australia to play for my hometown team, Perth Glory. So I moved back and played for Perth for 2 years. That’s when my older brother(Rhys) signed as well. That was the first time we played together on a professional level.
Then you made a move to India
Yeah. I represented Neroca F.C. in the I-League for two seasons. Had an incredible time and met so many wonderful people. Really improved mentally, physically, and technically as I moved on from being one of the local boys at Perth Glory to being the foreigner at a club.
As a foreigner, you have to step up your game and be the best player in the team, every single game. As you have to proof to the fans and your teammates that you are worthy of playing for their club.
How did you end up playing in India?
Well, I spoke to a good friend within the Australian football association and he mentioned that there was a team in India that would suit me. There were a few other players that turned the opportunity down and I just thought: ‘why don’t I take the leap?’. It turned out to be one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
And then Persebaya Surabaya!
Yes, as I was nearing the end of my two-year contract at Neroca. I had two offers at the time. One opportunity to play in the Irish I-League and at the same time an offer from Persebaya.
What made you choose playing in the Liga 1 over the Irish I-League?
Well, I had heard so much about Indonesian football. As my dad used to work as a trainer in Indonesia. So, I called him and he was really enthusiastic about the club. As it is one of the biggest clubs in Indonesia with such a huge fanbase. So, it was an easy decision, to be honest. And besides that, it’s closer to Australia so it’s easier to visit friends & family.
How’s you Bahasa?
It’s getting there haha. But I need to keep practicing otherwise it fades away.
So your father was a coach in Indonesia?
Yeah that’s right. He coached Perseman Manokwari from West Papua. Must have been like 7 or 8 years ago when they still played in the Liga 1. And PSMS Medan in Sumatra before moving on to Myanmar and Malaysia.
That’s cool! So how would you describe playing in Indonesia?
Incredible really. I enjoyed every single minute of it! I came over relatively unknown as a player and then to try to prove yourself and win the love of the fans is simply amazing. That’s something that I’m continually craving. But of course this year we haven’t been able to play. Which is really frustrating, to be honest.
Yeah can imagine. Especially with the competition being postponed twice already..
Exactly. As players, we all went our separate ways in the beginning of March. I went to Australia. Trained every day to be ready for the restart of the competition which got cancelled. Then repeated that process to be able to restart last September. Only to be told two days prior to the restart that it’s off again. That news hit me really hard.
It’s demoralizing for the players. It really affects your mental being, as you are so looking forward to playing again. And then that gets taken away from you in an instance.
Anything can happen in Indonesia.. Have you experienced crazy situations last season?
Yeah last season we had an Austrian coach for half the season. Wolfgang Pikal. We did quite well. But then we went 6 games without a win (2 lost & 4 draws). Obviously no good results, but also not that dramatic you would think. But then at our home game versus PSS Sleman the fans lost it and stormed the pitch and ignited fires on the pitch and in the stands. That was the craziest thing I’ve experienced.
Can you compare playing in India and Indonesia?
Not really. The area I played in India is quite crazy about football. And the sport is gaining more attention over the past few years. Especially the Kalkota Derby which can attract large crowds. But regular matches are not that popular among fans. The number one sport will always be cricket. So It’s nowhere as crazy as Indonesia.
The fans in Indonesia really live, breathe, and eat football. It’s something I’ve never witnessed before. It’s something you’d normally see in South American countries like Argentina or Mexico. It’s incredible.
What are the goals you would like to achieve in your career? Is becoming an Australian international a dream for you for example?
Of course, I would love that. But to be honest I’m currently just trying to stay at the highest possible level I can be at. It has been 10 months without real football. So I already lost a year of my career due to the Coronavirus.
My focus is on maintaining the love for the game and to play professional football as long as possible. The moment I stop enjoying the game will be the day that I quit football. Currently, I’m a football player who doesn’t play football. Doesn’t really make sense, does it?
Do you speak about these matters with your teammates?
Of course. We are in a group chat altogether where everyone discusses how they feel about the situation. As it can get really tough for some people to make ends meet, as the salaries are being cut in half, then brought up again, then be cut in half again. If you have a family and kids to support, you need more certainty. Especially young players with a family to take care of who don’t earn a lot.
Foreign players can usually go back to their country where they maybe have other things or a business going on. But that’s not the case for local players. And they don’t receive any form of support from the government as well. Many local players have started a coffee shop or clothing brand on the side. Just to make ends meet. It’s a sad time for Indonesian football really.
Do you think we can expect a restart of the competition in January/February?
Ahh that’s difficult to say. After the previous two cutbacks, I try to stay optimistic but I also have to be realistic. And with the scheduled U-20’s World Cup in the summer, they have to squeeze in the regular matches before that. To be honest, I don’t see it happen that they can fit in the schedule for the 2020 season. But hey! As you said, anything can happen in Indonesia 😉
Aryn Williams signed his contract with Persebaya Surabaya in 2019. In his first season, he made 19 appearances and scored 3 goals. Persebaya ended the 2019 season as runner-up after Bali United. Unfortunately, he hasn’t played since the Covid-19 outbreak. Indonesian football is going through a rough period and we hope circumstances will allow Liga 1 to be resumed as soon as possible..