This week we had a talk with Gavin Kwan Adsit. The Balinese-American defender was born under the smoke of beachside town Sanur, and grew out to become a player of the Indonesian national team and his hometown team: Bali United. From an early age he gained experience in Europe, but eventually signed his first contract with Indonesian side Mitra Kukar. Besides football, Gavin has a lot of passions, hobbies and entrepreneurial activities outside of the pitch.
We had a talk with Gavin Kwan Adsit to discuss his career, his favorite things about Indonesia and more. Besides that, we gave you the opportunity to send in your question for Gavin on our Instagram @awaydays.asia. Find out the three best fan questions at the end of the article. Enjoy!
This is the story of Gavin Kwan Adsit.
Hey Gavin, how are you?
All good man, just finished dinner. How are you?
All good Gavin. So tell me, your first professional moves were made in Europe. How did you end up in that part of the world?
Yes, actually I first came to Italy. At the time I had a coach from AS Roma who I met in Bali and who had some contacts in Italy. I trained with him for a bit and there was this international soccer school he told me about. Where young players can try to earn a contract. Many players from all over the world can join this academy and do trials to earn a contract. I went to Ovada in Milan for three months, the trials went well and I got offered a contract in Romania with CFR II Cluj.
After that I went on to play in Germany where I was approached by Mitra Kukar. We were on a training camp in Spain, and it so happened to be that Mitra Kukar was doing their pre-season camp there as well. Quite a surprise as you don’t expect Indonesian teams to do their pre-season camp abroad. It was nice to receive the offer, but I wasn’t ready to accept it right away as I felt I still had a shot at making it in Europe, but a year later I would choose to sign with them after all.
Quite a coincidence that you end up meeting a club from your own country all the way in Spain.
Haha, true! It was all mashed together really. I never expected to meet an Indonesian club in Spain, but it was a great experience. We played a few memorable matches at the time, against teams like Real Madrid B, Barcelona B and the first team of Villareal. That was amazing man!
So what was it like to face off with the first team of Villareal?
Poah, it was tough. They played against us on Wednesday in preparation for their game against Barcelona on Saturday, so they didn’t go easy on us. They were really taking it seriously, no kick about match, to experience the difference in level first-hand like that was amazing.
Sounds like an amazing experience indeed! But you come from an amazing place as well. What was it like to grow up in Bali for you?
It really is home to me. I was born and raised here, but raised bilangual as my father is of American descent while my mother is Indonesian. I loved growing up in Bali as there is so much diversity. I mean what’s not to love about life in Bali ? Almost every foreigner I speak to is trying to find a way to stay in Bali permanently haha.
Speaking about foreigners. Many people might find it easy to adapt to Bali life, but I can imagine some foreign players might have trouble adapting to the culture. Have you experienced players struggling to adapt to the way of play and culture?
Definitely, I have seen a lot of foreign players having a hard time with the food and living conditions, but the most common thing is the time it takes to travel in Indonesia. Take Mitra Kukar for example. The closest airport is a four-hour drive away from the club, so you are really isolated out there. Or a team like Persipura Jayapura. Those guys need to take a 12 hour flight (!) with transits to nearly every away game and still manage to perform well in the league. You can imagine it is very tiring for players to be on the bus and plane all the time.
So, in that sense I have a lot of respect for foreign players as many of them really try to adapt to those circumstances. They try their best to fit in the team, learn the language and show respect to the local players. Even though the language barrier is there, players still find a way to communicate. Of course you have to deal with different visions on how the game should be played, but usually we tend to find a way to make it work.
So, how does it work with hierarchy within the team between foreign and local players if there is a language barrier?
Well the funny thing is, that even though not everyone on the team speaks the same language, the language of football is universal. It’s all about body language and being respectful. It doesn’t matter where you come from. It makes the language barrier disappear, you know what I mean? Local players can see the leadership qualities in foreign players and respect that.
That’s a nice way to put it. Do you also see it happen the other way around? When foreign players acknowledge the leadership qualities in local players?
Yes, definitely. Usually, you have a few senior local players in the team who are the leaders within the local circles. You can notice that the foreign players respect the captain or leader within the team and follow their leadership. I find it amazing to see to be honest. Sometimes you’ve got these top players who’ve played in the Bundesliga and even they follow the lead of a local captain.
Mitra Kukar, Barito Putera & Timnas
Gavin signed his first professional contract with Mitra Kukar in 2015. However, the adventure didn’t last long due to the suspension of the league, so after 6 months he moved on to play for Persipasi Bandung Raya (PBR) where he played together with Hanif Sjahbandi. After six months in Bandung, he signed a contract with Borneo FC. But his time at Pesut Etam only lasted a year before he really managed to grow into Indonesian football at the highest level at Barito Putera.
“My career really gained momentum when I ended up at Barito Putera.” I signed my first long-term contract with Barito, which became the club where I really learned and developed my skills. Adapting at the senior level was important for my development as a young player, and the only way to do so is by getting lots of game time something I didn’t get in those two years prior to my transfer to Barito.
At the time, Barito was coached by Jacksen F. Tiago, a Brazilian coach with many years of experience in Indonesian football. I am really grateful that I was able to play under him as he taught me so much. As a young player it is really important to learn how to pace yourself in games. You tend to play like you are always in a hurry, constantly wanting to go forward, forcing yourself to let mistakes slip into your game. Jackson really taught me how to gain better control and pace myself in the game.
Great to hear that coach Jacksen provided you with those lessons. Besides the coach, I can imagine you must have learned from senior players around you as well. Who were the seniors that guided you during your time at Barito?
I would say the most influential player for me personally was Mathias S. Cordobà. He’s an Argentinian player with a lot of experience who showed me true leadership in the field. He was so clever in reading the game and creating space behind defenders, I really learned a lot from his way of playing the game.
Besides that, obviously our captain Rizky Pora and Bayu Pradana really taught me valuable lessons as well. The combination of training with experienced players like them and getting a lot of game time really helped me develop.
Interesting that you mention creating space behind the defense since you mostly play as a defender. What is your favorite position actually?
So, my ideal position would be playing as a striker. I grew up playing as an attacker, but that changed during my time at Borneo. Sometimes I would be playing two games a week in two different positions. I was playing as a striker with their U21s and as a right-back with the senior team in the Liga in the same week haha, but I never saw it as a problem. I always try to stay open-minded and see something to learn in whatever position it may be. How can you grow if it’s just theory and training?
So, you don’t find it confusing to play as a right winger and a few days later as right-back?
Well those two positions are more alike than you might think. In the end, I only had to change my own way of thinking and mentality towards those positions. Some games I actually prefer to be a right-back as you get more space and are able to overlap while as a winger you are forced to go inside.
Funny story, the first time I got called up for the National team, I thought I got called up because I scored a lot of goals as a striker, but that turned out a little different. I arrived at the national team and the coach (Luis Milla) told me he had heard that I had some experience as a right-back, and so I got the same situation like Borneo once again. I became the right-back of Timnas during the week and right winger at my club on weekends, well at least I never got bored haha.
What is your dearest memory as a player of Timnas?
My best memory would have to be the game against Mongolia in the 2018 AFC U23 Championship qualification where I managed to score two goals as a right-back. We won that game with quite the difference in goals, I believe it was 7-0, but I mainly remember that game because we just came from a loss against Malaysia, and we needed that win to gain momentum again to bounce back in the qualification tournament.
I still vividly remember everyone having so much fun and looking at each other with the belief that we could still make it. Those are the moments that I cherish most and the reason why I choose a team sport over tennis or Ping-Pong. I’m a very social-oriented person, so I really value sharing moments with other people, and what better way to do so by winning together as a team right?
Great memory indeed and then after Barito you signed with Bali United. Was it a dream for you to represent a Balinese team when you grew up?
Well to be honest, Bali United wasn’t around when I grew up. The club is only 6 years old, so when they emerged, I was really excited(!) ‘Finally we have a professional club from Bali now!’ I thought to myself. It makes me feel extra proud to wear the Bali United jersey as you represent the place that you grew up in, it gives you that extra sense of pride when you step on the pitch. It’s a similar feeling to joining the national team, it’s a real blessing for me.
Besides that, it’s really fun to play here. We signed some of the best players in the league and Bali United is really setting an example for other teams in Indonesia when it comes to the facilities. You can see other teams copying the formulas that are applied at Bali United which improves the overall standard of the teams in the league. Did you know we will get a new training ground close to Pantai Purnama in Sanur? Pfhoe, that’s going to be amazing, man. A massive facility containing 6 training fields, 4 basketball courts, and lots of facilities in line with European standards. I can’t wait to train there!
That sounds amazing! As a true Balinese, what is your favorite expression in Bahasa Bali?
I would say Astungkara. It’s like payu tuhan/praise the lord. But also translates too: hope you get good luck.
Besides his activities on the field, Gavin is also investing in many off the field hobbies and entrepreneurial projects, including sponsor deals and his own Youtube channel. We asked Gavin to explain a bit more about his motivation to start the channel and what he likes to do outside of football.
“I always wanted to invest my money in a good way after reading Rich dad, poor dad & the richest man in Babylon, I wanted to have different projects outside football that don’t take up too much time, but still give me a return on my savings.” So, I lease this piece of land from people in Kalimantan (It’s called a sengon project) where I plant trees that can be sold for their wood and paper production. I have about 7000 trees in one location and 3000 in another which I will be able to sell after 5 years. Only time will tell whether or not it was a good investment haha.
Besides that, I think social media is a powerful channel as a player for side income. I am lucky enough to have a manager who really helped me monetize my socialsby telling me what to post and how to maintain my image by declining other deals. I got good brand deals with Rexona, Pocari Sweat, Tora Bika and Nivea for Men. I started the Youtube channel just for fun and only if it doesn’t take too much time. I just let it grow naturally and organically as a fun hobby and perhaps it can benefit me in the long run.”
Thanks a lot for sharing your story with us, Gavin. To close it off we have three questions from the Awaydays Asia fans for you.
@jeffriminggar: What was it like to play in Romania? (Gimana rasanya dulu main di liga Rumania)
Quite the experience. I met a lot of players from the US, Canada etc. international program which was nice, but at the same time it was a frustrating period as well. I was promised to get a visa, but had to live there illegally for three months. They kept promising me the visa, but in the end it never happened. So, I eventually went to the authorities and told them: Look, they promised me a visa – oh that’s normal. We get 6 players a week with this story.
Good learning curve, dealing with clubs, coaches, agents. Getting to know the social hierarchy within a team. Making sure you know this hierarchy, staying neutral and being able to connect with everyone in the team instead of having all these small (separated) groups.
@farrrreell_: Any plans to join Arema? (Ga ada niatan ke Arema)?
Haha tough question. I mean I am always open towards any offers but it really depends on the circumstances like; my performances, the coaches and agents involved. I just want to make the most out of my career to be honest and evaluate my decisions every year.
As a fan of a certain club I understand that the love for certain clubs really runs in the blood. The fans make their way to the stadium every week and so did their fathers before them which is something I really respect. History and fan passion are something I look for in a club, but I can’t really tell where my journey will take me.
@ichsnarb__: What’s your favorite thing about Indonesia? (Secinta apa sih terhadap NKRI)
Bhineka Tunggal Ika (Unity in diversity). I mean, we’ve got 250 million people, that differ so much from the Eastside to the West-side each district has its own culture, its own language, different religions but everyone can still be one. I don’t see that in any other country, there is so much diversity, but people still hang out and eat together. I really find that amazing. That’s the thing I’m most proud of as an Indonesian.