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The two worlds of the Indonesian superstar Rafael Struick

At seventeen, he only made the transition from amateur to professional football. Barely four years later, the ADO Den Haag forward is one of the most followed footballers on social media among the Dutch professional leagues and has already played ten caps for his national team. His name is Rafael Struick, a relatively unknown footballer in the Netherlands but a true superstar in Indonesia. “I enjoy every moment and try to do my best.”

Rafael Struick Indonesia

Rafael Struick was born in the Netherlands, but his grandparents are from Indonesia. Apart from a few vacations to the Asian country as a small child and the nasi goreng his grandmother cooked, the footballer has had little exposure to Indonesian culture. Nowadays, he visits the country more often and is a real celebrity there. Currently, Struick has 3.7 million followers on Instagram, which is more than, for example, Hirving Lozano, Santiago Giménez, Luuk de Jong, and Steven Bergwijn. Among footballers playing in the Netherlands, only former Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson has more followers on the platform (5.3 million).

While Struick is overwhelmed by attention in Indonesia, he can still walk around the Netherlands anonymously. “I often get asked what it’s like to live between these two worlds, but I see it as something positive. In the Netherlands, I really have to fight hard for my place. Of course, I have to do that in Indonesia too, but here my life is just normal. When I go to Indonesia, it really is a bit of enjoyment. I play everything there, and you are like a kind of superstar.”

This is something the 21-year-old Struick might not have expected when he only made the transition to ADO Den Haag at seventeen. “I was sixteen and still playing with the amateurs, so it’s still a big step you have to take. But I always had confidence in myself. My parents always kept pushing me, but my mother insisted that I start thinking about what I might want to study. So, I was already half-occupied with that, but ADO fortunately came at the right moment.”

Rafael Struick Indonesia

Surprising Call

Last year, the surprising call came from Indonesia’s assistant coach. “There was an Under-20 World Cup to be held in Indonesia, and they were looking for players,” says Struick. “They asked if I could come to Spain the following week for a training camp. I discussed it with my parents, and it quickly became clear that I just had to do this. Two months later, I heard that the coach wanted to select me for the team, but then we got the news that the World Cup would not take place in Indonesia due to political reasons. This was really disappointing. Not just for me, but for the whole country. It was the first time such a big tournament would take place in Indonesia.”

To his great surprise, he received a call not long after that he was selected for the first team and was to prepare for a friendly match against world champion Argentina. “I remember sitting at home in the living room and looking at my parents with a big smile. I was very happy, shared the news with my family and friends, and then we went out to dinner that weekend to celebrate.”

The full interview can be read in ISSUE ’81, which is set to be released early June.

Rafael Struick Indonesia