In the midst of all the hype surrounding the Asian Games, we had the exciting chance to sit down with one of the frontrunners of Jakarta’s own vibrant futsal and football-training scene. Born in Jakarta, Akash Nathani is a lifelong football player turned futsal coach who played for teams in Singapore, Europe, Indonesia, and the US before an injury lead him to take up coaching. Today, he owns and operates ANFA (Akash Nathani Futsal Academy) in Jakarta. Akash, together with his team, personally trains youth players to improve their abilities using cutting-edge programs and techniques.

Hi Akash, thanks for taking the time to talk to us today. Can you start by telling us a bit about ANFA?

In 2009, after my injury in the US, I came back to Jakarta. I sent out a message from my aunt’s Blackberry, organizing a practice session, and that was how it began. The beginnings were very humble. But by 2011, we’d decided to go in professionally. The kids had jerseys, complete equipment, and the coaches were certified.  We began playing tournaments and became part of futsal leagues within the Jakarta area.

These days, we have programs for kids ranging from age 3 all the way up to 16. We primarily do after-school activity programs with international schools in North Jakarta, and we’re just now planning to expand to South Jakarta, starting with a Sunday session in Kuningan. We also have another program called “Proball Mastery” that we do in addition to the after-school programs, and we’re planning to have another session of this in Citos, in Cilandak, on Thursdays.

It sounds like football has always been a huge part of your life. Can you talk a little more about that?

Ever since I was a kid, I don’t remember a day that I didn’t have a ball at my feet. My dad used to play football, not professionally, but at a decent level. I used to go and watch him when I was four, I used to be at the side of the pitch, just kicking the ball, running with the ball. It was always football. I was part of the youth set-up, the professional cup, by the time I was twelve.

Where did you play as you got older?

When I was 17, I went on to play in Italy, England, and back here in Jakarta. Finally, I was on a scholarship in the US, in Portland, Oregon. I was supposed to be there for four years, but because of injury, I was just there for one. So I came back to Jakarta, and started ANFA Futsal Academy.

Coming back to ANFA, what are your current goals or challenges with the company?

Our biggest challenge now is expanding our market in South Jakarta. Currently, most of our client base is in the North, so now we have to work on building that new database in Kuningan. We will be holding after-school activities, and hope to expand to more weekday and weekend sessions, but that depends on the demand.

Another challenge is changing the mindset of parents. Some parents have the belief that sports are not important. They think it’s good, but only when you have free time. But more people are starting to realize sports are important. Especially sports like football, futsal, and basketball. What it does to the body, to the mind. It’s actually a supplement for your kid to keep growing and to do well in school. But it’s a difference in mindset.

That’s very interesting. What would you say are some of the benefits, for kids, of sports like futsal and football?

Futsal makes you think, gives you quick decision-making skills and keeps you healthy, which keeps your mind healthy too. Futsal is a mini-sided game, with lots of passing moments, but always with the emphasis on control. It also builds your self-confidence, your personality.

Simultaneously, when you have that personality on the pitch, off the pitch you become a confident player too. This is the pattern we see with our players- they come very shy, soft-spoken. Suddenly now, years later, they’re in school with an entourage. Because of that confidence, public speaking becomes very easy for them too.

You mentioned you also do something called ProBall.  Could you tell me more about that?

ProBall is a skill-base and individual technical school that focuses on dribbling techniques. The game itself centers around one vs. one. In a regular football class or futsal session, it’s a lot of passing and moving, passing and moving, but this [proball] is one child, one ball. So it’s all about technical skills. And what makes the program unique is it’s a progressive-level system, so you start off “white-level,” and you keep going up, yellow to orange to green to blue and so forth. Just like karate. Every level has different attributes.  This is a supplementation program for football players from amateur all the way up through advanced- we tell parents it’s the supplement to football like protein to fitness.

ProBall Mastery by Anfa

The last section of every ProBall class is devoted to one vs. one. In a 1v1 game, all the aspects of your football game are being tested. It’s not easy! The game of one vs. one for three minutes will be the longest three minutes of your life. Us coaches play, and we are gassed out.

Okay, and now a couple of questions about you! First, after all of your international experience, what do you think of the city of Jakarta these days?

I think slowly but surely it’s moving forward. Especially in South Jakarta, there’s a completely different vibe; people are very creative. You look at different cafes, hipster cafes- it’s just coming into the trend these last couple years. And, I find, it’s because of young kids, ready to invest in something fresh, something new and different. “Oh cool, let’s bring this in, let’s bring that in.” And suddenly, it’s very colorful.

One last question: what do you do in your free time?

I watch football [laughs].

(Laughs) Okay, great. Thank you for your time.               

Thank you!