With the eyes of all Southeast Asian football fans turned towards Jakarta for next week’s AFF Suzuki Cup draw on May 2, one man sure to catch their attention is Indonesian legend Ponaryo Astaman.

Having only retired from a lengthy professional career last season, the 38-year-old still looks fit enough to be running out for Indonesia later this year but rather he’ll focus on off-field activities, acting in an ambassadorial role as the ‘VIP co-host’ for the draw

Regarded as one of the finest midfield talents that his nation has ever produced, Ponaryo burst onto the international stage at the 2004 AFC Asian Cup in China where he a scored a spectacular winner in a 2-1 victory over Qatar that was later voted as one of the goals of the tournament.

As a deeper lying playmaker though goals weren’t necessarily part of the job description but what was, and what he had in spades, was a fine technical capacity, a slick passing range and a hard-working, hard-tackling approach that served him wonderfully well as the midfield screen in an international career that spanned a decade from 2003 to 2013.

A mainstay for the national team not just in the continental arena but also in a regional setting, Ponaryo contested three AFF Suzuki Cups for Indonesia and whilst he wasn’t able to lift the trophy he came very close on two of those occasions.


As a 25-year-old he was part of the Merah Putih side that made it all the way to the final in 2004 only to fall 5-2 on aggregate to Singapore before, as captain of the team, Indonesia failed to progress from a tricky group three years later.

He was back – in his customary number 11 shirt – in 2008 though where Indonesia lost in the semifinals to Thailand after having earlier picked up wins over Myanmar and Cambodia in the group stage.

Regarded as a fine reader of the play from his midfield post it wasn’t a surprise to see the cerebral player turn to coaching at the end of his playing career and after having obtained his AFC ‘A’ licence he was in charge of Borneo FC for their President’s Cup campaign earlier this year.

With that campaign out of the way though he decided to once again change course and has earned widespread plaudits for his role as a commentator in his native Indonesia where he has drawn on his vast tactical understanding of the game as a television analyst.

Also heavily involved with the Indonesian’s player’s association (APPI), the man known as ‘Popon’ has already tasted four different layers to the footballing cake with the topping coming next week as he will be one of the focal points of the highly anticipated AFF Suzuki Cup 2018 draw.