This article originally appeared on VICE Sports Netherlands.
Kristian Adelmund used to play with Oranje alongside guys like Royston Drenthe, Gianni Zuiverloon and Tim Vincken. But the defender also had a second life in the limelight, as a star footballer in Indonesia with PSS Sleman.
Adelmund, 30, is still very popular in Southeast Asia. The Dutch footballer told VICE Sports Netherlands that women would cook him food, and one even offered to pay money for a vial of his sperm. It was a good life for a while, but eventually an illness in his family (his father got sick) forced him to return home, where he runs a furniture store. Yet, if it was up to him, he would be back on a plane to Indonesia tonight, Adelmund told VICE Sports.
Dave Aalbers, of VICE Sports Netherlands, spoke with Adelmund about his time in Indonesia. This is his story.
"Life here in the Netherlands is extremely boring after what I experienced in Indonesia. I never felt as happy as that. The moment the plane tapped the runway in Indonesia, my heart started beating faster.
I'm a very impulsive person, so I could tell everyone goodbye and leave right now. The only thing keeping me here is this one thing. I still get messages every day, messages like 'come back Adelmund! We miss you!' In Indonesia, I earned a good living and I was able to live like a god. It feels like a waste of time to spend my days like I do now. I often think to myself: why am I still here?
I started out in the youth league of Feyenoord, but because I grew up fast, I always had these problems with my knees. They sent me away and Sparta took me on. I went to Sparta, but I never had the right attitude. Back then I would rather be chasing women. I was out smoking and drinking. You know the drill. I was regularly standing beside the trainers drinking at the bar.
Other guys got contracts. I did not. Sparta later found out that I lived for the sport. But at the time, I had a serious ankle injury and they retired me. Then through VV SHO, I finally ended up with VV Capelle in the top class. Suddenly I got a call from Lorenzo Rimkus, who I knew from my time with Sparta. He had been contacted by this agent from Indonesia who was looking for three Dutch players to join PSIM Yogyakarta. I didn't even think twice. I was sitting on a plane to Indonesia with a matter of days.
I had fans waiting for me at the airport. Back home, I was anonymous. Just another Dutchman. But in Indonesia, I was an instant hero. I was put up in this good hotel and immediately handed stacks of money. One of my first games was an away match in Sumatra. We had to fly for two-and-a-half hours and then take a minibus for ten hours through these pitch-black mountains.
The driver was crazy; a real freak. He drove hard on those roads, to the point that it was really dangerous. There wasn't even a guardrail on a lot of it and the cliff was mere centimeters from the side of the bus. All my teammates were just sleeping there peacefully, but here I was wide awake for ten hours, my eyes wide as I stared at the road.
We had to train on the same field where we were going to play our game. There were serious cows grazing out there on the pitch. When the training was done, I was free to explore the village. Then, out of nowhere, I was pulled into this strangers' wedding. They put me on stage and pressed a plate full of food into my hands. I wasn't even doing anything, but all these people were taking photos of me.
Back at the hotel I learned that I wasn't supposed to go outside. Someone told me there were terrorists in the mountains who would abduct me. That same night the room started to shake with this violent earthquake. It was around Christmas, a time when you're supposed to be with your family. I was thinking, what the hell did I get myself into?
Then, one day, my paychecks stopped arriving. So I flew back to the Netherlands pretty quickly. I thought this whole thing would just be some weird adventure. But then I got another offer, this one from Madura United. They paid me half my salary up front. I returned to Indonesia immediately.
But when I got there, it turned out that Madura United was looking for a number 10. I'm a central defender. The agent who took me on had a deal with my new coach. The coach got a percentage of my transfer pay.
It didn't matter if I was a keeper or whatever. They were going to field me as an attacking midfielder. Eventually, I became sort of a right winger and I was surprisingly good at it. In a half-season I had five goal and ten assists.
Everything was going great and the supporters really appreciated me. Then, out of nowhere, I was thrown out on my ass again unceremoniously. This is how it worked. The coaches would get new players again and again because they got to pocket a percentage of their salaries. Nowadays it might be better, but corruption is still a major problem in Indonesian football.
One time I saw the owner of an opposing team carry a gun into the referees' locker room. None of it was a surprise. Not in Indonesia at least.
Fortunately for me, PSS Sleman quickly called me up. I knew I wanted to play there from the moment I walked into the stadium. There were 35,000 fans who were all really organized. They were jumping around and dancing and singing. I signed on that day and never regretted it. I had a strong bond with the fans there and we had this beautiful ritual together.
One day, after a match, a journalist pressed a GoPro into my hand and said 'do something fun with the audience.' I was thinking 'what the fuck am I doing?' as I walked over toward the stands. I put the song 'I can't stop falling in love with you,' on and the fans started to sing along. I still get goosebumps whenever I see that video.
People in Indonesia adore footballers. Women would cook me these meals to eat after our workouts were over. They would always ask me out on dates, ask me if I wanted to go home with them. I would always try to find a way to decline the offers, but, of course, that all depended on how they looked.
More than once a woman would offer me money for my sperm. For one 'donation' I could get anywhere from 50,000 to 100,000 Euros. I would jokingly say, 'well, even if I'm depressed, I at least know how I could make some money.'
PSS Sleman were rivals of my first club, PSIM Yogyakarta. We played in Jogja once in a derby. Those fans were obviously out to get me. During the warm-ups they had already called me every name under the sun and were throwing water cups around. Fortunately, there was always a lot of security at games like those, so I always felt safe.
But the away games were always a lot less regulated. I remember one where I was initially relieved because the stadium was empty. It was recently renovated and there were no fans in the stands. But fans were allowed to stand behind these rows of fences that surrounded the field. I always had to keep an eye on the sidelines and dodge flying stones. At the end of the game we had to be escorted out of the stadium in police vehicles.
Moments like that were so common in Indonesia. With PSS Sleman, I even saw what I would call 'bedlam,' against their rivals Persis Solo. None of our fans typically came to away games, but this time a few of them were stupid enough to show up. One of them was killed and another was raped in public.
I noticed early on that the atmosphere was pretty grim. One of our defenders took a stone to the head and got knocked out on the pitch. The referee just said 'keep playing!' During the break we had to run with shields over our heads to the tunnel. I yelled at the coach, saying 'I'm not going back out there!' We had to forfeit the game, which was very frustrating because we lost a match that we were winning 3-0.
But I also had so many good memories of my time with PSS Sleman. I became the champion at the second level. After the final whistle, there were people crying in my arms. We got a ride out of there and there was this entourage of motorbikes behind us as far as I could see. Most of the guys on my team were Muslim, so they shouldn't have been drinking, but that day everything was allowed. I have a tattoo of the championship cup and the date on my foot. That way it stays with me always.
Unfortunately, my Indonesian adventure came to an end in a bad way. I was playing with Persela, a club in the premier league there, but I went home for holiday. While I was in the Netherlands, my father told me he had blood cancer. I moved back home immediately to take care of him. I wanted to make sure I spent as much time as I could with him during whatever time he had left. The club understood my situation and let me break my contract.
In one of my last matches with Persela Lamongan I scored a free kick from forty meters, which, of course, made me quite popular. It was my last game and the fans were singing the whole time. There were these banners reading 'Adelmund, we'll miss you!' and 'Be strong for your dad.' By the end of the match, the tears were running down my cheeks. All the songs the audience sang that match were for me. I just couldn't stop crying. At the press conference afterwards I couldn't bring myself to talk. I realized then that my time was up and I had to go back home to deal with this terrible thing.
When I got back home, I learned that the disease wasn't actually all that deadly. My father was able to live to old age just fine. Now I can't wait to go back. Hopefully I can leave in six months or so. I want to advise a football club, or a number of clubs. Either that or set up a YouTube channel. I can speak Bahasa Indonesia, and I would like to create a channel about football and traveling. I already have 70,000 followers on Instagram, which is a pretty big advantage. I also want to create a clothing line.
I have my life motto tattooed on my arm. It reads, 'wherever you are in the world, it can all feel like home.' That's how it feels to me. Home really doesn't have to be the Netherlands. It could be Africa, South America, or Indonesia. I feel like I need to go back there, because, if I'm honest, I miss Indonesia every single day."
This story is part of the VICE Sports Netherlands series Adventurers. Click here to read the rest of the articles (in Dutch).