Yudhoyono proposes ‘soccer diplomacy’ with Portugal
President Susilo Bambang Yu-dhoyono could not stop from talking about soccer when meeting Portuguese President Anibal Antonio Cavaco Silva, whose nation boasts one of the world’s best national soccer teams.
“I have proposed cooperation in the field of soccer, as we know that soccer in Portugal is very developed and its soccer players have many fans here in Indonesia,” Yudhoyono told a press conference after meeting with Silva at Merdeka Palace on Tuesday.
Later in the day, Yudhoyono hosted a state dinner for his guest at the palace.
Portugal has qualified for the World Cup finals numerous times and has produced world-class players such as Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo and Manchester United’s Luis Nani, and coaches including Jose Mourinho.
Indonesia, meanwhile, has been struggling for soccer recognition in Southeast Asia and has faced a schism in its national soccer organizations.
Soccer cooperation was included in an MoU signed by the Indonesian and Portuguese foreign ministers after the bilateral talk. The memorandum also covers education, science and technology, culture, tourism, youth, sports and mass media.
Two other MoUs signed on Tuesday covered economic cooperation and short-term-stay visa exemptions for diplomatic passport holders.
Silva said that his visit to Jakarta was historic and marked a new level in the two nations’ bilateral ties that have experienced ups and downs in recent years.
Silva is the first Portuguese head of state to visit Indonesia since 1950, when the nations established diplomatic relations.
“Portugal has recognized Indonesia’s achievements in international forums. I congratulate President Yudhoyono for his remarkable success in the arena of G20 and as a leader of ASEAN,” he said.
Silva also said he hoped the two nations could improve their business ties as he brought 20 top Portuguese businessmen with him. They are slated to attend the Indonesia-Portugal Business Forum on Wednesday.
Yudhoyono said that he hoped investment and business relations between Indonesia and Portugal would improve.
Bilateral trade between Indonesia and Portugal reached US$171.26 million in 2011, representing a surplus of $64.98 million on the Indonesian side and an overall increase over $109.2 million a year earlier.
Silva is also scheduled to deliver a lecture at the University of Indonesia and attend an exhibition commemorating five centuries of Indonesian-Portuguese connections on Wednesday.
Silva flew to Jakarta from Dili, Timor Leste, where he, along with Yudhoyono, attended the inauguration of Timor Leste’s new president, Taur Matan Ruak, on Sunday.
The relationship between Indonesia and Portugal have been strained over the years by East Timor (now Timor Leste).
In 1965, Indonesia ended 15 years of diplomatic ties with Portugal, deeming the European nation a colonialist. East Timor was colonized by Portugal in the 16th century and invaded by Indonesia in 1975.
In 1975, the diplomatic ties were reestablished following a regime change in Lisbon. This time, however, relations lasted less than a year before the Portuguese government closed its embassy in Jakarta.
In 1999, the nations resumed relations, following the UN-sponsored referendum on self-determination in Timor Leste.
— JP/Bagus BT Saragih