The Jakarta Post
When it was her turn to speak in front of members of House of Representatives Commission X overseeing sports, education and culture on Thursday afternoon, the United States-born basketball player Peyton Alexis Whitted apologized for her inability to speak Indonesian fluently.
The 24-year-old, who was born in Tennessee, looked striking in a pink blouse with her tall figure as she stood to recite the five principles of Pancasila in front of the House’s members.
“Hello, everyone. I am sorry my Bahasa [Indonesia] is not like his yet, but give me some time,” she said, referring to Persib Bandung player Fabiano Da Rosa Beltrame, who sat next to her during the meeting.
“I arrived here four months ago. Since I set foot here, I’ve felt at home. It feels like family when I am here. Each day I enjoy it even more. I just love the country, the culture and its traditions. It’s something that I want to be a part of,” she added.
Whitted and Beltrame attended Thursday’s meeting between the Youth and Sports Ministry and the House’s Commission X to discuss their naturalization proposals. On Wednesday, both athletes, accompanied by the ministry, had met the members of Commission III overseeing legal affairs and laws, human rights and security to discuss the same proposals. The members approved the plan.
Whitted, who graduated from Penn State and majored in communications and journalism, said helping the Indonesian women’s basketball team thrive was the main reason she wanted to be Indonesian. She said she wanted to earn a gold medal for Indonesia in the Philippines’ Southeast Asian (SEA) Games in November.
“Just getting to know the different people here, the culture and its traditions -- you don’t see much of that in the States. I’ve really grown as a person since I’ve been here. I know it’s only been four months, but it’s somewhere you can grow and learn,” she said.
“I just want to help the team with my experience in basketball. I want to bring home gold medals at the SEA Games. Hopefully everything goes through with getting my passport before then,” added Whitted, who enjoys traditional Indonesian food like tahu telor (fried egg with tofu) and gado gado (mixed vegetables with peanut sauce).
She said her family was worried at first because she lived far away but after her mom visited in September, the doubts disappeared. Now everyone in her family is on board with her decision.
The Indonesian Basketball Association (Perbasi) chief Danny Kosasih said the decision to naturalize the foreign player was not merely to recruit extra strength. It had been decided carefully by observing the player’s abilities and statistics.
“We have considered it carefully. We’ve seen her statistics in the US. We know when we have to take a foreign player. We will take one who is at least 190 cm in height,” he said.