Cameroonian football player’s death highlights troubles in Indonesia

Cameroonian football player’s death highlights troubles in Indonesia

TANGERANG, Indonesia - Agence France-Presse
Cameroonian football player’s death highlights troubles in Indonesia

Beliby Ferdinand holds a picture of his late brother with his teammates. AFP photo

It was the dream of sporting glory that drew talented Cameroonian striker Salomon Bengondo to Indonesia -- but his story ended in poverty, illness and an untimely death, in a country failing to pay its footballers. 

The withholding of wages by Indonesian clubs has reached “catastrophic proportions” according to international players’ union FIFPro -- and Bengondo is the second foreign player known to have died after going unpaid. 

In 2012 Paraguayan Diego Mendieta died of a viral infection after he was unable to afford treatment after months without wages. 

Bengondo arrived in Indonesia in 2005, a promising young footballer who hoped to build a career in Southeast Asia’s biggest nation.

“He had every chance, he had great hopes,” his brother Beliby Ferdinand told AFP this week at the modest house that they used to share, near the capital Jakarta.

Bengondo died last month at the age of 32, unable to afford hospital treatment for a mystery illness. His former club Persipro still owed him large sums of money.

He had been so incensed at his treatment that he took to the streets to beg in protest with his African teammates in 2012, apparently with little effect. “The club still did nothing,” Ferdinand said.
Brendan Schwab of FIFPro said the issue of Indonesian clubs failing to pay players had reached “literally catastrophic proportions.”

“We can’t think of a country in the world of football where the problems of the players are more pronounced or more serious than Indonesia,” Schwab, head of FIFPro’s Asian division, told AFP.
It is not just foreign players going unpaid. The Indonesian professional footballers’ association (APPI) says 14 clubs in the two top-tier divisions still owe salaries from the 2012/2013 season.

Despite the lack of salary, Bengondo played for the club until the end of the season before returning to the city of Tangerang, where he lived with his brother. 

Mystery illness 

He was already feeling unwell, suffering from chest pains as well as stomach problems, Ferdinand said. Towards the end of November, he began feeling increasingly ill and visited a local hospital and later a clinic where he underwent tests and was given medication to help with his stomach problems.

As his health deteriorated, he would have like to seek treatment at a bigger hospital or even return to Cameroon. But he did not have the means, his repeated appeals to Persipro to give him the money he was owed having failed, his brother said. He died in the early hours of Nov. 29. 

His brother said it is still unclear what exactly he was suffering from and he is waiting for the results of an autopsy.

Bengondo’s body was flown back to Cameroon early December with funding from the Indonesian Football Association (PSSI).

Ferdinand, also a footballer but currently not signed to any club, said he still hoped to claw back the money from Persipro and then return to Cameroon.