Sports history

One of the means for US to know more about the history of sports and its improvements throughout the years is through a persons past experiences.  In 1944, Indonesia was under colonial control of the Netherlands. It was not until the end of 1949, when Indonesia obtained its independence from the Netherlands (Steven Drakely, 2005) The history of sport is not well documented as little was written on it, for this reason, I interviewed Crecentia Saroha an Indonesian woman in order to get first hand information on the history of sport.  I will try to explore how two different cultures Dutch and Indonesia interact to shape the physical activity opportunities in Indonesia.

Crecentia was born and bred in Indonesia, at a place called Sidikalang.  Her father was a salesperson while the mother was a housewife.  She is the third born in a family of six sisters and four brothers.  They are Catholics.  At the age of 67, Crecentia admits much has changed in the arena of Sports.  During her childhood, the most popular games were Badminton and ‘Sepak takrow’. This sport term is new to me so I ask her to ex pound. “Sepak takraw is a combination between volleyball and soccer. Basically it is played like volleyball without the use of hands but the feet and head only just like soccer,” explains Crecentia.  In addition, the ball is not supposed to touch the ground, which is similar to volleyball.  She says. Crecentia loved to swim by the lake nearby her house, a skill she learnt at school.  Sports were emphasized at school level and mandatory morning exercises were given before school started.  Crecentia adds.

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Crecentia admits that she enjoyed sports even without thinking about its use for our bodies. ‘Back in the school days ‘Pendedikan Jasmni’ was mandatory.  “The teachers told me doing sports we can maintain our healthy body as well as physical appearance,” says Crecentia.

The role of women in some cultures was limited to child bearing and playing good wife and mothers.  Women were discouraged from participating in any leisure or physical activity despite the benefits. The struggle for women rights and specifically involvement in sport changed during the civil rights era.  As Bell, R.(2007) denotes ‘The push for civil rights, which culminated in the passage of civil rights Act of 1964, helped increase the status of women and minorities’ Women were able to engage in sport. From this knowledge, I am interested to know if there were any stambling blocks in doing sports during Crecentias childhood days.  Things like gender difference, social class, culture and religion, I suggest.

According to Crecentia, she does not believe there was any on her part. She was raised under Catholic influence.  However, she adds that back in those days women obligations were different from those of men, which had an impact on sports.  For instance, she says ordinary women could not do sport as their leisure activity.  Women needed to dress themselves and get ready to married at a young age.  Nevertheless, Crecentia’s family was different and she had the independence to choose her leisure activities.

The revolution of women in America seems to have had spill off effects into other nations across the world.  This seems to be the case because Crenentia does not mention any restrictions placed on her to participate in sports.  Unlike other women, she was independent to choose her leisure sport.  Benjamin Radars in his book The American Revolution: from the age of folk games to the age of Television Sports (2004) illustrates that ‘the revolution in women’s athletics is at full, running tide, bringing with it a sea of change not just in activities but attitudes as well’.

Crecentia attitude is a clear illustration of change in attitude. From our interview she says, “Do not tell anyone. But I do enjoy sports without thinking about its use for our body”, then she laughs. She also uses expressions as ‘I do feel to enjoy swimming the most because I love kicking water’ and ‘it is my nature I would say.’ The history of sports in Indonesia seems to have been trouble free.  So far, Crecentia makes no mention of discrimination.  However, history literature has documented numerous issues of racial discrimination.  I am inclined to probe further into Crecentias childhood.  Besides the difference in obligation that women had to fulfill when they were young, I wonder if there was any racism in sports.  America had a troubled history fighting racism.  Heroes like Martin Luther king in his speech ‘I have a dream’ said that I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.  However, Crecentia is quick to tell me that she does not think there was any discrimination in sports in lines of race.  Crecentia loved to swim by the nearby lake and kick in the water.  She says it is her nature with that attitude one should naturally assume that she would have turn profession at that early age.  Sports were viewed as important and mandatory at school.  When asked what happened of her swimming she reports that back in her days women were not free to roam around and do any sort of leisure activities.  They were supposed to dress themselves and get ready to be married at a young age.  Even though she was not tied down by this ideology, she was somewhat confined by the cultural views of others.  It seems that through the interaction of the Dutch and Indonesians, participation in leisure time and physical activity increased among women.

The issues of gender equality in terms of access to education, careers and sports have been central since the women liberation movements in the United States in the 1960s.  (Dong Jinxia, 2003) Changes have resulted developments like Title IX and Sex Discrimination Acts contributed to this.  According to Radar, he remarks “Title IX in effect simply outlawed any sexual discrimination by school districts.”  To some extent, title IX revolutionized sporting in Indonesia in terms of enforcing mandatory physical education or as commonly known in Indonesia ‘Pendidikan Jasmani’

On the back of these developments, there still existed some discrimination on basis of social class.  Crecentia let me know that her parents were peasants.  Her father a small-scale sales man and the mother a homemaker and a family of ten; barely enough money was left to partake in leisure activities like sport.  According to Berg and Pasgorel (2006), Individuals with low incomes are usually sidelined from physical exercises compared to those with higher incomes.  In addition, the culture of a people depicts what they value as important.  In the case of Crecentia, sports may not have been valued as other things like marriage and child bearing come first.

From Crecentia’s account, great importance was attached to sports.  When asked if there are any differences in terms of sports since her childhood up to date she responds by saying “I do not thing there is any difference in terms of sports.  All that is different is the way of thinking about the importance of sports’ Indonesia’s value sports and many traditional games such as Sepak takraw are still played in Indonesia learning more on it as a recreational activity rather than a professional sport.  Badminton and tennis takes precedence in Indonesia.  For instance, Indonesia is long standing champions in badminton and tennis with legendary players such as Ruby Hartans and Katty Zimmerman.  The government of Indonesia particularly encourages ‘Sports for all’ women and men from all social cadres are encouraged to participate. (

The impact of gender equality in sport has been profound.  Indonesian women now participate on other sports besides the popular badminton and soccer.  It is interesting to note that the first gold medal won in the Olympics held at Seoul in 1998 was from the Indonesians women archery team (

This went a long way to confirm Chairman Mao’s slogans ‘women hold half the sky’ and ‘women can do what men can do’. (Dong Jinxia) Sport has had great importance since historic times.  Physical activity keeps of stress, fights diseases and boost overall immunity.  Some people say that a sport is the remedy of life or even the springtime of youth.  Crecentia emphatically agrees and adds that the older one is the more one thinks on how important sport is to ones life.