Indonesia goal celebration should unite faiths, says player

JAKARTA (Reuters) - A joint goal celebration by Christian, Muslim and Hindu players at Indonesian club Bali United, who prayed together after their team scored, showed how team mates should work together regardless of their faith, said defender Ngurah Nanak.

(L-R) Bali United soccer players Ngurah Nanak, Yabes Roni and Miftahul Hamdi pray regarding their religion as they celebrate goals during their match against Perseru Serui FC, in Gianyar, Indonesia June 4, 2017. Radar Bali Newspaper/Miftahuddin Halim via REUTERS

The photograph of Nanak, a Hindu, Muslim winger Miftahul Hamdi and Christian striker Yabes Roni praying alongside each other during their side’s 3-1 home win against Perseru Serui this month went viral on social media.

“We did not plan it, but fortunately it turned into a positive message,” Nanak said. “So I hope it will have a good impact on everybody.”

The 28-year-old said he had joined in with a traditional Hindu prayer gesture after he saw his team mates praying.

“I never expected it to go viral. Because... we just wanted to show our gratitude to God, because we won that match,” added Nanak, who joined Bali United this season.

Bali is a predominantly Hindu enclave in Indonesia, which has the world’s largest Muslim population and is also home to sizeable communities of Christians, Buddhists, and people who adhere to traditional beliefs.

Religious tensions have spiked in Indonesia in recent months after Jakarta’s Christian governor was jailed for blasphemy after mass Islamist-led rallies.

Basuki Tjahaja Purnama denied he had insulted the Koran and critics of his trial said it was politically motivated.

Nanak said his team mates respected each others’ faiths and that helped in their game.

“Because in a team we are different to one another but it’s important when we are fighting for one team,” he said.

Bali United are currently fifth in the Indonesian Liga 1.

Writing by Ed Davies; Editing by John O’Brien