Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Championship material

My laptop on the official plinth of the AFC Champions League. As if people needed any more indication of how stricken I am with the disease known as sports writing, I used my day off this week to fly to Malang and cover the Champions League match between Arema Indonesia and Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors of South Korea. The story is up now -- it wasn't too shabby for my first sports story since leaving Beijing, if I do say so myself.

It felt great to be back in my element, even if it took about 20 minutes of phone calls and asking directions to actually find the media entrance and my credential. I can wrap my head around formations, tactics and team finances far better than capital inflows, PE ratios and effective brand positioning. The Arema people were very helpful and even gave me a lift back to my hotel (which would've been an Rp 80,000 cab ride). Kanjuruhan Stadium is more than 20 kilometers outside of Malang, so the ride to the stadium included getting stuck behind a horse-drawn cart as well as the usual scourge of motorcycles and oversized trucks.

As for Malang's airport ... let's just say it makes the Grand Island airport look ultra-modern. There were two check-in lines (Garuda and Sriwijaya Air) that extended all of eight feet before they hit the X-ray machine. The boarding lounge/holding pen seats about three dozen people in rickety metal chairs. No complaints about the flights, thankfully -- Garuda feeds you, even on a 90-minute flight.

Arema hosts Chinese Super League side Shandong Luneng next month. I'm not sure if I'll press myself into service again, but just getting out of Jakarta was a good experience. I haven't had a proper vacation since July, when I moved to Beijing, but I have a cunning plan in place to make the next vacation one to remember.

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