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Kuala Lumpur: Bambang Pamungkas has played more times and scored more goals for Indonesia than any other player, boasting a hugely impressive strike rate of almost one every two games.

Many consider the striker to be the Garuda’s best-ever player and Pamungkas is viewed with such esteem in his homeland that he was chosen to be flag-bearer at the 2012 Olympic Games in London, making him a worthy subject in this week’s edition of ‘Asian Icons’.

Age: 37
Clubs: Persija Jakarta, EHC Norad, Selangor FA, Pelita Bandung Raya
International appearances (Goals): 85 (37)


It started with a Bang

Pamungkas announced his name to the Indonesian public in the 1999-2000 season when he finished as the league’s top scorer in his first campaign in senior football for Persija Jakarta.

The forward’s potential immediately alerted Dutch third division side EHC Norad and, at just 20 years old, he found himself on a plane to Europe. His form in front of goal continued but four months later Pamungkas was back at Persija, where he would help the Jakarta side become the 2001 champions of Indonesia.  

 

So close but yet so far

Having made his Indonesia debut three years earlier, Pamungkas was undoubtedly his nation’s main goalscoring threat by the time the 2002 AFF Championship came around.

Hosted by Indonesia and Singapore, the Garuda would play all their games on home soil, posting 4-2 and 13-1 wins over Cambodia and the Philippines in the group stage with Pamungkas netting three and four respectively as the hosts advanced to the semi-finals.

The striker’s solitary goal in the 1-0 semi-final win over Malaysia was even more crucial, but it was penalty shootout heartbreak in the final as Thailand prevailed from the spot following a 2-2 draw. With eight goals, though, Pamungkas was the tournament’s top scorer.

 

Mixing it with Asia’s elite

Having played a fleeting role in Indonesia’s 2000 AFC Asian Cup campaign, ‘Bepe’ helped his country advance to their third successive edition of the competition in China in 2004.

The Garuda would secure their maiden win in the continental competition by defeating Qatar 2-1 but again exited at the group stage after finishing two points adrift of second-placed Bahrain.

Three years later, when the tournament was hosted in Southeast Asia and Indonesia played all their games in Jakarta, Pamungkas netted the decisive goal in a 2-1 group stage victory over Bahrain but that proved insufficient to advance.

Narrow defeats to continental heavyweights Saudi Arabia and Korea Republic in front of almost 90,000 at Gelora Bung Karno Stadium, though, meant Indonesia again failed to make it out of the group – this time by just a point.

 

Second overseas adventure

Back on the club scene, Pamungkas had enjoyed five fruitful years at Persija after returning in 2000, but opted to head overseas once more in 2005 when he joined Malaysian side Selangor FA.

The move proved a success as he won Malaysia’s second-tier league and both cup competitions as well as bagging the top scorer award – with almost a goal every game – in his first season.

A year later he helped his team reach the last eight of the AFC Cup, before returning to familiar surroundings for a third stint at Persija.

 

Thailand the nemesis again

Indonesia were again joint hosts – with Thailand – for the 2008 AFF Championship, when the side would run into old foes Thailand once more.

Unsurprisingly, Bepe was amongst the goals, scoring in wins over Myanmar and Cambodia as his country progressed to another semi-final in the competition.

But a place in the final was not to be as Thailand won 1-0 in Jakarta before coming from behind to win 2-1 in Bangkok to progress.

 

Stunned at the last

Two years later Indonesia came out of the blocks firing at the 2010 edition of the regional competition, posting 5-1 and 6-0 victories over Malaysia and Laos in their opening two games.

Pamungkas then scored his first goals of the tournament as a couple of late penalties this time got the better of Thailand and Indonesia advanced with a perfect record.

A 2-0 aggregate semi-final win over the Philippines set up a date with Malaysia in the final but, despite the resounding group stage victory, the Garuda suffered a devastating 3-0 first-leg loss in Kuala Lumpur.

Back on home turf they managed a 2-1 victory but Pamungkas and Indonesia had seen their best chance of winning the tournament slip away.

 

International swansong and recent years

The 2012 AFF Championship saw Pamungkas represent his country for the final time, but an opening-day draw with Laos proved crucial as Indonesia exited behind Singapore and Malaysia at the first hurdle.

Despite failing to get on the scoresheet, Bepe’s record of 12 goals in the regional competition sees him as the joint-fifth highest scorer alongside Thailand legend Kiatisuk Senamuang,

Since hanging up his boots for the national team, Pamungkas spent a year with Indonesian team Pelita Bandung Raya (now Madura United) before returning to Persija in 2015.

At 37, the striker continues to turn out for the Jakarta side, who he has scored more than 150 goals for over 18 years and four spells.

A true legend for both club and country, and a true Asian icon.

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