From left to right, Bali United's Hindu defender Ngurah Nanak, Christian striker Yabes Roni and Muslim winger Miftahul Hamdi pray alongside each other after scoring a goal during their side's 3-1 home win against Perseru Serui on June 4. 2017. (Reuters Photo/Miftahuddin Halim-Radar Bali)

Multi-faith Goal Celebration Becomes Symbol of Indonesian Unity


JUNE 15, 2017

Jakarta. A photograph showing Bali United's Ngurah Nanak, a Hindu defender, Muslim winger Miftahul Hamdi and Christian striker Yabes Roni praying alongside each other after scoring a goal during their side's 3-1 home win against Perseru Serui earlier this month went viral on social media, with many heaping praise on the picture as a perfect symbol of Indonesian unity.

Nanak now said the photograph should not just inspire other footballers but also his countrymen to work together regardless of their faith.

"We did not plan it, but I'm glad the positive message comes through," Nanak said. "I hope it will have a good effect on everybody."

The 28-year-old said he joined Miftahul and Yabes on the side of the pitch to perform a traditional Hindu prayer gesture after he saw his Muslim and Christian team mates pray together to celebrate the goal.

"I never expected [the photo] to go viral. We just wanted to show our gratitude to God for winning the match," Nanak, who joined Bali United this season, said.

Bali is predominantly Hindu — despite Indonesia having the world's largest Muslim population — and is also home to sizeable communities of Christians, Buddhists and people who adhere to traditional beliefs.

Religious tension has spiked in Indonesia in recent months after Jakarta's Christian governor — Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama, an ethnic Chinese — was jailed for blasphemy against Islam.

Ahok denied he had insulted the Koran — a charge that led to his incarceration — and critics of his trial said it was politically motivated.

A series of massive and at times violent Islamist-led rallies were held in Jakarta before Ahok's sentencing to demand the governor be put behind bars.

Nanak said his team mates respect each other's faith and that helps their game a lot.

"We are different from one another but it's important that we fight for one team," he said.

Bali United are currently fifth in the Indonesian Liga 1.